The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is failing to manage the COVID-19 crisis and failing to keep the people informed about the state of the pandemic in the country.
“There is too much political calculation in what is said and done by public officials for public consumption,” Leader of the opposition Godwin Friday further told a New Democratic Party press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday.
“The professionals in the Ministry of Health must be guided by the science and experience, not by politics. It must always be what makes the people safe and feel safe, not what makes the government look good or sound good.”
The opposition leader was speaking on a day when SVG would record a record 56 COVID-19 cases, most of which were among nationals with no recent travel history.
There has been a spike in cases since Dec. 28, when the total number recorded since the first case on March 11 was 113, with 24 of them remaining active and the others having recovered.
However, by Wednesday, the country had recorded a total of 340 cases, with some 211 of them being infections detected among nationals with no recent travel history.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer Beache told a separate press conference, on Wednesday, that her ministry has not been able to link some of the cases to any of the five clusters identified.
The Ministry of Health has, however, said it would not describe the current situation in the country as community spread of COVID-19.
At his press conference, the opposition leader called on the health department to “give the proper scientific advice honestly and fully” to the public.
“That is your role. Then, it is up to the political leaders to make decisions based on the information that is provided. Also, provide that information in a timely and complete way to the public,” he said.
Friday said there is “a trust gap between government and the people as far as the management of the COVID crisis goes.
“This is dangerous and it can cost lives,” he said, adding that the people must be able to trust the information they receive to know that they have a proper understanding, a good picture as to what is actually happening in the country.
“The message must be conveyed clearly and consistently that we are not yet out of this crisis; that we cannot yet return to normal.
“It is a false choice to say we must choose between health, on the one hand, and the economy, on the other. They are inextricably bound up together; they are tied up together.”
The opposition leader said that the economy cannot function properly if people are getting infected with COVID-19 or fear becoming infected.
“For this will reduce public confidence in going about their business in the normal way and the economy will suffer. So, the only way to protect the economy is to bring the spread of the virus under control and show our people that the government is managing the problem,” Friday said.
“The evidence of the last two weeks or so show that the government is failing to do that and is doing so at a time when the situation is more grave and more urgent than ever,” the opposition leader told the media.