Kamla: After $20 billion and 12 ‘step down facilities’ —why insufficient spaces for cruise ship nationals?
A report in today’s Express notes that the National Security Minister is continuing to adopt his very severe ‘wait and see’ stance with respect to bringing home the final batch of stranded cruise ship nationals.
This is frankly unacceptable, given the fact that the Health Ministry declared last week that T&T is now Covid-19 free. It therefore calls into very serious question the Rowley Government’s ongoing claims that its much touted ‘parallel healthcare system’ to deal with Covid-19 patients really exists.
Over the weekend, media reports highlighted the distressing plights of these stranded nationals, who are suffering from severe trauma and depression over their cruel and unfair treatment at the hands of the Rowley Government.
This prompted severe public backlash, and Minister Young then rushed to do damage control. He finally allowed 59 of these nationals, as well as 275 regional UWI students, to return home. Yet, 345 foreign nationals still remain in limbo.
They’ve been stuck in quarantine on the Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship off Barbados since the March closure of our borders. Minister Young has reportedly said they will be allowed to come home only if the cruise ship company agrees to quarantine them at sea, since the Government does not have the space to do so in T&T.
This is a very telling admission, especially since Health officials previously claimed that they had established almost 1,000-bed stock in several facilities to quarantine and treat Covid-19 patients.
A Newsday report dated April 22, 2020, by Shane Superville, also quotes the Health Minister saying that out of the 12 ‘step-down facilities’ the Rowley Government had established to deal with the Covid-19 patients, only six were being used. Last week, the Health Ministry also said T&T was down to its last Covid-19 patient.
For Minister Young to now claim, therefore, that we have no space for these nationals is a serious indictment on his own Government’s handling of this entire pandemic. Indeed, it calls into serious question the truth of the longstanding, highly suspicious claims of the Rowley Government that they had a plan to deal with Covid-19 pandemic since January 2020.
It is notable that this entire Covid-19 crisis was marked by gross under-testing by the Health Ministry. To date, they have completed a woefully inadequate sum of just over 2000 samples – merely 0.01 per cent of the population. They also established these so called ‘step down’ quarantine facilities at a cost of millions of dollars.
This after accessing $20 billion of taxpayers’ funds allegedly to buffer the economic fallout of the national shutdown. To date, however, they still cannot credibly account for where the money has gone. Minister Young’s latest statement therefore now begs the following questions:
– Have these numerous ‘step down’ facilities in fact really been established to accommodate any significant number of Covid-19 patients?
– If so, how many persons exactly can be accommodated overall?
– At what cost to taxpayers?
– Who got the contracts to establish them?
– Why are they so woefully insufficient at this late stage of the Covid-19 shutdown to house returning nationals?
– If we have the much feared ‘second wave’ that PM Rowley and the Health Minister keep going on about, where will citizens be placed for quarantine/treatment?
It is now incumbent on both the Health and Finance Ministers to publicly give credible, detailed answers—with documentary evidence— to these very pertinent questions, in the name of truth, transparency and accountability. The citizens of T&T deserve no less from their Government.
Failure to do so would simply confirm widespread public suspicions that the Rowley Government has used this entire Covid-19 crisis as a convenient excuse to get its hands on taxpayers’ dollars for its own nefarious purposes. It would also mandate PM Rowley and his entire Cabinet to immediately resign and call the general elections now.