By Demion McTair Updated 6:03 a.m., Sunday, 5 April 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4)
DISCUSSION: There are at least two sides to every story.
In an effort to bring balance to the discussion as to whether St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ borders should be declared closed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, this article highlights the major arguments for and against closing the borders.
The country’s borders include all airports and seaports.
ARGUMENTS FOR DECLARING THE BORDERS CLOSED
1. CONTAINMENT: The main and most compelling argument expressed promoting closing the borders is that such a move will help to contain the spread of the virus by eliminating anymore imported cases of Covid-19.
2. IMAGE: The country’s image will appear to be one of compliance to WHO recommendations to impose travel restrictions and advanced measures to help contain spread.
3. PUBLIC SATISFACTION: Some have expressed the view that if the borders are to be declared closed, people who are fearful, concerned or even hysterical will feel calmer about the situation.
4. CARGO STILL COMES IN: For countries which have closed their borders to incoming passengers, cargo is not restricted. This means that even with a border closure to travel, goods can still come into the country and there can still be economic activity.
ARGUMENTS FOR NOT DECLARING THE BORDERS CLOSED:
1. CLOSING WHAT IS TECHNICALLY CLOSED: If airlines are not coming, yachts are not coming, passenger vessels are not coming due to travel restrictions from other countries, who will you be declaring the borders closed from?
2. VIOLATING LEGAL RIGHT OF ENTRY TO VINCENTIANS: Even if they can organize charter flights to leave some countries which have closed their borders to entry, but still allow exit, a border closure in St. Vincent totally eliminates the chances of such persons from returning to their country of birth. This is one of the most compelling arguments for non-closure.
While it might be easy to say “let them stay where they are” until things get better, it might not be so simplistic.
For instance, imagine students at regional universities which have shut down and have limited services, people who worked on cruise lines where the ships have offered to drop them home, and people who are close to legally overstaying their time in foreign countries or have legitimate legal and other reasons to come home at this time.
A border closure significantly leaves them abandoned and reduces them to being mere refugees in other countries.
Added to this is a legal issue. Under the Public Order Act, Vincentians cannot be denied entry into the country.
3. ECONOMIC FALLOUT: With absolutely no one coming in, or having the chance to do so, a complete border closure technically puts the country into isolation from the outside world in every non-virtual way.
Government and private sector business travelling, as well as religious and NGO-related travelling and the economic benefits to be derived are ruled out. This potentially brings to naught, income for those who provide accommodations, and services linked to accommodations.
Such services include transportation, food and beverage, cleaning services and maintenance services.
Money over health? Health over money? Health and money working together responsibly?
Proponents of keeping the borders open favour having strong screening at ports and strict, mandatory quarantine systems to ensure people entering don’t put the general population at risk.
4. VAST MAJORITY OF COVID-19 VICTIMS RECOVER: An argument for leaving the borders open that some have considered to be Machiavellian is that most people with Covid-19 recover. Though it is a valid point that 80 percent of the victims recover or show mild symptoms, some people die. This reality makes this point very controversial.
ARGUMENTS FOR PARTIAL CONDITIONAL CLOSURE
A third major argument on the border closure issue is that the borders should be closed, but only for non-essential travel.
Proponents of this view are in favour of keeping the borders open to allow medical teams and health officials to enter and exit the country as needed.
Some who hold this view have also said that such a position will allow people to come and go, in the case of medical emergencies.
For instance, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the hub for specialized medical care for children in the Eastern Caribbean under the World Pediatric Project.
If a child from a neighboring country needs advanced pediatric specialty care, pediatric specialist diagnostic and surgery and needs to fly to St. Vincent, they should be able to do so if borders remain open for essential travelling.
With closed borders, however, even important projects like this might come to a halt with no certainty as to when they will resume.
Those are some of the main arguments regarding border closure.
What is your position?
Feel free to leave your comments.