I want to assure all Barbadians that Minister Lisa Cummins and her officials in the sector are well on top of this situation created by the introduction of a fresh round of restrictions in the United Kingdom, including an emergency lockdown in London, to halt the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus there.
Indeed, it was she who reminded us all, on the last occasion that the UK imposed restrictions, that the BEST programme for the hotel workers and hotels was developed for this very reason — to minimise the dislocation of the reduced numbers of visitors likely to arrive from our source markets, like the UK.
It is why we also introduced the 12-month Welcome Stamp programme that has been performing well in giving many opportunities that would not otherwise be available to Bajans.
The reality is that Barbados has prepared for this crisis. We have put in the infrastructure and the equipment at Harrison’s Point and at the Best-Dos Santos Laboratory; we have expanded the numbers of persons to do testing and contact tracing and we have put systems in place to deal with high unemployment and declining visitor revenue to support the private sector generally, and in particular the tourism sector, and we have a significantly expanded public sector capital works programme and COVID-19 Relief programme.
The Barbados model has been structured to deal with these unfortunate developments overseas as we continue to plan and continuously review our actions.
So, while we pay attention to it all, we do not need to have knee jerk reactions when these things occur. Months ago, when others were waiting to see what would happen, Barbados’ rubber was hitting the road.
And perhaps the most telling point is that while others are regrettably facing a crisis in terms of available ICU beds, we remain prepared by having 80 primary and secondary ICU beds at Harrison’s Point (double our national ICU beds at QEH before COVID 19). Mercifully, we have hardly had to use these additional beds.
But even with all that, and even in spite of the thorough preparation, we have asked Barbadians, and ourselves as a Government, to keep vigilant daily.
There is no need to panic.
Normally when the UK and the USA sneeze, we are at risk of catching pneumonia. But this time, the most we are at risk for is catching a cold.
The only worry I truly have is us dropping our guard in our desire to enjoy this holiday season in our traditional Bajan way.
So let us rest, let us moderate what we do over the season so when we get together for Christmas next year it will be even sweeter!
Prime Minister’s Office