It is large-scale testing rather than statements by government officials that will help to revive economic activity in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday says.
“… no matter what statements you make, the economy is not going to recover –you’re not going to have economic activity until people start interacting. People will not start interacting until they feel safe to do so,” Friday said.
“This is what the science says, this is what the health professionals say, you must do widespread testing, you must do almost like random tests,” he said last week on his New Democratic Party’s “Monday Night Live” broadcast on Facebook
Friday said that when people are confident that the next person does not have COVID-19, they are likely to interact and stimulate commerce.
The opposition leader said that large-scale testing does not mean ending all the other prevention measures such as hand hygiene and the wearing of facemasks.
“But that is that is something that is critically important. But of course, right now in the short term the most effective way is really injection of funds from government,” he said, referring to economic recovery.
“We are not somehow unique or magical or different. The larger economies have to do more. With smaller economies, you do less, but you have to do it because … there’s no economic activity that can sustain the kind of life that we’ve had, prior to the crisis.
“So until that happens, we have to provide income support that maintains a certain level of purchasing power within the economy. And then we gradually, in a safe way, as safe as possible, start to engage in more and more economic activity, since we have not really had a formal shutdown in St. Vincent,” the opposition leader stated.
“That will be a matter for individual business owners, when they see that the situation is one in which they have confidence, now that they can then re-engage, then they will do so and we trust that that will happen in a safe in a safe way. And you know, the sooner the better. But we can’t rush it. We have to make sure that safety comes first. You can’t kill yourself to mind yourself. That is an expression my grandmother used to use.”
Friday said that some people are talking about reopening the Vincentian economy.
“When did we ever close the economy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? The reason why things have shut down [is] because businesses have taken decisions on their own, individuals have taken decisions on their own, that they are going to follow the advice that the World Health Organization, international communities have been implementing to protect themselves.
“And so the impact has been such that we are feeling it in terms of how businesses run. … Barbershop hasn’t been open for the last three, four weeks now. … I mean, how do they make a living? I say this because I know that’s an experience that a lot of other people are going through right now. I talked to a hairdresser in Kingstown about that last Friday and she was sitting there and there was nobody.
“…And she said, ‘Well, nobody is here.’ and speculated as to why but I think she knew that it was all being affected by the COVID-19 crisis, that people are just simply keeping a distance and it’s going to become more acute as we go along.
“And we have to learn to live with it. But the government has a key role to play in ensuring that everybody who sacrifices, who is hurt in this crisis, that to the best of our ability that we assist them, not grudgingly, but as a matter of duty, a right. That is what should be, you know; it’s a matter of duty. It’s a matter of right. It’s a matter of, you know, just human concern for one another.”
The government has said that it wants to rapid test 11,000 Vincentians for COVID-19 antibodies and to perform the more accurate PCR tests on 1% of that number.