PM defends decision to keep Barbados’ borders open

The Barbados government has defended its decision not to institute a ban on all travel as well as to close its borders after several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have announced such measures as they react to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Barbados’ PM Mia Mottley says many people will be affected if the borders are closed.

“At this stage in time, we believe that we have taken the right decisions to increase our pre-screening, to have information so that we can do the contact tracing and to ensure that we can keep as many people functioning without necessarily affecting the vulnerable groups,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said.

“You can’t close down things without knowing when we are going to be able to open them back up easily.”

— Mia Mottley

“We accept that we are dealing with an outbreak that will affect probably three to eight out of every thousand in a fatal way. But in fact, we may affect more if we immediately close our borders, ensuring that people who depend on a weekly wage or for whom this is the only source of income may not be able to feed themselves; buy what they need day-to-day to sustain their families,” she added.

Rooted in science

Mottley said that the flights from the United Kingdom have many more people, and because Barbados is so much more dependent on the UK, for example, taxi drivers, hotel workers, persons working in laundries, and restaurants, “tens of thousands of people in this country are going to be affected once the borders close.

“We believe we have to follow the science.  We recognise, however, that the news cycle has also triggered people to make more decisions that may not necessarily be rooted in science. Therefore, what we are also facing are decisions that are taken by countries that could feed themselves; countries that have the capacity to do whatever they need to do to sustain equipment and a whole host of other things that people may need for day-to-day living.”

Mottley said that part of the difficulties with closing the borders is that the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), CARPHA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) “have been consistent in telling us that they don’t know when this outbreak will end.

“You can’t close down things without knowing when we are going to be able to open them back up easily, particularly since they have said that this will come in two or three distinct waves. We expect that we would like to be able to meet with as many stakeholders who depend on the borders being open by Wednesday evening,” Mottley said.