One of the challenges Barbados is facing in an attempt to reopen is borders and stimulate economic activity after the COVID-19 lockdown is a refusal by commercial airlines to conduct testing prior to travel.
But the safety of both travellers and Barbadians remains paramount to the Mia Mottley administration and these are among the considerations this week during meetings with the Social Partnership.
Prime Minister Mottley told Canada’s Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics on Tuesday evening, there was still no exact date on when the borders would open, but the aim is to “open back Barbados in the safest of ways” over the next few weeks. The island has been closed to commercial travel for several weeks, but continues to facilitate repatriation flights.
“We want to make sure that we have everything in place that will guarantee as much safety as we can. One of the difficulties relates to the fact that the airlines do not want to test themselves, at all. So testing either has to take place at an accredited lab before people travel or when people land if we are going to keep our people safe,” Mottley explained.
She said charters “have more easily accepted the need for tests that are appropriately validated” by the World Health Organisation or “the appropriate regulatory entity”.
“But once we can get that, then we can maintain the levels of safety for those who are visiting, and more importantly, or as importantly, for those who are working and those who are on island. We need a win-win for everybody,” the Prime Minister said.
Kapelos pointed out public health authorities in Canada were still telling citizens to stay at home because there were inherent risks to international travel.
In response, Mottley said she had written to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in her capacity as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – a position she holds until the end of the month – to ask for discussions among public health officials in the various countries on the appropriate levels of safety.
Canada is seeking Barbados’ support in its bid for a seat on the United Nation Security Council and Mottley has indicated Barbados will support the country it views as “family”. The vote will be held on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the area of climate change was also identified as another challenge for the region’s small open economies.
Mottley said the Caribbean could ill afford to have a major hurricane at a time when revenues are down 20 to 30 per cent but expenditure has increased so regional countries could fight COVID-19.