The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), on Thursday, said that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration is not taking “a proactive approach in the management of COVID- 19 and appears to have no effective plan to comprehensively address this crisis”.
The party said it was extremely concerned about the increase in the number of COVID- 19 cases, especially as they have resulted from local transmission.
“The recent developments have heightened public concern about the situation and has diminished public confidence in the way the government is seeking to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” the party said in a press statement.
The NDP’s comments came at a time when there were 28 confirmed cases of local transmission of COVID-19 since Dec. 28, 2020.
However, by the end of that day, an additional 52 cases of local transmission was added to that number, bringing the total to 80.
Further, one day earlier, the Ministry of Health announced that Minister of Health, Jimmy Prince, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache and other senior officials of the Ministry of Health have entered quarantine as a precautionary measure after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus.
And, on Thursday, Deputy Commissioner of Police Frankie Joseph tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the quarantining also of Commissioner of Police Colin John and other senior officers.
Earlier this week, five other police officers tested positive for the coronavirus.
The NDP said:
“The government has adopted a cavalier approach, and continues to send mixed messages to Vincentians, forcing businesses and other institutions to administer their own plans to protect their customers and employees.”
The NDP may have been referring, for example, to a Jan. 1, press release by the National Emergency Management Organisation , saying that all public gathering that includes amplified music was banned.
The release specifically said that the ban applied to church services.
However, persons who contacted health officials directly were told that churches were exempt from the ban and many churches conducted services without observing the physical distancing and face mask protocols.
The NDP said that the present spike of infections has already affected the country’s education system by delaying the reopening of schools and other educational institutions by at least two weeks.
“It also continues to negatively affect the economy with no further support from the government, resulting in business closures and higher unemployment,” the NDP said.
“The NDP again calls on the government to provide the public with timely and adequate information about the state of the pandemic in SVG and to implement measures that will prevent further local transmission of the virus. We urge that schools remain closed until the situation of local spread is brought under control.”
The party said that now that many countries have started COVID-19 vaccination, the government must determine how it will treat vaccinated persons entering SVG and make its plan known to the public, especially the hospitality industry.
“We also call on the government to outline its plan, if it has any, for the use of the COVID-19 vaccine in SVG.
“Despite all we have learned about the management of the coronavirus over time, it is clear that the situation regarding the coronavirus in SVG is worse today than it has ever been. It is, therefore, premature and grossly misleading for the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government to speak in self-congratulatory terms about the management of the pandemic.”
In the Dec. 28 meeting of Parliament, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves praised his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the country had done ‘fabulously well” on both the health and economic fronts.
“What had it done in St. Vincent and the Grenadines relative to the world?” the minister said, adding that there were, at the time, 14 independent countries in the world that were yet to experience a death from COVID and SVG is one those 14 countries.
“And of those 14 countries, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is sixth in the entire world in terms of economic contraction. So we have done fabulously well to date on the health front and we have done fabulously well to date on the economic front,” Gonsalves said.
Meanwhile, in the statement on Thursday, President of the NDP and Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday reiterated his call for everyone to act responsibly.
“We must all remain on high alert and do all that we can to prevent further spread of the virus. Remain calm, wear face masks, maintain social distance when interacting with the public, avoid large crowds where possible, and wash hands regularly as recommended by the World Health Organization. Be safe,” Friday said.