Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Honourable Marlon Penn said the public relations campaign around the vaccine and the roll out programme has proven a failure.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government has proven there is no plan in place to safely navigate COVID-19 in our Territory. Stating that Government was well aware of the donation of vaccines and their expected arrival date, however the ball was dropped, as the public relations campaign ensued only after the arrival of the vaccine in the Territory.
“There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding the vaccine and getting vaccinated. This is a clear indication that a more in depth conversation about the vaccine and its benefits to persons and the wider community is greatly needed,” Honourable Penn said.
While expressing his support for vaccination, the Opposition Leader said he recognises it is only one of many tools to fight COVID and rebound from the pandemic. He further added a strong educational campaign is needed to reach persons who may not be on social media or even tune into the various radio programmes.
“Lack of planning and policy continue to plague this Administration and while we recognise that the vaccine is not a silver bullet, it is imperative that a plan is put in place to live, work and manage COVID in our Territory,” Honourable Plenn said.
Noting the global shortage on vaccines, Penn said, “I am hopeful that our vaccines do not go to waste and we are able to utilise all of the donations received.”
Among the issues surrounding vaccination, the Opposition Leader also cited major issues with the current COVID-19 protocols. Reports have been received of failed devices along with persons leaving the mandatory quarantine with absolutely no alerts from the devices, and no phone calls from security or health personnel. The security process for persons testing positive for the virus, therefore, needs to be strengthened to ensure safety not only for those persons in particular but for the wider public.
“The current Tracking system being utilised in the Territory has proven inadequate. As it currently stands, the security mechanisms being used needs to be revisited and Government needs to introduce proper technology that will work as security; providing immediate alerts resulting in the dispatch of a rapid response team for persons who breach quarantine and/or our protocols,” Honourable Penn said.
In addition, the Opposition Leader addressed the Territory’s current testing protocols, emphasising there is an urgent need for the resources at the D. Orlando Smith Hospital be strengthened to effect quicker turnaround times so that persons can receive their COVID test results in a timely manner.
“We need to avoid having persons out in public not properly knowing their status, thus resulting in widespread panic,” he said.
Honourable Penn further recommended that a lab and testing capacity be implemented on the Sister Island of Virgin Gorda, being that the island is a major hub for Tourism. “When we open the seaports, we will surely see an influx of visitors to Virgin Gorda and we do not want to inconvenience tourists to come to Tortola for testing,” the Opposition Leader stated.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to recognise the tireless, hardworking public health officers working on the frontlines, working overtime and often times going above and beyond the call of duty. “We appreciate those persons, for their selflessness and all they do to safeguard our families, visitors, community and the health of the wider Territory,” Penn expressed.
Honourable Penn iterated that he and his colleagues in the Opposition continue to express that this administration has proven there is no plan in place for the economic recovery of these Virgin Islands.
The Opposition Leader further stated that the Opposition members continue to offer suggestions, both privately and publicly, to the current administration in an effort to help navigate the Territory through the COVID-19 crisis on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands.
In conclusion, Honourable Penn said that he continues to urge the Government to present a plan focused on the economic recovery and growth of this Territory.