‘190 deaths and pink slips’  

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Government Member of Parliament (MP) Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo and Opposition MP, Dr. Karen

…opposition flays PPP’s management of Covid pandemic  

—Gov’t says fewer tests done under coalition  

By Lisa Hamilton  

At Monday’s Budget 2021 debate, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Dr. Karen Cummings contended that the APNU+AFC Government was a better manager of the COVID-19 pandemic as under the PPP/C the death toll has risen to 190 while scores of Guyanese in need have been left with just a ‘pink slip’.

However, seeking to dismantle these statements, Government MP Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo put forward that it was under the APNU+AFC that COVID-19 testing was scarce allowing persons to die from the virus without yet knowing their diagnosis. On Monday, both sides of the House came ready to speak on the coronavirus but with different perspectives on how it should be managed to prevent death and infection.

In her presentation, Dr. Cummings said that the former APNU+AFC Government provided support through the Rural Entrepreneurial Agricultural Project (REAP) and the Coordinating Agency for Small Enterprises (CASE) while the PPP/C, on the other hand, fired some 1,000 Guyanese during a global crisis.

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Meanwhile, she added that many other Guyanese still have ‘pink slips’ and have been waiting for some time for the PPP/C Government to deliver its promised $25,000 COVID-19 cash grant relief. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said, just over a week ago, that ‘pink slip’ holders — those who did not receive the grant for one reason or the other — would have their issues dealt with after the conclusion of the ongoing distribution. However, the Opposition has highlighted that there are many people with issues who haven’t even received a ‘pink slip’ to begin with.

Dr. Cummings said on Monday that this is just one of the negative ways in which the current Government differs from the previous Government in its management of the virus. “The APNU+AFC Coalition, in our response to this dreaded disease, ensured that there was safety on the job of all medical personnel and technical staff. The APNU+AFC Coalition took measures to protect the vulnerable, especially those in special care homes and shelters. We sought to address the social and economic impact on the livelihood of the Guyanese people…the former APNU+AFC Coalition Government definitely responded more effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic than the current Government,” she told the House.

However, disagreeing categorically was Dr. Mahadeo. He rose subsequently to tell the House that while the APNU+AFC boasts of a COVID-19 lower death rate during its tenure, the figures presented cannot be trusted.  “Honourable Members, we know when COVID came to Guyana how many tests were being done per day, how many were done in months — 20 or just over 20. Persons were dying with symptoms, when doctors requested for COVID samples to be done [they were told] ‘no, just bury them’. How could we say that we had the real figures,” he contended.

Guyana recorded its first COVID-19-related death on March 11, 2020, under then APNU+AFC Government. Data show that from March 11 to August 2 when they demitted Office – a period of six months — the previous Administration recorded a total of 21 COVID-19 related deaths.

However, from August 4, 2020, to February 22, 2021 – seven months — the country recorded 169 additional COVID-19 deaths though, arguably, the APNU+AFC coalition managed the virus during its initial stage.

Dr. Mahadeo put forward his case that the APNU+AFC were poor at managing the virus as while it was negatively impacting Guyanese, the then Government allowed Guyanese to be faced with an increase in taxes which the PPP/C has now removed in the 2021 Budget. “The populace was being stabbed in the back by all the new taxes and all the new increases in cost of living in this country. This is why, Mr, Speaker, they’re over there and we’re over here,” he said.

Meanwhile, in her presentation, Dr. Cummings also chastised the PPP/C Government for not being sufficiently proactive on the issue of vaccine hesitancy and vaccine procurement. She said that the Government has become comfortable with borrowing and receiving hand-out vaccinations instead, reducing the likeliness of herd immunity. Following a string of other criticisms, the Opposition MP concluded that Budget 2021 would do more harm than good to Guyana as it represents a breakdown of the caring nature of the Government which Guyanese had grown accustomed to under the APNU+AFC.



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