Premier praises Carika Weldon after health minister minimises effect of her resignation
The Premier has praised the Government’s science adviser Carika Weldon after a minister downplayed the impact of her resignation – which sparked public criticism that her work had been “minimised”.
David Burt, who was off the island at a cryptocurrency conference in Switzerland at the time, posted on Twitter that he had not seen the full Covid-19 update on Thursday where Kim Wilson, the health minister, said Dr Weldon’s departure would not affect the work of the Molecular Diagnostic & Research Laboratory in Warwick.
Dr Weldon, the executive director at MDL, will quit the post at the end of the month.
Ms Wilson said several times stated that Dr Weldon’s departure would have no effect on MDL operations – and rated the impact as only one on a scale of one to ten.
Dr Weldon later highlighted Ms Wilson’s view in a light-hearted Twitter post.
But others accused the Government of being “arrogant and distasteful”.
Mr Burt’s Tweet said there was “no way that I or Bermuda can thank Dr Weldon enough for her contribution to our fight against the coronavirus”.
“She has gone above and beyond and, as I said on Monday, I'm sure her service to our island will not end on January 31.”
Ms Wilson’s views were attacked in The Royal Gazette’s online comments.
One writer said the remarks were “disrespectful, petty and sounded too personal to be appropriate”.
But Dr Weldon’s Tweet gave the “one out of ten” a more comic treatment.
But a source close to the lab said Dr Weldon was “a bit disappointed” by the comments but was “just focused on the lab”, where the staff had put in long hours to get through a test backlog.
The source added that morale at MDL was high and that the public had showed its appreciation with cards and gifts such as chocolate.
Michael Dunkley, the shadow health minister, said that Ms Wilson’s comments had been made off the cuff at a live press conference.
He added: “You could always give the minister a second chance. Maybe the minister got the grading scale the wrong way around.”
But Mr Dunkley said he was “quite surprised at the minister’s remarks”.
He added: “The Government has been very supportive and has heaped praise on Dr Weldon through 18 months at the lab and they rewarded her with an extension of her contract, so I was quite surprised.”
He said Ms Wilson’s views, on top of Dr Weldon’s resignation over what Mr Burt called a “difference of opinion” on the schedule for the reopening of public schools, was “a slap in the face after her hard work and dedication”.
Mr Dunkley said: “I certainly give her high marks. There’s been no rest for the weary. Dr Weldon and I have had our differences in the past, but never about her work.”
Details have yet to be released on a replacement for Dr Weldon at the lab.
Ms Wilson said on Thursday that questions about the succession plan should be directed to the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for MDL.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman added later that “planning has begun to effect a seamless transition” but did not give details.
Mr Dunkley said: “Maybe they don’t know, so they don’t want to tell.
“The second possibility is they don’t believe the people of Bermuda should know.
“Either one is not good.”
Mr Dunkley said that another laboratory – Helix Genetic and Science Solutions – had carried out coronavirus tests before MDL took over.
He added: “That goes to show that we do have the expertise on the island.”
Mr Dunkley said that a switch in emphasis from PCR tests to do-it-yourself antigen tests could ease pressure on MDL staff.
Mr Dunkley said: “That’s something I’ve been calling for all along.”
He questioned again why the Government ignored Dr Weldon’s advice that schools should delay the start of the new term – and asked why so many Cabinet ministers were allowed to go on vacation at the same time.
Mr Dunkley said: “The Premier has got to give good reason as to why he didn’t think that advice was appropriate.”
He added: “The Premier is the one who approves holidays and it seems everyone was allowed to go away when were in the middle of a fresh surge.
“That shows a glaring lack of leadership.”