Leader of the Opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP.

The United National Congress (UNC) is calling on government to account for how it has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic in this country, given the milestone of 1,000 lives lost on Tuesday 20 July 2021.

In a strongly worded statement, the UNC argues that despite the Opposition’s best efforts, the Rowley Administration refused to heed good advice or accept assistance, and made decisions which turned out to be to the detriment of T&T.

“What is most astonishing is that roughly 800 of these deaths have occurred in just the past 3 months, during the very State of Emergency which was supposed to prevent such an outbreak,” the UNC statement observes.

It adds: “The United National Congress has used every constitutional means to try to prevent Trinidad and Tobago from reaching this distressing state…  It is the failed Health Team—which has refused to accept any responsibility in this matter—that needs to be held to account, not the population…”

The full text of the UNC statement, follows…

OVER 1,000 COVID DEATHS NEED TO BE ACCOUNTED FOR

On Tuesday, yesterday, Trinidad and Tobago officially passed the grim milestone of 1,000 covid deaths.

We wait to see whether the government will let this pass without any reflections to consider lessons learned, without any condolences to the 1,000 and more families—in this small country of 1.4 million people—who have been affected by these deaths. What is most astonishing is that roughly 800 of these deaths have occurred in just the past 3 months, during the very State of Emergency which was supposed to prevent such an outbreak.

Some of the most senior doctors in our health care system have alleged that the Intensive Care Unit at the Couva Hospital has a 100% or near 100% mortality rate. To be sent there, then, is tantamount to be given a death sentence. This is a scandal of national and historic proportions.

Yet we hear nothing from the failed Health Team, led by Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, who is daily coming under increasing ridicule by the population for his often ignorant and foolish remarks, and even famously by his political leader.

NCRHA CEO, Davlin Thomas, an obvious PNM party hack totally unqualified and unsuited for the post, is defended by Minister Deyalsingh, even though the nurses and doctors have called for his replacement by a qualified health professional. The Health Team at the daily press briefings do not provide statistics on the ICU and the High Dependency Units, even when asked by journalists, or any of the other statistics that senior doctors have asked to be provided on a regular, transparent basis. Instead, they daily congratulate themselves and berate citizens, blaming us for any spread.

One must ask, since when has it ever been acceptable to blame persons for catching a virus? If it is not acceptable for HIV or other deadly viruses, then why is it normal practice to blame persons for catching covid and dying? This is absolutely unacceptable.

It is the failed Health Team — which has refused to accept any responsibility in this matter — that needs to be held to account, not the population. If the Team wants to be treated as professionals, they must act as professionals and accept personal responsibility and accountability.

Ultimate blame, of course, lies squarely at the feet of Keith Rowley himself.

The United National Congress has used every constitutional means to try to prevent Trinidad and Tobago from reaching this distressing state. In January 2020, we attempted to raise the issue five times in Parliament for debate, and each time it was refused. The Opposition called for a unified front to tackle this national emergency, which Keith Rowley flippantly rejected. In the Joint Select Committee of Parliament, questions about precautions and preparedness for covid were asked of CMO Roshan Parusram and Minister Deyalsingh. The videos exist of Drs. Trotman and Parusram, and Minister Deyalsingh saying that covid was not a serious threat to Trinidad and Tobago, flip-flopping over masks, of being completely wrong and advocating the exact opposite views today, with the same passion and theatrical conviction as they held for the contrary views last year.

The Opposition not only forced the government to take covid seriously, we also forced the government to get serious about procuring vaccines. Kamla Persad-Bissessar even had to write the Government of India in order to secure vaccine donations when the Covax facility and the African Union facility were yielding nothing and Keith Rowley was blaming “vaccine apartheid” for his failure.

The United National Congress had to also intervene with regard to the economic pandemic caused by the PNM Government’s economic and social policies, which have been equally if not more destructive.

The Opposition has even used the constitutional tool of a motion of no-confidence in the failed Minister of Health in order to highlight to the population the serious issues that need to be fixed in our healthcare system, and to hold the Government and Minister to account.

However, this PNM government continues to act like a dictatorship, ignoring Parliament and the Opposition, concerned only for their own advantage, and that of their friends, family and financiers, while the mass of the population suffer and literally die.

Today marks one of the darkest days in our history, and the PNM doesn’t care. We cannot let this indifference define us as a country. The United National Congress, therefore, stands in solidarity with the suffering people of Trinidad and Tobago, committed to fight on their behalf.

The over 1,000 covid deaths, including the near 100% mortality rate at the Couva Hospital ICU, needs to be accounted for, and we reiterate our call for a Commission of Enquiry and thorough investigation.