Health minister denies Government got it wrong on schools return
The Government yesterday denied it lost its grip on the coronavirus crisis after long delays in the test system left most schools closed on the first day of term and caused “chaotic” scenes at the airport.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, defended the way the situation was handled and said a “perfect storm” of events was to blame for problems.
She said yesterday: “The issue … as to whether or not Government’s lost its grip, I certainly wouldn’t support that.
“In December we had what I would refer to as a perfect storm.
“There were high numbers of people travelling over the Christmas holidays, we had the testing requirements for the return to school and we also had the to facilitate the Biden Administration’s requirements with 24-hour turnaround with respect to antigens.
“So, all of that together, coming in the midst of a highly transmittable variant of Omicron added to the stress on our testing system.”
Ms Wilson added that the Government had not ignored warnings from Carika Weldon, the head of the island’s main laboratory, that pressing on with the planned January 5 return to school would “overwhelm” the test system.
The majority of schools did not open as scheduled and some travellers said there were scenes of “chaos and confusion” at the airport because of delays in the turnaround of tests.
Ms Wilson dodged questions on whether the Government had made a mistake.
She said: “I’m not suggesting that somebody got it right or somebody got it wrong.
“But the priority of the Government was to take steps to ensure that students could return to in-school learning.”
Ms Wilson also dismissed concerns that key figures such as David Burt, the Premier, and several ministers were off the island at the same time over the festive season.
She claimed stand-in ministers acting for absent Cabinet members were up to the job and communication channels were always open.