As the country’s leader hints at further relaxation of the COVID-19 protocols this week, the Chair of the United Progressive Party (UPP), D. Gisele Isaac, says his Administration has not handled the pandemic very well.
In comparison with the other OECS countries, Isaac says, Antigua and Barbuda’s mortality rate is significantly greater. Up to last Thursday, March 18, the 28 recorded deaths represented a 2.77% fatality rate among COVID patients.
Accordingly, she says the Government must be doing something wrong.
Isaac says the impression given is that the pandemic is being properly managed, but it is the lifestyle and habits of the population that have resulted in so many deaths.
Referencing other countries, like Dominica and Grenada – which have recorded no deaths and one fatality, respectively – Isaac says, “Caribbean people are Caribbean people. We pretty much live the same way. So what is it that they have gotten a handle on and we have not?”
These countries have each recorded fewer than 160 cases of the virus since the pandemic hit the Caribbean last March.
But here in Antigua & Barbuda, Isaac notes, COVID-19 numbers have continued to rise despite the State of Emergency and several adjustments to the curfew hours. She points to the fact that bars and gyms remain closed and many other social activities have ceased; however, the numbers have still increased.
Meanwhile, Isaac is not sure that all COVID-related deaths have been reported. The official death toll stands at 28; but this count reportedly does not include the police officer who was infected but died at home. Nor does it appear to include the Jamaican entertainer whose body was found beneath a container several weeks ago. A post mortem revealed that she had the virus.
“Every death is not reported on the dashboard, because all of us know somebody who is COVID-afflicted and who died … whether they found out after the fact [the person] had COVID…. And we don’t see those numbers appearing,” Isaac says.
The UPP Chairm also wonders whether the infections at Her Majesty’s Prison have been reflected on the dashboard.
She says the public is left to draw its own conclusions regarding important data such as this – which undermines the system.
Isaac says one of the major failures regarding information coming out of the Ministry of Health and the Cabinet is the absence of trust.
“I don’t know anybody who trusts the dashboard; who trusts the information we are being given from officialdom; nobody at all,” Isaac says.
As a result, she says many people are of the opinion that the government has come down on the side of wealth, rather than the health of the populace.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne says the Cabinet, this week, will make another assessment of the curfew hours and decide whether to make further changes.
The hours were recently changed from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Under consideration is whether to push it further back, to 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
However, Browne says he is still not satisfied with the daily rate of infection, and he continues to blame returning nationals for the increase in cases and the spread.