Late yesterday the King government announced increased measures to protect Islanders living in Long Term Care Homes. This is welcome news and very much needed. Early in the pandemic seniors paid a steep price for their safety when they were isolated and cut off from their families and community support. Now with high vaccination rates among long term care residents, it is crucial to have measures put in place to both protect their health and allow critical access to family and community.
However, the approach for protecting this vulnerable group of Islanders lies in stark contrast to how the King government is handling the safety of another vulnerable Island population – our children. There is no child under 12 that is vaccinated on PEI, yet government is delaying or refusing to put in place measures that will protect them and ensure their continued health and safety.
Children have largely been spared from the worst illnesses associated with COVID-19, however, we see that this is quickly changing. Across parts of the US and Canada dealing with outbreaks of the Delta variant, children under 12 are being hospitalized with the virus. PEI has a very limited pediatric unit. The stakes are incredibly high.
The inconsistency in health plans is causing Islanders frustration and anxiety. The Premier has a duty to explain to Islanders how he is making his decisions and what evidence he is using to support them.
Last week, the Official Opposition called on government to strengthen its back to school plan by implementing stronger measures to protect Island children. After significant outcry from concerned parents and Islanders the Premier decided to reinstate masking requirements in schools and on buses. He refused, however, to insist on a vaccination mandate for school staff and teachers despite the fact that every single child under 12 has no access to the vaccine.
Premier King has said repeatedly that we must not stumble now that the finish line is in sight, yet this is exactly what he is doing.
Islanders also do not need a scolding when they ask their elected leaders why they are not putting in place the necessary measures to protect all Islanders. We again call on the Premier to do whatever is necessary to ensure the health and safety of our children. It’s time to mandate vaccines for frontline staff and require pro-active periodic testing for those staff unable to be vaccinated.
Michele Beaton, MLA
Official Opposition Critic for Health and Wellness
Steve Howard, MLA
Official Opposition Critic for Education