By Demion McTair. Updated 9:28 p.m., Thursday May 14, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
EDITORIAL: Countries like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which kept borders open, still benefited from a time period to prepare their systems for Covid-19.
Even though borders remained open, international commercial travelling was closed, thus, any risk of imported infection, though extant, was minimal.
With hundreds of workers on the seas and scores of students at universities returning home, however, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has to face an inconvenient truth: its low Covid-19 numbers could increase, greatly.
If it so happens, the country will be left in a position where it simply has to deal with it. But, low Covid-19 numbers are extremely important for several reasons.
WHY THE OBSESSION TO KEEP NUMBERS DOWN EVEN THOUGH 80 PERCENT OF COVID-19 CASES ARE MILD TO MODERATE?
One of the obvious reasons governments have closed their borders to travel has been to protect the health of their other citizens.
The other reason, however, might be more political: keeping Covid-19 numbers down.
Well, the obvious answer is that no country wants to have a situation where the virus is running amok within its borders.
More control over spread, equates good management of the crisis situation.
Less control over spread, equates bad management of the situation.
This is so, even if people within the country fail to adhere to physical distancing and other precautionary measures to prevent spread.
An inconvenient truth for governments like St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ is that the more nationals let in, the higher the risk of the country’s Covid-19 numbers rising.
If the numbers rise, no matter what the circumstances surrounding the rise, people will blame the government, even people who failed to adhere to physical distancing and other precautionary measures, and those who pressured the government to bring nationals home smoother and quicker.
Beyond the blame game and any potential political fallout over high numbers, however, are the public health and economic fallout high Covid-19 numbers can bring.
LOW NUMBERS HAVE BENEFITS
High Covid-19 numbers have serious implications for the economy and public health. This is perhaps why the governments are ensuring they keep numbers low to derive benefits low numbers bring.
For instance, low numbers meshed with the ability to contain spread can protect vulnerable individuals with underlying conditions from being infected with the virus.
Low numbers also have economic benefits. For instance, SEARCHLIGHT reported that Agriculture Minister, Saboto Caesar said “there is a significant demand for farm workers from the OECS because Canada does not want to hire workers from certain countries because of the prevalence of Covid-19”.
This means that workers from some countries, such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, will be able to avail themselves of employment opportunities offered by richer countries once Covid-19 numbers remain low.
The truth in this is exemplified in the recent emigration from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Canada of 131 seasonal Vincentian farm workers.
Low numbers can also aid in easing existing restrictions quicker. Countries have already been bemoaning the economic fallout and the stark predictions for the regional and global economies due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prime Ministers such as Jamaica’s, Andrew Holness has challenged his nation to a new normal, cautioning that if the economy does not get back to as close as possible to capacity, the economic implications could be incalculable.
This means that the greater the perception that the situation is under control, the more likely it is for some level of normalcy, albeit a new normal, will come to the economy.
The returning of droves of nationals, therefore, presents a serious risk for countries and the best of their systems must be summoned to ensure stringent protocols are put in place to facilitate the return of citizens.
Other persons within countries such as St. Vincent must know that they have a serious responsibility to adhere to physical distancing guidelines and other precautionary measures, to get us out of the proverbial woods of the Covid-19 crisis, to a new normal, as soon as possible.