THE NEW TODAY senses that the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government is anxious to not only return Grenada to a state of normalcy but to re-open Grenada’s borders to the outside world.
Like other countries, the administration in St. George’s is grappling with the sensitive issue of whether opening up the borders too soon might result in an increase in COVID-19 positive cases.
The government is moving in the correct direction of gradually allowing various sectors of the economy to return to work.
It is quite natural for some businesses in the economy to feel that they too should be given the all clear to open up to the public because of loss of money in the past month while salaries and bills have to be paid.
The government is mindful that it is losing millions in revenue due to the downturn of economic activities on the island as both the Customs Department and the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) of the Ministry of Finance have seen a significant drop in their monthly financial intakes.
In addition, the World Bank is projecting difficult days ahead for Grenada with the economy expected to see minus 7.3% growth over the next 12 months.
This must have come as a shock to most Grenadians who were consistently told over the years that the NNP administration had built up an economy that was the envy of many countries not only in the Caribbean but the rest of the world.
COVID-19 has now provided an opportunity for the political opposition to put forward an alternative path to solid growth and economic development to Dr. Mitchell’s reliance on selling of passports through the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme and building hotels in the tourism industry at the expense of agriculture.
The fact of the matter is that once there is no vaccine to deal with the Coronavirus, the world would not return to a state of normalcy to allow people to go about their business in the usual scheme of things as in recent past.
This is why the Mitchell government has to think twice and be extremely careful on the timing for the re-opening of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) to commercial traffic especially from high risk places like the United States and the United Kingdom.
The two Caribbean islands most frequented by Grenadians are Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago and both have worrying COVID-19 figures.
It is not the intention of this newspaper to belabour what is emerging as the bungling of the issue of American Airlines (AA) and its proposal sent to the relevant authorities in Grenada to address the request submitted to resume flights to the airport.
It is clear that an application was sent in and no one dealt with the issue in a timely manner and inform AA in clear and unambiguous language that MBIA will remain closed for the time being.
THE NEW TODAY wish to bring to the attention of the authorities in Grenada and the country several important questions that should be addressed by government in arriving at the important decision to re-open the country to the outside world due to the coronavirus.
The issues arose from the guidelines which were put together by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the United Nations as it relates to the steps that ought to be taken to ease restrictions and open to the outside world.
The WHO points out:-
(1). That evidence shows COVID-19 transmission is controlled;
(2). That public health and health system capacities including hospitals are in place to identify, isolate, test, trace contacts and quarantine them;
(3). That outbreak risks are minimised in high-vulnerability settings – particularly in elderly homes, mental health facilities and people residing in crowded places;
(4). That workplace preventive measures are established – with physical distancing, handwashing facilities, respiratory etiquette in place;
(5). That importation risks can be managed; and
(6). That communities have a voice and are engaged in the transition.
The simple message from the WHO is quite straight forward: If you cannot ensure these criteria are in place, before easing restrictions, please re-think.
The Mitchell-led government should tread carefully and know that it is not a decision that has to be taken by the Cabinet of Ministers all by themselves on opening the borders but that the people of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique must have a say in the final decision.
Grenadians of all shades – supporters of yellow and green and other colours – are still living in fear from the virus.