Opposition Leader proposes COVID-19 mitigation measures
DR GODWIN Friday, leader of the opposition, has renewed his call for both Government and Opposition to work together in crafting a national response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Friday, in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, proposed a meeting with Government to discuss some recommended measures that he believes “may become necessary as this crisis unfolds”.
“As is well known, the spread of the coronavirus has caused hundreds of thousands of infections, serious illness and thousands of deaths worldwide,” Friday said in his letter, dated March 21.
“In the Caribbean, the number of confirmed cases grows daily. In Guadeloupe, COVID-19 has reached epidemic proportion. All indications are that the worst is yet to come, for the world and for us.”
As the opposition leader and president of the New Democratic Party, Friday said that he has a responsibility to put the national interests before partisan politics interests and to work for the common good.
Closing the country’s seaports and airports immediately to restrict travel in and out of St Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the measures proposed by the opposition leader. He is suggesting that the closure be imposed for all travel except “absolutely essential travel and trade in necessary supplies”.
“This includes closing our ports to cruise ships, yachts and other pleasure crafts for a period of time to be determined after further deliberation,” Friday said in his letter.
Friday also proposes that the national response also include stricter social distancing controls and guidelines, which must be advocated publicly and enforced as best as possible.
He said all public gatherings should be discouraged and reduced to only what are necessary to maintain essential public services and promote public health.
“Urgently enable testing for the coronavirus in SVG and begin widespread testing. Priority should be given to those who come into contact with persons who have tested positive for the coronavirus or are suspected of being infected with it. Waiting for symptoms to show before testing is a risky approach that may create more harm,” Friday said, as another of the measures that should be imposed.
The NDP president is
also suggesting that water be available to all people throughout SVG so that they can comply with the recommended personal hygiene practices.
And he is calling for the nation to be given an explanation on what to expect in a worst-case scenario of the spread of COVID-19 in the country and how government services (particularly health services), businesses, transport services and individuals are expected to respond.
“The participation of seasoned medical, public health and other personnel with related expertise drawn from both civil society and the government service should be enlisted in this effort,” Friday said.
He also said that he is “heartened by the declarations of the government’s intention and regional efforts to develop measures to cushion the economic disruption and financial hardship that will result from the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“The involvement of businesses, financial institutions, trade unions and the Opposition is essential to this planning process and the successful implementation of our ongoing response. Therefore, I urge that there be consultation with them,” the opposition leader said.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said last week that he will meet with members of the Opposition sometime this week to discuss issues relating to COVID-19.
And chief among those discussions will be the economic recovery package.
Friday, in his letter, said that the members of the opposition are available to meet with the Prime Minister and other members of the government and public institutions to discuss his recommendations further and to plan on an ongoing basis for the implementation of a national response to the pandemic.