Statement by Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition, on lack of preparation and action by King government which is leading to community spread of COVID among PEI schools

It was shocking to listen to Premier King state earlier today he would do nothing differently regarding how his government handled its back to school planning. After months of telling Islanders to be vigilant and to go the extra mile to protect our neighbours, it is his government that is opening the door for community spread to happen in our schools.

Children under twelve have no vaccination protections. They are a completely exposed population of nearly fourteen thousand. It is unconscionable that their health is being given such low regard and concern by the King government.

I am also bewildered by the reluctance of Premier King to take immediate, decisive action to protect Island children. I am shocked to hear him say his government is doing everything they possibly can. This is positively untrue. There are no mask mandates for the broader public, no movement on school ventilation upgrades despite having COVID contingency funds from the federal government, no mandatory vaccinations for teachers and staff, and despite making routine testing for unvaccinated staff at long term care homes a requirement, the King government is unwilling to do the same for Island schools.

Just a short few weeks ago we raised concerns about the delay over a comprehensive back to school plan. Very quickly after it was released, many Islanders – including teachers, medical professionals, parents, and health experts – pointed out the lack of solid direction and safeguards, including masking in schools and on buses, being implemented to protect our children. Epidemiologist, Colin Furness, when he was presented with the King government plan, responded by asking, “How many pediatric ICU beds do you have?”

Recently, we saw a stronger plan come out for our long term care homes. At that time we applauded government for taking these measures for a vulnerable group that is over 90% vaccinated. However, I have to ask again, why is the Premier so reluctant to institute similar procedures to protect our children who are a completely unvaccinated vulnerable population?

It is very clear our health system is already overstressed. It is irresponsible for the Premier to not take the necessary steps to prevent and curb COVID in our communities. We cannot afford the risk of an outbreak that will potentially push our healthcare system beyond its breaking point. We absolutely cannot jeopardize the health of our children.

There is an appalling lack of leadership and consistency being demonstrated by the King government. This is deeply concerning and completely unacceptable. It is time for this government to step up and provide the leadership Islanders expect and demand.