The United Progressive Party views, with concern, the alarming increase in new COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks. The most recent dashboard numbers show we recorded 38 new cases with 33 patients currently hospitalized.
We recorded 159 cases in nine months: March to December 2020. Now, in seven weeks, we have logged 260 cases, with domestic infections more than doubling those imported.
These sobering statistics bring us to the point of reassessment, and we can only conclude that, despite the curfew, the present strategy is not working.
We have tested fewer persons per capita than any other island in the Eastern Caribbean. This means there might be infected persons who show no symptoms, but who may put other people at risk.
The Medical Director of Mount St. John Medical Centre, himself, has already admitted that our medical personnel and services are uncomfortably stretched. As a result, milder and less severe cases of the virusmay not be able to get adequate treatment, and this can lead to some persons becoming more seriously ill.
The Party has consulted with medical and public health officials and is convinced of the immediate need for decisive action to safeguard all citizens, residents and visitors.
We are very sensitive to the fact that a lockdown couldcause great harm to people’s ability to feed their families and even for businesses to survive. However, caution dictates that we no longer postpone the inevitable. It is the safest and most responsible option.
Already, the business sector is gradually shutting down, with many banks and other services voluntarily curtailing their operations. Surely, a planned lockdown will yield better results than this slow anduncontrolled spiral downwards.
We therefore urge the Chairman and the Board of the Central Board of Health, the Minister of Health, and the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda to immediately give serious consideration to a strategically planned and managed national lockdown.
The goal of the lockdown will be to limit social interactions and reduce the infection rate and the number of hospitalizations. It will also give our medical services and other frontline workers a much-needed respite.
Accordingly, we call on the Cabinet, the Ministry of Health and the business community to collaborate on a clear strategy and plan to handle the crisis.
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