Barbados still haven’t relaxed entry into their country. If you’re non-resident, you quarantine for two weeks at a hotel. If you’re a resident, then you can quarantine at home.
There are no tourist flights – yet. Strictly repatriation only. Which leads me to the sticky bit. A Jet Blue flight came in from the States on Tuesday, repatriating Barbadian citizens. Two days later it emerged that 4 of its 110 passengers tested positive for Covid-19.
Instantly, the magic number of 92 positive cases in Barbados went up by four.
I say magic number because this comes after many days of no new positive cases in Barbados. The last was on the 22nd of May. Over 6,000 tests have been carried out in total.
Suddenly, the number of cases has raised by a single event. This is against a platform of so much effort and sacrifice being made to contain numbers. Seeing the dial go up by just one feels palpable. Four in this case makes everyone on island reach for their best face mask.
The positively-tested patients have been sent up to St Lucy – the isolation ward set up for this purpose. We can see it from the sea if we travel a little north of here. Right on the northern tip of Barbados, the building has been converted from a defunct, cliff-top garrison into a medical ward. This is where all the 92 people have gone so far. Seven people have since died. Most of the others have recovered and been released.
Whether the authorities have placed the other 106 passengers on the flight from America in isolation too, for strict monitoring and viral testing, I don’t know. Also, why these people weren’t tested before they got on the plane is another mystery. At this stage, it seems clear that bringing people back from areas where coronavirus is still widespread remains risky. Period.
What does Barbados do? Prime Minister Mia Mottley has already said she is unhappy to open borders for tourism until a robust, reliable and rapid testing kit becomes available. Rapid tests seem about as far away as vaccines right now. Both have quietly disappeared from the news. Remember when they were a thing?
Antigua, a few islands to the north, have opened their borders up to international travel – without a quarantine or any mandatory tests. Barbados has said that they’re watching. Like, ‘Go on Antigua, you’re the island case study. You open and we’ll pull up our chairs.’ Seems a bit voyeuristic to me. Perhaps it was inevitable. Open up one Caribbean island and see what happens.
In the meantime, people are talking about boosting Barbados’ self-sufficiency again. I’ve heard Barbadians talk about bringing back the island’s old ways. Farming instead of tourists. It seems like another example of pandemics and history going hand-in-hand. Maybe we’re not as modern as we think we are. Maybe planes are the outdated things.