By Carlena Knight
Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell is calling on the government to overhaul some critical Covid-19 protocols.
Lovell said while he is in favour of stricter measures, basic areas like contact tracing, quarantine and curfew hours also need to be looked at.
“The contact tracing system … in my opinion is in urgent need of repair. We need to really get a grip on it because that is really the substance of knowing where you really are and it is clear that that system in my view has collapsed,” Lovell said on Observer AM on Friday.
“I am not blaming the people out there who are doing the work because I know they are working hard, but we have been calling for, since March of last year, the beefing up of the system to get more people into the system because that is so critical,” he explained.
Cabinet revealed this week that the government is set to add more manpower to the process, including soldiers from the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF), amid a drastic increase in positive Covid-19 cases. The most recent dashboard released by the Ministry of Health revealed that the country now has more than 320 active cases.
But Lovell says this is long overdue, as the limited number of personnel tasked with contact tracing are already overworked hindering their ability to effectively carry out their duties.
“I have spoken to people involved in contact tracing so I have a pretty good idea of the staffing levels which right now is woefully inadequate,” Lovell claimed.
“They are overworked. There was a time when you maybe had one [new] case and two cases and it was adequate but now you have up to 39 cases. I also have spoken to people who have tested positive and I have asked questions. Has your family been contacted? Have the other persons who you may have been in contact with been contacted and in all cases the answer is no. The system needs to be upgraded,” Lovell declared.
Regarding the matter of quarantine, Lovell accused the government of being “very lax”.
A number of people previously placed on self-quarantine are said to have broken the 14-day measure. This prompted the government to mandate that returning nationals must now quarantine at a government facility for a daily fee of EC$80.
The UPP candidate for St John’s City East is also reiterating calls for an island-wide lockdown rather than the continuous shaving of the curfew hours.
Just three weeks ago, the curfew hours which ran from 11pm-5am were moved to 8pm-5am. On Tuesday, that was further restricted to 6pm-5am.
Calls to several health officials for comment were unsuccessful.