Jordan: Let’s fight COVID-19 together
Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan this evening focused on the importance of a united front as Barbados responds to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Jordan, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Best and president of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Association Edwin O’Neal spoke with members of the media via a virtual press conference.
Roy Morris, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley’s Press Secretary, said this is the first of these meetings as they sought to ensure physical distancing.
Jordan made the point that largely the organisations with whom Government had discussions were well meaning and well run.
Following are some key points from the meeting.
• There were no new COVID-19 cases recorded. The number remains at 17.
• Talks with the Social Partnership focused on the impact on workers if, and when, Barbados moves to Stage 3 in the National Response to COVID-19
• If or when Stage 3 is announced, clear guidelines will be outlined for individuals and businesses.
• In relation to layoffs, the situation is fluid and conversations are ongoing
• The private sector is crafting a number of scenarios best suited to different company sizes and economic strengths.
• Some of the issues discussed were essential services, work arrangements and alternative work arrangements.
• Government is taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 that will take us to Stage 3.
• The importance of physical distance in the work environment was emphasised. Jordan said it has to be respected and appealed to those who lead organisations to respect those distances.
• Spaces must be created in the working environment that adhere to the necessity of physical distances among workers.
• He referred to reports of clustering in some work spaces and people feeling uncomfortable.
• COVID-19 is not a situation to be trifled with.
• Jordan praised good responses from the business community in helping to outfit quarantine and isolation centres. Businesses were encouraged to maintain these partnerships
• Business partners were urged to continue working with Government because a single entity could not bear costs alone in this difficult time.
• The Board of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) met last week and has a plan to handle the fallout from COVID-19. The plan is being finalised and guidelines should be issued to the media today.
• The NIS plan includes applying for benefits online. This will limit long lines and facilitate social distancing. NIS is also preparing for the potential increase in claims. Government will be eliminating multiple steps in filing for unemployment.
• Self-employed people were strongly encouraged to register with NIS and pay contributions. Jordan said it will lessen the impact in times such as these.
• Preparing for worst-case scenario, but agriculture sector should be able to cushion some of the fallout seen in the tourism industry.