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Stop using politics to manage COVID-19 in SVG – Dr Friday

Stop using politics to manage COVID-19 in SVG – Dr Friday
Dr Godwin Friday, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party

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When it comes to COVID-19 in St Vincent and the Grenadines, there is too much political calculation by public officials in their communication of information to citizens.

So says Dr Godwin Friday, this country’s opposition leader, who on Wednesday made an official statement on the local management of the pandemic by government and officials.

“The professionals in the Ministry of Health must be guided by science and experience, not by politics,” Friday said this week during a press conference at Democrat House. “It must always be what makes the people safe and what makes them feel safe, not what makes the government look good or sound good.”

The opposition leader expressed views that the government is not only failing at managing the pandemic locally, but also in its ability to keep people informed about the state of COVID-19 in SVG.

Despite the continuing uptick in the number of local cases in persons with no recent travel history, there are no indications that there will be an implementation of a complete shutdown or curfew system to help curb the spread of the virus.

Both suggestions have been put forward by some members of the public through posts on various social media platforms.

Friday, on Wednesday, included recommendations that he believes would help with managing COVID-19 in SVG.

“So, I say to the health department officials, give the proper scientific advice honestly and fully. That is your role. Then it is up to the political leaders to make the decisions based on that information that is provided. Also provide that information in a timely and complete way to the public,” he said.

The opposition leader added that “there is a trust gap now between the government and the people, as far as the management of the COVID crisis goes”.

Friday described that gap as being “dangerous” and said it could cost lives.

He said the people must be able to trust the information that they receive to ensure they have a proper understanding of the COVID-19 situation in the country.

“The message must be conveyed clearly that we are not yet out of this crisis, that we cannot yet return to normal. It is a false choice to say that we must choose between health on the one hand and the economy on the other,” Friday said, alluding to the reasoning of economic fallout, should there be a shutdown in SVG.

“They are inextricably bound up together…the economy can’t function properly if people are getting infected or fear becoming infected for this will reduce public confidence in going about your business in the normal way and the economy will suffer,” he said.

The opposition leader added that the only way to protect the economy is to bring the spread of the virus under control and show citizens that the government is in fact managing the problem.

Up to press time, 340 Covid-19 cases had been recorded in SVG, 234 of which were active.

The Ministry of Health is investigating 211 local cases in persons who have no recent travel history.