Senator Caswell Franklyn Speaks – Government Bungling Response to Coronavirus Crisis

At the outset of the Coronavirus crisis in this country, the Hon. Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, hosted a consultation with members of the Social Partnership and me at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, to plan strategy for fighting this threat. I was impressed and congratulated her on the approach. I then went on to say to her that this was not a time for political controversy and that all sides must come together to defeat this scourge.

Rather than busy itself with measures to protect the people of this country, some twelve days after the consultation, Government rushed to Parliament and passed legislation that was already on the books, to manage the ensuing crisis. In essence, that legislation amended the Emergency Management Act by re-enacting certain provisions that already existed at section 28 of the same act; also at sections 2 and 3 of the 1939 Emergency Powers Act; and at section 25 of the Constitution. The amendment also went on to give powers to the Chief Medical Officer that he already had since 1969.

Needless to say, those initial steps did not give me any confidence that Government was capable of handling the situation, however I remained quiet hoping that somehow that they would get it right. I’ve tried to hold my peace but the situation has now reached a stage that I am compelled to speak-up before these bunglers unintentionally kill us all.

The handling of this crisis has been plagued with the bungling that is now characteristic of anything that this administration touches. So far, were are told that there is no evidence of any community spread of the virus. But it would seem that the end result of the Government’s initiatives would lead to what we fear most. What did the Government think would happen when it gave one day’s notice of a 24-hour curfew? As was reasonably foreseeable, people rushed to supermarkets in their thousands, ignoring any suggestion of physical or social distancing. Take some sobering time to imagine what could have happened if there were any carriers of the Coronavirus in those lines?

As if Government fails to learn from its mistakes, post offices were opened for a limited period in order to allow pensioners to cash their National Insurance pension cheques. The foreseeable result happened: hundreds of vulnerable persons throng the post offices thereby creating an incubator for the spread of the Coronavirus.

This virus is deadly and Government must come up with a series of measures that would protect the people of this country. These hit or miss initiatives just will not do.

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