By Shermain Bique-Charles
The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) believes that a partial shutdown of the country may trigger what they have termed “clandestine activities,” which will be counter-productive.
“No lockdown,” is what Harold Lovell, the UPP leader, said to Observer yesterday.
He was responding to threats by the government to enter into a partial lockdown should Covid-19 numbers continue to increase.
The UPP on the other hand is pointing fingers at those responsible for handling Covid-19, saying in essence that they have failed to effectively educate the public about the deadly pandemic.
“There was virtually no public education in preparation for the holidays. There has been very little for the whole of the pandemic.
“We are still using stale [information] for Covid-focused PSAs. There has been virtually no universally distributed conversation by our medical people,” Lovell said.
He said that Antigua and Barbuda does not have a proper public education campaign about Covid-19, regardless of the snippets put forward by the government periodically.
“All we get is post-Cabinet briefings. That is not public education. That is public information. Targeted public education changes negative behaviour and reinforces the positive. We have no proper Covid suppression campaign,” he said.
The UPP is calling for a professionally developed and executed Covid-19 campaign, independent of Cabinet.
“That must include science-based discussions in the media so that the public understands things better,” he added.
Where testing for the virus is concerned, the UPP suggests that discreet, statistically-structured testing must be done in an effort to understand the origin of the spike.
“Let that guide the decision to, or not to, go to a full or partial lockdown. Make an evidenced-based decision that is steeped in infectious disease control principles and scientifically collected numbers,” he said.
Other proposals by the UPP include the inspection and enforcement of the already required protocols in public places and businesses.
“A lockdown will not re-institute lapsed protocols. Inspections, warnings and sanctions will,” Lovell reiterated.
The UPP also wants the police to be kept out of the inspection and monitoring regime, saying that non-compliance with a public health issue should not be criminalised.
“When a behaviour pattern is criminalised it does not inspire compliance, it inspires defiance. And the deviant behaviour is repeated as a dare to the police. The objective is to control the spread of the disease.
“Use the police only in cases of flagrant, persistent and unruly non-compliance – or non-compliance that breaks pre-Covid laws,” he said.
The UPP leader also took a swipe at the Covid dashboard, opining that it serves no educative purpose.
“It seems to be run by someone who has no clue of its educative and explanatory role. Spikes need to be followed with explanations in PSAs issued by the Covid Task Force, not comments by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Max Hurst or Melford Nicholas. These utterances don’t likely promote positive behaviour change,” he added.
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