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Bunting fingers Government for COVID-19 deaths

Saturday, September 25, 2021

OPPOSITION Senator Peter Bunting says the Government should take responsibility for the island's spike in COVID-19 deaths because it has not implemented a meaningful vaccination plan, but is rather focused on public relations-driven strategies instead of data-driven policy in governing the country.

“In comparison to other islands in the region we perform the worst with less than 18 per cent partially or fully vaccinated as of September 22, 2021. Countries like Trinidad, who struggled to contain spread at the outset, are now seeing vaccination rates of 40 per cent and higher,” he stated yesterday in his state of the nation presentation, which focused on tackling inequality.

Bunting said the Government had been slow to act in purchasing vaccines, implementing a distribution plan, and getting vaccines to the most vulnerable in hard-to-reach areas.

“No care was taken for those unable to afford transport to vaccination sites or those with mental or physical disabilities who would be challenged in accessing a site safely,” he charged.

The Opposition senator also said Jamaicans have been subjected to a “stop/start”, opening and closing of the economy, and poorly-planned restrictive curfew hours and no-movement days, all of which have decimated the incomes of the most marginal operators, and forced crowding in public spaces such as supermarkets, transportation, and government offices in order to comply with limited operating hours, the end result being an acceleration of spread of the virus.

He accused the Holness Administration of having invested in a powerful communications machinery for political purposes, using it inappropriately to deal with a genuine national crisis.

According to the Opposition spokesman “they have employed a troll army using State resources to intimidate opposing voices. They have allocated billions of dollars to public relations — euphemistically called communications or public education — across the various ministries of government; they have used the DRMA (Disaster Risk Management Act) regulations, and its selective enforcement to control dissent; [and] they have used the advantage of numbers in Parliament to shout over Opposition speakers”.

Bunting said the Government pandered to the most powerful vested interests in the society and successfully “manufacture consent” by influencing both traditional and social media sentiment in its favour.

“Any objective assessment of the state of the nation today, however, can only conclude that this Administration's management of the pandemic has been poor,” the leader of opposition business in the Senate said.

He asserted that some of those serious missteps included the calling of a general election last year September, thereby accelerating community spread of COVID-19, and the relaxation of restrictions in July, when the medical fraternity was already warning about the onset of the delta variant of the virus, and a third wave of infections.

At the time the general election was called Bunting's People's National Party welcomed the announcement and his leader, Dr Peter Phillips paid tribute to the Members of Parliament who would not be seeking re-election, including the then Speaker Pearnel Charles Sr and several Opposition members, including Robert Pickersgill.

Phillips said, however, that it would have been good if, in announcing the successes of the Administration, the prime minister had given credit to the Opposition for starting the process during its term in office from 2012 to 2016.

“I believe that the polls will show on the day... and the people of Jamaica will make a determination as to whether this lack of integrity, lack of governance, and failure to deal with the major challenges of Jamaican society, deserves another term,” Phillips had said.