People’s National Party (PNP) Junior Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr Shane Alexis, has come under fire for claims that the Government locked the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, and locked Jamaicans out.
The former Medical Association of Jamaica head, during a virtual PNP press conference on Tuesday (May 26) themed ‘Compassion for our people’, said the biggest mistake of the Andrew Holness-led administration’s national response to the pandemic was moving to shut out tax-paying citizens, prompting some 5,000 Jamaicans to rush home before the border closure.
According to Alexis, as the repatriated Jamaicans flocked to the island before its borders were closed, many disregarded quarantine protocols and for the Government to then deny other citizens entry was a misstep and double standard.
“The number one mistake that was made, in the management of this crisis was to lock COVID in very early. We locked COVID in, we allowed it to stay here and we locked Jamaicans out,”— Dr Shane Alexis, speaking during a virtual PNP press conference on Tuesday.
Snippets of the press conference were shared on Twitter and left Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton puzzled by the rhetoric. He asked persons more inclined to share what he meant.
The ensuing conversation around Alexis has made him the most trending topic on Twitter as of Wednesday morning (May 27).
After backlash on social media, Alexis then claimed that one of the videos was ‘spliced’ but stood by the notion that letting Jamaicans return in droves without sufficient testing and quarantining was a mistake.
“This video was spliced. I commented that we should have locked the borders from early instead of letting [in] 5000 people without testing. Then in an attempt to contain the virus we locked Jamaicans out when we could have tested and quarantined. That was a mistake,” Alexis tweeted.
There was nothing cut from the comment in question, as BUZZ listened in to the press conference and Alexis’ contribution in full.
Both Tufton and Alexis had a brief exchange on Twitter, as the Junior Health Spokesman expressed his willingness to assist the national coronavirus effort in whatever way possible.
Tufton, however, explained that the reason for shuttering Jamaica’s borders was not done callously but as a measure to buy the island some time to strengthen the national response.
The controversial statement comes as Alexis has asked the Government to provide a protocol for reopening the local economy, as the island confirms 564 cases of COVID-19.
“We favour reopening in a responsible way but…we cannot risk the lives of workers, family members, or any of our lives. We have to get this right and I think the best thing to do is to get everyone at the table,” he said during yesterday’s digital press conference.
To this end, as the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) has drafted a seven-step framework for the phased reopening of the economy, Dr Alexis is hoping more stakeholders, including the clergy, political parties, as well as other groups, develop and release a joint protocol before businesses reopen en masse.