Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called on the Government to engage all stakeholders to form a united front to fight Covid-19.
“This is a time for humility and not a time for arrogance. The UNC and many stakeholders have been trying to assist since the beginning of this crisis, but the Government has pursued its own way,” Persad-Bissessar stated in a news release yesterday.
The former prime minister noted that Government members and all medical personnel present at the news conference yesterday have been in charge of the country’s Covid-19 response since February 2020 “and we are no better off today”.
“It is time they accept help from the wider society and stop blaming citizens for their failure to manage this crisis. We cannot continue with the same persons who have made no progress since February 2020,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar laid the blame for the Covid crisis squarely at the feet of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Government, saying there were no proactive efforts to source vaccines for citizens.
“Trinidad and Tobago cannot breathe today because of the failure of the Keith Rowley Government. One hundred and ninety-six families and counting have lost loved ones because of abject mismanagement. Keith Rowley is responsible for the mayhem of today. Vaccination is the only way out of this pandemic,” she said.
Rowley’s baffling behaviour
Persad-Bissessar stated that the Government failed to request a gift of vaccines from the Indian government, as other nations in the Caribbean did, and Rowley did so only after being pressured.
She noted Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley did not wait around for handouts but took a proactive role, as a true leader should.
Persad-Bissessar added that the Rowley Government further failed to swiftly purchase vaccines from Pfizer earlier this year, when an offer of 351,000 vaccines was put on the table for US$8.4 million.
The Government, she stated, went cap in hand to the private sector, and when Ansa McAL offered to foot the bill and pay for the entire Pfizer batch in exchange for a tax concession, the Government refused.
Persad-Bissessar stated that it is baffling that Rowley is now saying Pfizer vaccines were not available for purchase.
“Did the Government refuse to buy vaccines for the population because it was waiting for 100,000 vaccines from China?” she asked.
“Our citizens would not be dying today and our hospitals would not be running out of space had the Government put the people first and bought the vaccines,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar stated it is “unconscionable” that millions are spent on rent and contracts for families, but there is a “Scrooge mentality” when it comes to buying vaccines. “Over a year into the pandemic, the Prime Minister is now looking to gift the people banana, sweet potatoes, dasheen and squash, when action should have been taken early to procure vaccines. The greatest gift is one of a vaccine,” she stated.
She further accused Rowley of using the false narrative that small nations are unable to obtain vaccines.
Persad-Bissessar noted that Barbados, with a population of 287,000, has given 75,300 jabs to its population to date.
She added El Salvador, with just over six million people, inked a contract to purchase 4.4 million vaccines for its people, while just this Wednesday, Peru’s Prime Minister announced plans to get 12 million additional vaccines from Pfizer.
She pointed out that Rowley said he didn’t want to beg for vaccines, but it is clear now that he was simply waiting for donations to be thrown our way as our people become casualties.