By Carl Joseph
While health officials are bracing for the inevitable arrival of the COVID-19 to the shores of Antigua and Barbuda, the two major political parties are taking a non-political approach to dealing with the virus.
Rather than taking aim at his political opponents, the Leader of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), Prime Minister Gaston Browne has chosen to focus on the greater threat posed by the impending virus to the nation.
He said that at this point in time, he is more concerned with managing the fears of the people rather than the effects the virus would have on their condition.
“Most of the damage has been done out of fear,” Browne said.
Currently, of the 125,652 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, 71,658 have been considered closed cases. Of those closed cases, 94 percent (67,051) have fully recovered, while 6 percent (4,607) of persons have died.
However, of the 53,994 active cases, 89 percent (48,076) are classed as being in mild condition with 11 percent (5,918) in serious or critical condition.
“It has been promoted globally that if you contract COVID-19, that it is an automatic death sentence. It is not,” Browne stated. “So there has to be a re-calibration of that narrative and for people to look at the issue responsibly and intelligently.”
Meantime, Lovell pointed out that the issue is bigger than party politics.
“This is not a red thing or a blue thing. This is really an Antiguan and Barbudan issue, and we must all recognise that the nation needs mature leadership at this time. This means that regardless of political outlook or persuasion, we must take a sober and mature approach to this thing.”
In addition to the health department’s COVID-19 awareness campaign, the UPP leader said that his party will be joining the awareness drive as well.
“This is not a time for people to grandstand and to try to score cheap points. This is a time when we must educate our people,” Lovell said. “We are not seeking to compete with the government. We’re seeking to make sure that we fit into the overall educational campaign that is taking place. If we promote panic and begin to tell people how this thing is so bad… then, as a tourist destination, it’s going to hit the travel industry and it could bring our economy to its knees.”
Lovell said that he received confirmation from some hoteliers on the island that they have already started to feel the downturn as a result of COVID-19 fears emanating from the US market.
“They’re now experiencing cancellations that are exceeding their bookings,” he stated.
Browne echoed Lovell’s sentiments saying: “If this thing persists for another six months and you have a significant amount of cancellations, you can imagine what will happen within the Caribbean.
“We just have to prepare for it. And, there is no need for any hysteria … and we will do all we can as a government,” he assured.