It has been more than a year that countries had to deal with managing the outbreak of COVID 19. Many countries imposed a number of measures such as instituting curfews and lockdowns. However, are curfews and lockdowns really effective in curbing COVID 19? While the COVID 19 curve may be flattened during curfews and lockdowns, the real issue though is that the virus is still in circulation. Because the virus still exists, whenever the curfews and lockdowns are lifted, the cycle of contracting the virus starts again. Does this mean then we should implement lockdowns and curfews each time there is an increase in COVID 19 cases? My answer is no because we must learn to accept the fact that the virus is among us and so we must co-exist in a COVID 19 environment.
New Zealand is considered to be one of the countries that was highly credited for effectively managing the COVID 19 through lockdowns and curfews, however this came with a $12.1 billion Government support. This included a lump sum payment to employers to cover 12 weeks of compensation for each employee. The Government also implemented a freeze on any rent increases and protection against tenancies termination. The banks deferred mortgages up to 6 months for residential customers. Finally, the Government of New Zealand launched a business finance guaranteed scheme whereby the Government guaranteed 80% of the risks with the banks assuming the remaining 20% of the risks.
Turks and Caicos
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, there was a lockdown from March until July and we continue to face curfews. The Government in their response offered $1200 to the workers in the hospitality industry and then a second payment of $600. In addition, there were lump sum business grants ranging $1,000 to $3,000. The Government also waived the hotel and restaurant tax for a few months. They also implemented a temporary unemployment benefits for those individuals who were impacted by COVID 19.
Impact of lockdowns and curfews
As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, lockdowns and curfews may flattened the COVID 19 curve but there are so many other issues. It is not sustainable for a Government especially those Caribbean Governments to compensate their citizens. As you see the little that individuals and businesses receive from the Turks and Caicos Islands Government cannot sustain a business but yet the Government insists on lockdowns and curfews. As a result of lockdowns and curfews, businesses suffered and in turn their employees suffered because the businesses are not in a cash flow position to pay their staff a full time salary. The only individuals who got full time salary were civil servants, the politicians and the few essential businesses that were allowed to open. Some businesses were forced to close their doors and as a result many individuals were displaced.
Even during lockdowns and curfews, crime escalated. People were desperate for money and capitalize on the opportunity to rob others of the few dollars they had.
Lockdown and curfews have a mental impact on individuals. Having very little or no money at all alone can have a dramatic impact on someone so imagine being confined in a lockdown and curfew. It does something to your mind. It stresses you. It puts a strain on relationships especially if there is no income coming in.
We do not know what is causing this rapid increase in the spread of the virus but I believe that many people coming to the country are COVID 19 positive. Therefore, I believe that in addition to the 5 day testing requirement prior to entering the country, additional testing should be conducted after individuals arrive in the country.
Community testing must continue to take place throughout the country.
Implement tracking bracelets for individuals that have tested positive and have to be in quarantine.
The vaccine is expected to build up a defense against the virus and so we should continue to promote and encourage individuals to take the vaccine. Of course, it should not be mandatory, it should be a personal choice.
I plead to the Government to reconsider their plans on lockdowns and curfews. They are not effective unless the Government is in a position to compensate all residents and businesses with a significant subsidy.
I also want the Government to seriously consider testing individuals as per my recommendation. I saw someone last week and during our discussion, he mentioned how he tested negative within the 5 day window period before arriving in the Turks and Caicos Islands but a day after he arrived, he was not feeling well and he got tested and this time he was tested positive.