Lack of technical capacity at APNU/AFC’s leadership level led to ineffective COVID-19 response – Min Anthony

─ responds to former Minister’s claims of politics hampering progress

─ refers to limited stakeholder involvement as reason for poor implementation of guidelines

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, August 13, 2020

Newly-appointed Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, has rubbished claims by the former Health Minister that, under the tenure of the past Administration, COVID-19 cases were being under-reported and this was due to the political climate prevailing at that time.

Minister Anthony said it was more than just politics and that the response was not inclusive and “a recipe for disaster”.

“The only politics that would have interfered is that within their Government. There was a top-heavy task force that was made up of the Cabinet… You had a group of people who did not understand anything relating to epidemiology and dynamics of COVID, and they were running a pandemic situation,” he stated.

Added to this, the Health Minister noted, the response lacked stakeholder engagement, and therefore, all concerned parties were not involved in planning and meetings.

Upon taking office as Health Minister just one week ago, Minister Anthony met with the stakeholders who commend the new Administration for this inclusive approach.

“As I am meeting with various stakeholders, people have said to me over and over again is that this is so refreshing because they were locked out of the process; whether it be the miners or the aviation people,” the Minister related.

He explained that under the previous Government, stakeholders were not allowed to have a say nor bring their ideas to the table.

“Many of the things that were implemented – they were not practical. It did not affect because the people who were needed to do the implementation were not involved.”

Giving his technical viewpoint, the Health Minister said the APNU/AFC’s government approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19, resulted in gross mismanagement of the sector. He disclosed that there was an insufficient capacity for testing, and actual testing was hardly being conducted to ascertain the real-time situation with regards to the virus in the country.

Added to this, Minister Anthony speculated that sound technical advice may have been communicated but was not prioritised or had been ignored.

For the past seven days, Minister Anthony has taken a new approach in leading the Ministry’s efforts to respond appropriately and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken lives across the world.

“What we inherited was a mess – an absolute mess, and that is what we have been spending the last couple of days trying to fix. We have been putting in place the kinds of mechanisms that will enable us to do rapid response,” he noted.

Thus far, the Minister has met with the Education Ministry, small associations and agencies, the private sector, international partners and political parties, to craft an inclusive strategy that will allow for the revamped response to be effective.

His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, has also been playing a vital role in ensuring inclusiveness.