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Guy slams COVID PR as Gov’t gets thumbs up

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2020 | 12:26 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Dr Morais Guy, opposition spokesperson on health.
Dr Morais Guy, opposition spokesperson on health.

An RJRGLEANER-Don Anderson poll that shows overwhelming public support for the Holness administration’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic has rankled the opposition spokesman on health, who believes that Jamaicans have bought into a “false” narrative.

Dr Morais Guy’s diagnosis of the Government’s crisis-management skills contrasts with the majority view in the Anderson poll, which revealed that 73.4 per cent of Jamaicans have given a positive rating to the administration’s COVID fight.

The survey, which was conducted between July 24 and August 3, showed that 37.4 per cent of the respondents scored the Government as “very good”, 36 per cent said “good”, and 19.2 per cent rated the management as “average”.

Five per cent of the respondents felt that the management of the pandemic has been “poor” while 2.4 said it was “very poor”.

The poll fielded responses from 1,071 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus three per cent.

“The poll findings are what you would expect from a situation where people have been fed information which they will readily gravitate to. The reality is that the fulsome nature of the COVID effort was not completely revealed to the people,” Guy told The Gleaner on Wednesday.

The opposition spokesman, who is himself a medical doctor, said that Jamaicans had been kept in the dark until recently about a 10,000-sample backlog, which gave a false sense of security.

But Health & Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton hit back, saying that the Government has been very transparent.

Tufton has credited what he said was a joined-up government approach as key to suppressing a tidal wave of infections.

“From day one, we took it very seriously, even before the first case came to Jamaica,” Tufton told The Gleaner.

“Credit must be given to our contact tracers, public-health inspectors, community-health aides who have played a critical role in communities.”

Jamaica has recorded 1,065 COVID-19 infections and 14 related deaths.

Bureaucratic nightmare

Though the country’s recovery rate is comparably high and its death rate low, bureaucratic nightmares have stalked the health ministry for months, with accommodations crises at quarantine hotels, numerous reports of test result backlogs, and creaking infrastructure as staff have complained of overwork.

Tufton said that while he was encouraged by the poll results, he would not want for either the populace or the Government to become complacent in fighting the pandemic.

“The truth is, even though we have done relatively well when compared to other jurisdictions, COVID is very much present and still represents a danger to the population. I would want us to be encouraged by the general confidence that the populace has in the process but at the same time, remain vigilant,” Tufton stated.

Ryan Strachan, president of Generation 2000, the young professionals’ arm of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, said that the poll results are consistent with near-universal approval of Jamaica’s protocols and response to COVID-19.

Strachan cited as supporting evidence commendation by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, on March 16, 2020, and the country being named among 20 nations considered to be ‘Beating COVID-19’ by Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam, American scientist and founding president of the New England Complex Systems Institute.

Jamaicans also approved of the Government’s weeks-long lockdown of St Catherine after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered the Alorica call centre in Portmore. Some 90.6 per cent of the respondents in the poll agreed with the lockdown, while 9.4 per cent disagreed.

Mayor of Portmore Leon Thomas reacted with bemusement.

“If they believed that then, what would they say now that there is a lot more cases?” he asked.