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Three out of 10 people in the Americas are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 because of underlying conditions, PAHO Director says

Diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, immunosuppression, and TB, place people at increased risk for more severe disease. Many of these conditions are widespread in the Americas.

Washington, D.C., July 21, 2020 (PAHO) — In the Americas, three out of ten people – or nearly 325 million – are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying health conditions, Pan American Health Organization Director (PAHO) Carissa F. Etienne said.

Certain underlying, chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and hypertension, as well as infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, or immunosuppression, place people at increased risk for more severe COVID-19 disease.

“Unfortunately, many of these medical conditions are widespread in the Americas, which leaves our region more vulnerable to severe illness,” Etienne told a media briefing today.

To help address this, PAHO has developed a new data model in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that provides a more accurate picture of the prevalence of health conditions in the Americas.

“What we see is worrisome,” she noted. “We are talking about 186 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean,” and in the U.S. Canada and Mexico, one in three people are at increased risk of severe COVID-19.

In the Americas, there are 43 million people at high risk, “which means they would require hospitalization due to their underlying health conditions. And within this group, men are twice as likely as women to be at high risk of developing severe COVID-19,” she said.

People over the age of 65 are at greater risk of experiencing more severe disease, since the likelihood of developing multiple health conditions increases with age, PAHO’s director said. “But working-age adults – which refers to people from 15-64 – are not immune, as many of them live with one or more underlying health conditions. Diabetes and chronic kidney disease, in particular, are especially prevalent among adult populations,” she added.

Strategies to protect people with comorbidities

The new tool developed with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will help countries with specific data “to adapt their COVID-19 responses and better protect vulnerable populations from chronic conditions that threaten their health,” Etienne said.

Strategies to protect people with underlying conditions, which range “from self-isolation with assistance, to providing adequate resources and support systems,” can help countries reduce deaths among vulnerable groups, flatten the curve and preserve the capacity of health services, Dr. Etienne added.

“With the surge in COVID-19 patients, many health systems lack the staff, space, and supplies to adequately offer routine care. Such disruptions have delayed treatments for cancer patients and dialysis for those with chronic kidney disease. People with diabetes are running out of insulin, and HIV patients have to worry about continuing their treatment,” she said.

“With the new tool, countries can tailor their response to protect vulnerable groups from risk and implement innovative programs to help people safely and more consistently manage their conditions. This includes increasing telemedicine capabilities and establishing surge points for care, which allows people with chronic conditions to be seen by a doctor away from suspected COVID-19 patients.

Countries should ensure that vulnerable groups are advised to connect with their health care providers to ensure they have the medications and supplies they need to safely manage their conditions, she said.

“This is also the time to rely on their friends and families to run errands so they can minimize trips outside their homes. And as much as possible, people should maintain a healthy routine at home that includes regular exercise and nutritious food,” Etienne added.

The pandemic is not slowing down

As of July 20, 7.7 million cases have been reported and more than 311,000 people have died in the Americas. In the last week alone there were almost 900,000 new cases and some 22,000 deaths, most in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

In the Amazon basin, COVID-19 continues to spread with significant surges in localized hot spots in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Pero, she noted, while Central American countries “are reporting their highest weekly increases of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.”

Links

Director’s remarks- Media briefing: https://www.paho.org/en/media/weekly-press-briefing-covid-19-situation-americas

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, Health, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

fish-net-lmask_PAY-PLT_masks_slammed_DN00JPG

The Mirror’s must read rundown of today’s news, advice and stories

Replicated from the Mirror, UK

Office staff will NOT have to wear masks at work

Welcome to tonight’s briefing…
Office workers in England will not have to wear face coverings, Matt Hancock has said.
Face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets from July 24
But the Health Secretary said there were no plans to extend the requirement to workspaces and schools.
“It is something we’ve looked at and rejected,” he said.

He added: “When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you’re there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn’t offer that protection.

“The same logic applies for schools – we’re not recommending masks for schools because if you’re in a classroom with kids all day then a mask doesn’t give you protection.”

In other developments today: 
• Boris Johnson has committed to holding an independent inquiry into the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
• The Queen will attend her first face-to-face public engagement since the lockdown to knight Capt Tom Moore at Windsor Castle on Friday.
• The charity Action on Smoking and Health says more than one million people have given up smoking since the start of the Covid outbreak.
• Starbucks and McDonald’s are among the firms to cut prices after the VAT reduction started today. VAT on food and drink has been cut from 20% to 5%.
• The infection rate in England fell dramatically before the easing of the lockdown in May, according to a study by Imperial College, London. It found the R rate was down to 0.57 – lower than the official estimate of between 0.7 and 1.
• The luxury fashion firm Burberry is to axe 500 jobs from its UK and global workforce.
• DisneyLand Paris reopened today with social distancing rules in place and visitors aged over 11 required to wear face coverings.
• Spanish authorities have closed the Punta Ballena party strip in Magaluf after tourists flouted rules on social distancing and face coverings.

People in Blackburn have been banned from visiting each other in groups of more than two and told they must not shake hands following a spike in new Covid-19 infections.

Health bosses warn that unless the number of new cases goes down, Blackburn with Darwen may have to follow Leicester back into lockdown.

The measures – which also include advice to wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces – will be in place for the next month.

The authority’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, said a lockdown similar to that in Leicester is “a real possibility” after the infection rate rose to 47 cases per 100,000 from 31.6 in just seven days.

The authority is third on the list of highest weekly rates, behind Leicester, which has a rate of 118.2 cases per 100,000 and is subject to a local lockdown, and nearby Pendle, with a rate of 76.6.

And here’s how NOT to mask

Discount fashion website Pretty Little Thing has been slammed for selling a “useless” bedazzled face mask

The online retailer was mocked for its Black Diamante Fishnet Mask with shoppers ridiculing the product on Twitter and many branding it “ridiculous”.

Images taken from the Pretty Little Thing Website show the £10 mask as worn by a model and it is made from a fishnet style material, with rhinestones dotted across the front.

The “statement mask” provides absolutely no coverage over the mouth or nose, leading many to criticise the design.

Among those to question, the product was Twitter user Imogen Jayde from Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

Emma Pharoah from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, retweeted the image saying: “PLT are really f* up atm aren’t they?”

One user named Eden Loise fumed: “Companies who see masks as a trend rather than a necessity in helping prevent thousands of people dying. What is this @OfficialPLT, wise up.”

And another user from Glasgow named Rebekah dubbed it: “The most useless thing I’ve ever seen.”

Thank you for reading The Mirror’s Coronavirus Briefing. We’re proud to campaign seven days a week for a fair and equal society for all. Share your stories at webnews@mirror.co.uk. If you were sent this email by a friend and would like to sign up, you can do so here.

See full article here: https://email.trinitymirror-news.co.uk/w1pfEz5HIUHEgPbOVJ53nhdphMndx1EWNGaM2XMF7CF/WebView.aspx

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, Features, Health, International, Local, Regional, TOURISM0 Comments

Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound

Reprint       News        Covid-19 is NOT a virus!

Health

Find out what Covid-19 really is and how you can protect yourself

One thing COVID-19 isn’t is a virus. There – I said it! Not that you would know from everything that’s buzzing around the media right now.

So if it’s not a virus, what is it?

COVID-19 is the disease you develop from being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Imagine it like HIV which is the virus that causes the disease AIDS.
Or the Streptococcus bacterium that causes tonsillitis.

So what does SARS-CoV stand for and how did it start?

SARS-CoV stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused by the Coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2 is the latest strain of the virus.

Scientists have been looking at the genome sequencing of this virus and have traced its origins back many tens of thousands of years. Coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that cause various diseases in various animals and, more recently, humans.

Scroll forward thousands of years. The first human Coronavirus was discovered by Tyrrell and Bynoe, back in the 1960s. They took respiratory tract swabs from human volunteers who were suffering from the common cold. They discovered a common infectious agent and the story of human Coronavirus began.

Whilst this was a fantastic discovery, it only answered a few questions about an otherwise innocent disease. Oh, and also to gain its name due to the crown-like projections emanating from the virus cell’s membrane. Coronavirus!

Forward again to the 21st Century. The first strain of SARS-CoV appeared in 2002 in a small city in the Guangdong Province of China (population of around 7.2 million) on the border with Hong Kong where a farmer became ill with a severe respiratory infection. The virus spread around the world infecting 8,000 people (as far as we know) and was attributed to 774 deaths in 17 countries.

SARS-CoV came and went without a huge global concern given the overall numbers affected.

Fast forward to 2012: Saudi Arabia. The first case of MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) was reported. This spread around many countries and even reached the UK in 2015. Its official name is MERS-CoV. Since its discovery, it has infected around 2,494 people (laboratory-confirmed cases) and 858 reported deaths over 27 countries. Again, no global crisis because of such low numbers.

Now jump forward to late 2019 and back to China. This time an outbreak in the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei Province, Wuhan (probably from a meat market). The first example of the current mutation of the virus, SARS-CoV-2. Let’s dive in and look at why this strain of Coronavirus is causing worldwide chaos when SARS and MERS did not.

Lots of people say that flu is a huge global killer, so what’s the big deal about Coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation estimates the global deaths from seasonal flu at a minimum of 290,000 annually,

This is clearly a big number. So why the panic around Coronavirus? As we will see, for various reasons, left unchecked, the science around this new disease is that it would kill far more people than the flu. Why is this?

First up, It’s not about how many people die from it. It’s about how many catch it and survive!

In the case of SARS, there were 774 deaths out of 8,000 infected. This is a mortality rate of 9.7%.

Turning to MERS, there were 858 deaths out of 2,494 deaths, a staggering mortality rate of 35%! That means that if 100 people catch it, 35 will die.

Initially, the data suggests that this new strain of Coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, has a mortality rate of between 2-4%. On the face of it, the new virus doesn’t sound like a big deal.

However, this ignores the likely number of people infected worldwide. 2% of 1,000 would be a minor public health issue. However SARS-COV-2 is incredibly infectious and without massive interventions, many millions will be infected and 2% of millions is a huge loss of human life.

The Infection Rate

In order to understand why SARS-CoV-2 is so infectious, we need to understand something called the infection rate, calculate it for this virus and then work out how many people could potentially contract the illness and thus work out how many could possibly die.

The infection rate is how many people can a single person infect if they have the illness. We call this the R0 (R nought) number or reproduction number.
For example, flu has an R0 1.3.

So for each person that has the flu, they will pass that on to another 1.3 persons. Then they, in turn, will pass that on to another 1.3 people. And on it goes.

To add some context, measles has an R0 between 12-18 depending on various factors. So measles is incredibly infectious which is why public health authorities are so concerned to ensure close to 100% of the population are vaccinated. Without mass vaccination, millions would die from measles each year.

So with this data can we predict how many will catch this new virus and how many may die?

Well, no, not quite. There is something else we have to factor in and that’s the incubation time.

Incubation Time

Incubation time determines how many people will get sick over what timeframe. The flu has an incubation period of just a few days. And you may not show any symptoms over those few days but are still passing the virus on.

In just a few days the flu can infect many people. However, you know you have it sooner and can isolate so as not to infect others. In fact, most of us are too ill to want to go out once we have the symptoms. So we often stop spreading it as widely, at that stage, because we naturally travel less through the community.

So, in the case of viruses with long incubation periods, the longer the period we can infect other people. In the case of viruses where some or a large proportion of those infected have no symptoms during the incubation period, the more people we unknowingly infect.

Putting it all Together

We can now understand why SARS-CoV-2 is posing a worldwide pandemic and an unprecedented public health emergency not seen since the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic which killed an estimated 20-50 million people globally.

This new variant of SARS-CoV has an R0 of 2-2.5, has an incubation period between 1-14 days and, particularly in young people can be completely symptomless.

So can we now see how a) it will infect more people, b) they won’t know they are infected until they have had the virus for a while.

The combination of these factors means that if societies do not take extreme measures to socially isolate citizens, the virus will spread extremely rapidly and widely. Public Health England and other reputable medical sources estimate infection rates where such measures are not taken of approximately 80%

Even if the estimated death rate for SARS-CoV-2 of 2-4% is exaggerated – let’s apply an overall death rate of 1% – this would mean around 54 million of the UK population would be infected and around 540,000 would die. Taking the lower of the 2-4% range, over a million people would perish in the UK.

The idea that SARS-CoV-2 is just like the flu is dangerously wrong. This virus is a very dangerous beast and requires the huge and urgent international response it has generated.

How does the SARS-CoV virus work?

This virus can’t walk and it most certainly can’t fly. What’s more, it can only use those little crown projections coming out of it to bond to very specific cells. It can’t just bond to any old cell in your body.

It’s a respiratory tract infection. It can only bind to those special cells.

How does the SARS-CoV virus get into our body?

Usually, you put it there! Viruses are very intelligently adaptable. They have been on this planet longer than we have. They need to reproduce and then get out to find new hosts. Not just new host cells within the first animal they find: if they infect too many cells that the animal will die taking the virus along with it. Somehow they have to find a way to get out of this host animal and into another one. It’s incredibly difficult to infect another species, so it needs to find lots of the same species of animal in one place.

With this in mind, viruses tend to infect areas where they can easily get in but also get out. It’s no coincidence that Norovirus makes you expel all your bodily contents from both orifices of your digestive system! Its evolutionary capability is to reach as far and wide as possible.

The same mechanism drives coughing and sneezing when we have the flu. This enables the virus to reach other potential hosts.

On the other hand, when the virus leaves the body, it is under threat. It can’t live for very long outside the body. So it needs to find a new host before it dies. If the environmental factors are right, some viruses can live outside a host for many days. SARS-CoV 2 mostly relies on you coughing out large droplets of water to carry it and give it some temporary accommodation. Depending on what it lands on, its survival is a matter of hours or several days.

Direct contact can allow the virus to be passed from one person to another. The closer the contact, the more likely. Kissing is a virus’ best and easiest route. But the most likely route is usually your hands. That’s where the tyres meet the tarmac, so to speak. It’s how we interact with our surroundings.

An infected person touches another person or a hard surface and the virus waits for you to touch your face to facilitate migration into its new host animal – YOU!

What happens once we become infected by SARS-CoV?

Once inside your body, the virus binds to cells that have similar receptors to itself.

This is what’s called an enveloped virus – it has a special fat layer around the outside. This helps protect it between host cells but it also looks like a protein that should not be attacked by the immune system. Initially anyway. The virus is not of human origin so our immune system doesn’t recognise it. The infected cell is then fooled into accepting the virus.

This is where the virus gets to work. It has found a new host and the new cells are healthy. So the virus starts to hijack the cell. The virus then uses the cell’s factory to start printing out millions of copies of itself. But it has to hide these new copies so they don’t get attacked. This is another vulnerable stage for the virus. It uses our cells to coat the new copies, to hide them and releases them in search of new hosts. The virus ruthlessly keeps printing copies until it kills the host cell that it’s hijacked. It hopes that the new copies have infected new cells and thus the cycle continues.

As more and more cells are destroyed in the production of new viruses, the system begins to break down. So, in the case of a respiratory tract infection, lung cells. Obviously, fewer functioning lung cells means reduced functionality of the lungs.

In the case of SARS-CoV 2, the evidence suggests that this is the most likely cause of death. Those with existing reduced lung function, like the elderly or those with lung diseases, are at the most risk. But any underlying health condition that reduces your body’s ability to fight infections, increases the risk.

But it’s not all bad. The clock is ticking for the virus. As it kills more cells, our immune system will be enlightened to that and start to react. Actively looking for and killing new viruses that are released from damaged host cells. Now it’s the battle of the fittest. This is why those who are young, fit or healthy have strong immune systems and their systems are best able to fight the virus and kill it off. Those people either have no symptoms or mild or moderate symptoms. They will not need medical treatment although drinking lots of fluid and taking paracetamol can be used to reduce headaches and aching limbs. Those who are less fit, older, with less strong immune systems will experience much more serious symptoms and may need to be hospitalised.

Symptoms of SARS-CoV-2

The reports of symptoms are far and wide. Ranging from no symptoms at all, all the way up to death.

However, the 2 most common symptoms are:

• a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
• a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

The only way to know if you really have SARS-CoV 2 is by testing.

The UK is currently only testing hospital admissions that are displaying the common symptoms. There is no test available at the moment for people who have already contracted the illness but recovered. And until we have one it’s very difficult to accurately calculate the mortality rate, infection rate and incubation period. It may be that many more have had this virus than first thought, which would significantly reduce the mortality rate. The UK Government has announced that it is very close to the release of mass self-testing to see whether individuals have had the illness because the test will detect whether they have developed antibodies (prior to last December, no human had had the virus so no-one was immune).

I think I have Covid-19 – what should I do?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service: NHS 111 Service

DO NOT go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

What can I do to prevent getting Covid-19?

At the moment, there is no vaccine or anti-viral drug for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Once you are infected and develop Covid-19 all you can do is alleviate symptoms. So if you have a fever, for example, try to reduce it.
Government advice is changing daily with daily bulletins, updates and advice.
But as with any virus, we can take certain basic precautions.

Hand Washing is Your Best Weapon

Soap and water will remove the virus. Alcohol hand sanitiser can damage the fatty shell and make the virus more vulnerable. Washing robs much of the natural oils from our skin causing it to dry out. Dry skin is incredibly difficult to clean, so moisturiser is just as important as soap! After washing, try to moisturise to keep your skin hydrated and make it easier to clean.

Should I wear a face mask?

Surgical face masks won’t stop you contracting the virus. The mask is to stop the healthcare worker coughing onto their vulnerable patients. Evidence has shown that face masks can increase the risk as they get wet (remember this virus needs those water droplets) and human behaviour. Those not accustomed to wearing them touch their face more frequently than they would normally have done. Although if you have the virus you can prevent others from contracting it by using a mask or covering your face when coughing or sneezing.

Social Distancing

I’ve already mentioned how water droplets can’t travel far. So social distancing is another great weapon to combat the increased spread of the virus.
The droplets from coughing and sneezing can reach up to 2 meters from the infected host. So maintaining at least that distance in an open space should prevent infection.

Isolate Yourself

Stay at home as much as you can. Only leave for essential items or to help someone who is vulnerable and cannot care for themselves. And remember that you can be infected and spread this virus with little or no symptoms.
Understand the R0 factor and incubation period as I discussed earlier.
If one member of your household contracts it, the chances are the rest will.

Symptoms usually last for 5-7 days. But in those where they have been complications, it can take several weeks to recover.

What About Herd Immunity?

So if most of us will be ok, then why not just go get it?

Herd immunity does work. But it works much more safely if we can vaccinate rather than take the gamble people will survive the illness. It’s estimated about 20% of those that contract this virus will require hospitalisation. With about a quarter of those which will require Intensive Care.

In number terms, it is estimated that instead of 540,000 plus dying if nothing is done, using herd immunity and then protecting the vulnerable would reduce the number of deaths by around half to 250,000.

This is why the UK Government has introduced a significant lockdown of the country. The experts have estimated that if the UK population follows the guidelines strictly, the number of overall deaths could be substantially limited, possibly as low as around 25,000.

So what is the difference between the herd immunity model and the lockdown model?

Whilst our healthcare system is currently coping, we are only in the very early stage of the epidemic in the UK at the moment.

If the growth of those catching the virus is not strongly controlled by changing the population’s exposure to each other over the cycle of the virus until there is a vaccine available (estimated at 1 year to 18 months) or effective anti-viral medication (period unknown), the health service will rapidly become overwhelmed in terms of human resources, beds, oxygen, ventilators and personal protection equipment. Many, many thousands of people will needlessly die both from the virus and also from other illnesses which the health system will not be able to treat.

Herd immunity involves allowing 80% of the population to carry on with business as usual whilst the most vulnerable are in lockdown. However, this will mean that too many people will catch the virus and get ill at the same time. Around 20% of those catching it will become seriously ill and the health service will rapidly become overwhelmed.

Hence the new model: everyone apart from essential workers are placed into periods of home lockdown. This is designed to ensure that the virus spreads in as controlled and limited way as possible so that over the medium term the health services can cope and the maximum number of lives can be saved.

If most people recover after 7 days, then our beds should clear relatively quickly and will be ready for the next wave. It would be easier to deal with many small waves than one big one. Any good sailor will tell you that.
Each country has to deal with this in a different way. Individual demographics (some cultures have more people living in a single homestead), social demographics (elderly populations are more vulnerable), transport systems (better transport the larger the infection rate). I could go on. But the variables will make timing and tactics very different from country to country.

When will this end?

The truth is, we don’t know. What we do know about viruses is that they die off either by lack of hosts (because they are dead or too far away to infect so the virus naturally dies) or by having antibodies against the virus in our immune system via vaccination or surviving the virus.

But even then this could change seasonally and our antibodies may only offer short term protection like the flu.

The better question perhaps is how will this end? Here our answer is driven by what we know about the virus as summarised above. If through lockdown, the spread can be reversed, if the reversal is maintained eventually the population will be virus-free. How does the spread reverse: the answer is the R0 becomes less than 1. We know that uncontrolled the SARS-CoV-2 has an R0 of 2.3 meaning one person will on average infect 2.3 other people. If we successfully self-isolate, the R0 will drop. In a strange hypothetical world where every person the entire world self-isolated for six weeks, the R0 would eventually hit 0 i.e. no-one is infecting anyone else!

In the real world, the likelihood of the virus dying out in the human population is highly remote because different countries are imposing different degrees of lockdown. Thailand is an example of a country which has closed its borders, internal curfews, etc. It has had 1,045 cases and 4 deaths in an overall population of around 69 million. It is of course much closer to the original epicentre of the illness, China, than the UK which has a population of around 67.7 million, 9,529 cases and 465 deaths. The UK’s policy has shifted from a more liberal herd immunity approach initially to a much greater degree of lockdown in the last week.

We must bear in mind that European countries, a group of liberal democracies, will be balancing restrictions against the constraints on these actions in free societies. Even within Europe, the UK is more permissive than, say, Italy and Spain.

Bottom line, given different approaches, the virus will not disappear anytime soon. So the virus will not be totally defeated for many years to come. The threat it poses can be substantially reduced if we all follow the UK Government’s directions and, we hope, many of these restrictions can be reduced and subsequently totally lifted once vaccines and anti-viral medications are in place within the next year to 18 months.

Wishing you all well. Stay home, stay safe.

Mark Waterfield

Infection Control Lead for Safe and Sound

Posted in CARICOM, Climate/Weather, COVID-19, Environment, Featured, Health, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

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Power outages and damage reported after 5.4 earthquake hits southern Puerto Rico

Associated Press Published – May 2, 2020 – reprint

by Danica Coto

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico— A 5.4-magnitude earthquake hit near southern Puerto Rico on Saturday, briefly knocking out power and jolting many from their beds on an island where some people still remain in shelters from previous quakes earlier this year.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at a shallow depth of 5.6 miles near the city of Ponce and the towns of Guanica and Guayanilla, where hundreds of homes were destroyed by a quake in early January that killed one person and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Reports of damage were still trickling in on Saturday, with at least one second-story balcony crashing in the southern city of Ponce, spokeswoman Inés Rivera told The Associated Press. Meanwhile, cracks in homes were reported in Guayanilla.

“Everything shook really hard,” spokesman Danny Hernández said by phone.

A police officer, wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, removes debris caused by a 5.4-magnitude earthquake, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Saturday, May 2, 2020. The quake hit near southern Puerto Rico, jolting many from their beds on an island where some people still remain in shelters from previous quakes earlier this year. Carlos Giusti, AP

Meanwhile, in Guánica, Mayor Santos Seda told the AP that no major damage has been reported so far, but noted that between five to 10 people remain in a shelter since the 6.4-magnitude quake that hit in January.

“Thank God everyone is OK,” he said. “The infrastructure is already weak.”

From January: 950 earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico so far this year. Why? Blame it on an ‘earthquake swarm’

Several aftershocks hit Puerto Rico’s southern region, including a 4.9-magnitude one.

Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, said in a phone interview that while it’s understandable many people are afraid and surprised by the most recent earthquake, it’s not unusual given the seismic activity that began in the region in late December.

“In the long run, it’s decreasing, but you can have peaks,” he said, adding that he expects strong aftershocks to continue.

The earthquake struck as Puerto Ricans are ordered to remain home as part of a two-month lockdown to help curb coronavirus cases. Gov. Wanda Vázquez tweeted that rescue crews were fanning out across the area and that she would shortly be traveling there to meet with those affected in person. 

A police officer, wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, walks past debris caused by a 5.4-magnitude earthquake, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Saturday, May 2, 2020. The quake hit near southern Puerto Rico, jolting many from their beds on an island where some people still remain in shelters from previous quakes earlier this year. Carlos Giusti, AP

“If your infrastructure is damaged, you must leave with your face mask on and your emergency backpack,” she said as she urged people to remain calm.

But nerves are already frayed in many parts of the island as Puerto Rico continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, a string of strong earthquakes and the coronavirus.

Silvestre Alicea, a 67-year-old man who moved back to Puerto Rico from New York upon retiring, lost his home in January’s earthquake and is still living with his sister in Guanica. 

“This is unreal,” he said, adding that some neighbors have left the area to stay with relatives elsewhere and that many, including a security guard who worked all night, are now sitting nervously in their balconies. “He hasn’t slept.”

Alicea, however, said he decided to knock down a couple of breadfruits from a nearby tree as the aftershocks continue: “I’m taking it easy. There’s nothing else you can do.” 

A resident, wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, makes photos of the damage caused by a 5.4-magnitude earthquake, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Saturday, May 2, 2020. The quake hit near southern Puerto Rico, jolting many from their beds on an island where some people still remain in shelters from previous quakes earlier this year. Carlos Giusti

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Earthquake, Environment, International, Local, News, Regional, Travel0 Comments

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Lockdown fighting COVID-19

Read full print at: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/

LOCKDOWN, is what all countries including tiny Montserrat, with the variations, are expecting, rather than hoping, will speed the COVID-19 pandemic away.

Govt planing for Lockdown

Montserrat (Government of Montserrat (GoM) was slow in arriving to where it has come, facing varying and differing criticism that action was not taken to cancel, or best, postpone the St Patrick’s Day festival.

In TMR’s January 24, 2020 issue a page was dedicated to the World Health Organisation (WHO and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) who were already closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a novel (new) coronavirus in China. There we exhibited a full cover of What is Happening; The Coronavirus (2019-nCov) Its Symptoms and How it spreads; How to protect one’s self and others; and Reducing the Risks of Infection and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

With all that has taken place since up to the point where we headlined COVID-19 fears and doubts in the March 13, 2020 issue, it was indeed that and little else. At that point as of January 21, 2020, the Chinese had reported they had 291 confirmed human infections with three (3) deaths. At that point, the USA was actively screening incoming travelers from china and exported cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

On March 13 TMR published a letter that followed a previous letter by Attorney Jean Kelsick suggesting the cancellation of the festivities. The second letter came from a wider representation of the public, former Chief Minister, Chief Medical Officer, surgeon specialist of international renown, with over 40 years and renewed qualified experience in public health, Dr. Lowel Lewis, Montserrat Chamber of Commerce (MCCI), and the Bar Association. 

In that Kelsick previous open letter to Governor Pearce and Premier Farrell, he called on them, reminding, “You both have a profound duty to the people of Montserrat and its children, in particular, to give immediate and serious consideration to whether St Patrick’s Week should be celebrated this year in the teeth of a deadly virus that may be on the verge of becoming a global pandemic.  Should our visitors introduce the virus to Montserrat both of you will have to face some very hard questions over any deaths that may ensue.”

He then asked: 

Has a proper travel advisory been issued to all persons traveling to Montserrat informing them that if they come from a location known to have positive cases and develop flu-like symptoms they should stay at home; be assessed by a physician at home and if treatment or inpatient care is required they should contact a member of our public health team for verification and instructions on what should be done until the fever or any signs of infection have abated?

Has an adequate public health education programme been implemented locally reminding people, and especially children and the elderly, of protective measures for persons with flu-like symptoms and fever, such as washing hands, covering your mouth and face when coughing etc?

What contingency plans are in place for managing confirmed cases and can Montserrat’s already beleaguered healthcare system, that can hardly cope with the resident population in normal circumstances, also cope with visitors who may succumb to the virus while here?

 That 2nd letter began by expressing the opinion and accusing the government of mismanaging “the Coronavirus problem.” It suggested the immediate requirement of funds, the reality that Montserrat did not have the capability of treating a single case, which appeared within a week later.

Today, the world reels from COVID-19 with the World Health Organization  (WHO)  as of Friday, March 27, 2019, reporting 462,684 coronavirus cases worldwide. The number of cases in the US has jumped considerably, to 63,570, according to WHO. As the virus spreads across the world, government and healthcare workers are looking for ways to not only treat the disease but stop the spread of the virus.

The festivities had opened on the evening of March 6, but It was not until people had already arrived in hundreds, on March 13, 2020, when the Farrell administration signed an Order, “Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations S.R.O. 15 of 2020”, to deal with Prevention of the spread of COVID-I9 and specifically large gatherings.

It wasn’t until the following day, Saturday that the Order was publicised giving rise for cries of corruption, what drew ire from the public, particularly those who would then be unable to put on shows, etc. for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities which had already begun.

“Large gatherings” means a gathering of more than 50 people was described further in the Order:

(1) A large gathering for a social, spiritual or recreational activity including, but not limited to, community; civic; public; leisure; faith-based; sporting event; parade; concert; festival; convention; fundraiser and similar activity is prohibited.

(2) The prohibition under subparagraph (l)-

(a) does not apply to a large gathering at a customs airport and a customs port; and

(b1 expires 3 April, 2020;

with, of course, a Penalty: “A person who breaches these regulations is liable to a fine of $500 or imprisonment for 3 months.”

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, Featured, Local, News, Police, Regional0 Comments

UNICEF-Advice-in-brief-web

Eight under investigation for COVID-19 in Montserrat

by Bennette Roach

It is difficult to recall when any event or series of events have taken on the global interest and concern over what is suspected, especially if everyone does not act as responsibly as required, will kill millions globally.

Tiny Montserrat is not spared the attention in this pandemic surrounding the Coronavirus (COVIVD-19) as complaints and questions surmount as to whether Government of Montserrat (GoM) has been responsible or at least demonstrated in their actions or inactions the necessary measures to deal with the situation as far as it affects the island and its people.

The foregoing does not suggest in any way and judgment of anything done or not done but the attempt has been made to keep the people informed of GoM activities with regard to the pandemic.

Today closes with information from the Government Information Unit that a total of eight patients have been sampled for COVID-19 testing on Montserrat over the period Thursday, March 19 and Saturday, March 21, 2020. 

The release states this was reported by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) today, Monday, March 23, 2020.

“Since the opening of the St. Peter’s “flu clinic” on Thursday 19 March, a total of 33 patients have been assessed at the compound. 21 on Thursday and 12 on Friday. Five of those patients met the criteria for testing. That is, they were identified as high risk and displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19. Samples were collected from an additional 3 patients as part of the 24- hour COVID-19 Care Service established by the Ministry.  All suspected cases are in quarantine while we await the results,” the release stated.1st

What still remains to be clarified is that TMR had obtained information that the day when the first person was confirmed positive there were already eight persons suspected, making the news today somewhat suspicious, as questions continue to be raised as to how ready the health authorities are to deal with the threats and concerns surrounding the issues involved.

All eight samples were reportedly dispatched to the CARPHA Reference Laboratory in Trinidad today.

Meantime, however, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharra Greenaway–Duberry confirmed however that future testing may create a challenge as Trinidad & Tobago is closing its borders as of Monday, March 23. This does raise further questions as to why this should be an issue. In the meantime, there is also information that training has been done closer to Montserrat in the area of testing.

The release reported the CMO as saying, “The unprecedented border closures are creating severe and unexpected challenges, the Ministry is now therefore, exploring other options to eliminate them and streamline the diagnostic process; such as building the on-island capacity to test.”

She also offered an update on the well-being of the island’s first confirmed case. She indicated that the patient remains in isolation and is doing well.  

She also emphasized the need for the public to continue to adhere to prevention and protection measures. “Although COVID-19 infections will be mild for most it is important that we protect our vulnerable and those most at risk of severe infection and even death. The highest risk groups include the elderly and persons living with conditions such as asthma and other respiratory ailments, and chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.  By practicing good hygiene and social distancing we can drastically decrease the possible rates of infection here in Montserrat,” Dr. Greenaway- Duberry is quoted as saying.

A reminder is also issued to the public that all persons experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, dry cough, sneeze, stuffy, and runny nose should contact the St. Peter’s clinic by telephone at the following numbers:  491-5436 or 496- 9724. The clinic is opened daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Outside those hours’ persons can receive medical attention by calling the Glendon Hospital Casualty Department at 491-2802 /491-2836/491-2552.

See below from a CNBC report that WHO has now published a variation to the airborne nature of the virus!

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/16/who-considers-airborne-precautions-for-medical-staff-after-study-shows-coronavirus-can-survive-in-air.html

Posted in Climate/Weather, COVID-19, Environment, Featured, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

Grand Central Terminal had fewer commuters than usual on a Monday morning after a state of emergency was declared amid confirmed coronavirus cases in New York.

Social Distancing May Be Our Best Weapon to Fight the Coronavirus

Reprint

In pandemics, as in war, we all need to do our part.

By Max Brooks

Mr. Brooks is the author of “World War Z.”

March 11, 2020

Grand Central Terminal had fewer commuters than usual on a Monday morning after a state of emergency was declared amid confirmed coronavirus cases in New York.
Grand Central Terminal had fewer commuters than usual on a Monday morning after a state of emergency was declared amid confirmed coronavirus cases in New York.
Credit…Brian Moss/Reuters

“Social distancing” might sound like an emotional phase in early adolescence (it certainly was for me) but in reality, it’s a public health term describing our best defense against the coronavirus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this pathogen can spread “between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet).” That close contact has carried the virus across the planet, killing at least 4,000 people and infecting over 110,000 (that we know of). Until a vaccine — or even an effective treatment — can be developed, the best hope for protecting ourselves is slowing the spread of the disease. But how do we do that?

Travel bans are proving to be too little too late. It’s too easy to mistake the symptoms of coronavirus for a simple cold or flu. Even worse, since the virus can incubate for 14 days, carriers can spread it before they even know they’re sick.

We’ve already seen that happen in Washington State, where health officials believe some people were passing on their infections for up to six weeks. This long asymptomatic incubation period also renders airport screening ineffective. What’s the use of taking a passenger’s temperature if it’s going to be 98.6 degrees even when he or she is carrying the virus?

Likewise, protective gear such as masks and gloves works only if used correctly. Masks are supposed to be worn by sick people, or those caring directly for them. But when uninfected people wear hot, sweaty masks out in public, they will be more prone to touching their faces, which is also the Achilles’ heel of rubber gloves.

It doesn’t do any good to cover our hands if those hands are still touching infected surfaces before touching our eyes, nose or mouth. Those hands, gloved or ungloved, have to be sterilized in order to prevent transmission. Which is why washing hands is an important defense but by no means the only one.

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The best way to prevent “community spread” is to spread out the community. That means keeping people apart. No more handshakes, group photos and “free hugs” from those cosplayers at Comic-Con. In fact, it might mean no more Comic-Con for a little while, as well as no trade shows, concerts or any other events that draw a large crowd. This “disruption to everyday life” carries a huge financial risk — a risk of which I’m painfully aware.

I’ve built my career on the road, assembling a readership one handshake, hug and group photo at a time. I have a novel coming out this spring, and a speaking tour is vital to its success, as it has been for all my books. Now that tour might be canceled, and I’ve already had to pull out of two events. My book “Devolution” is about Bigfoot, and now I can’t even promote it in the Pacific Northwest.

But what is the alternative? Bring an infection home to my 93-year-old dad? Gather a large crowd in a room where they can all infect one another? As a writer who lives one book at a time, I’m the last person who should be practicing social distancing. But as a writer who roots my books in factual research, I know what history can teach us about community spread.

Editors’ Picks

Stocking Your Pantry, the Smart WaySorry, but Working From Home Is OverratedFor Me, Rewatching ‘Contagion’ Was Fun, Until It Wasn’t

In 1918, in Philadelphia, health officials ignored calls for social distancing and allowed a World War I victory parade to proceed. Within three days, all the hospital beds in the city were filled. Within a week, roughly 45,000 people were infected. Within six weeks, 12,000 were dead. The prospect of a repeat of that kind of mass manslaughter is frightening — especially when you consider that the 1918 influenza had a fatality rate of about 2.5 percent, compared to the 3.4 percent fatality rate for the coronavirus estimated by the World Health Organization.

We can learn a lot from history’s tragedies, but also from its triumphs. The plague that terrorized my generation, AIDS, was subdued by the same kind of public education, cultural flexibility and medical advances we need today. Back in the 1980s, when AIDS awareness tipped from denial to panic, our salvation didn’t come from a lab, but from a pamphlet. That piece of paper, “Understanding AIDS,” was mailed to almost every American home in 1988. Thanks to the pamphlet, along with a nationwide education offensive on safe sex, my generation learned that nothing, including love, was free.

RelatedOpinion | David Leonhardt: 7 Steps to Take Against the CoronavirusMarch 10, 2020Opinion | The Editorial Board: We Are Ignoring One Obvious Way to Fight the CoronavirusMarch 3, 2020N.Y. Creates ‘Containment Zone’ Limiting Large Gatherings in New RochelleMarch 10, 2020

We adapted then. We can adapt now. And we must. Just as in war, everyone has a role to play. If we all contribute to reducing community spread, we can buy enough time for science and industry to come up with a vaccine.

Does that mean hiding in a bunker with beans, bandages, and bullets? No, of course not. Panic is not preparation. Our plans should be guided by qualified experts like the C.D.C. We also have to keep a sharp eye out for the kind of stigmatization that harks back to the early days of AIDS.

Even before the virus started showing up throughout the United States, we’ve seen disgusting examples of what fear can do to the human spirit. In Southern California, a petition called for the closing of a largely Asian-American school district even though there was no evidence of any child being infected. In New York, an Asian woman wearing a face mask was assaulted by a man who called her “diseased.” Such panic-driven prejudice has no place in our war with the coronavirus.

Hopefully, if we all do our part now, we’ll soon be able to resume our lives, and go to such fun events as book signings, where I’ll be waving at you from seven feet away.

Max Brooks (@maxbrooksauthor), the author of “World War Z” and the forthcoming “Devolution,” is a senior nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Posted in Culture, Environment, Health, International, Local, News, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

Ferry-docking-in-Plymouth-2018-DSC_4310

Contingency Plan activated – Ferry to dock at Plymouth Jetty today

Update

Following a safe docking and landing of passengers as desired in Plymouth, the Jaden Sun has reportedly returned to Antigua and has left with passengers who will now be able to disembark and Port Little Bay.

UPDATE: That hope did not materialise – the second departure from Antigua with about 220 passengers with plans to dock at Port Little Bay around midnight. Instead went on to dock at Plymouth, ending the whole disembarkation and processing close to 4 a.m. There were other trips during today and all back to normal by tonight with Access reporting another big day tomorrow into Friday. But with calmer waters. GIU information says following assessments of conditions at Little Bay being favourable, the ferry is expected to dock at Little Bay. The latest report says the ferry Antigua left at approximately 10.20 p.m. which means a possible arrival time at Little Bay around midnight.

The first trip to Port Plymouth brought 100 passengers and according to GIU info, the second trip will bring about 220 persons, easing considerably the need for the near 400 persons expected today to overnight in uncertain accommodation tonight.

Here’s to more favourable times; remembering March 7, 2018, when the sea rose-up just moments after the ferry reached Plymouth and was about to dock, forcing the ferry to return to Antigua. But only after the same thing happened shortly after at Little Bay only a bit more aggressively.

Passengers getting ready to disembark when the water got a bit naughty

GIU, Davy Hill Montserrat–  The Access Division in the Office of the Premier has activated its contingency plan for the ferry to dock at the Plymouth jetty as sea conditions continue to pose a challenge at the jetty located at Little Bay.

Assessments of the sea conditions in Plymouth have indicated that the conditions there are more favourable for the ferry to operate. As a result, His Excellency the Governor, Andrew Pearce has granted approval for the ferry to disembark at the Plymouth Jetty.   The Jaden Sun Ferry will therefore depart Antigua promptly at 4:00 p.m. today Tuesday, March 10, 2020. 

To ensure as many persons as possible are able to travel on this trip, passengers will only be allowed to carry their hand luggage. All other luggage (bags) will be transported separately on the Typhoon Express ferry.

Following the arrival of the Jaden Sun ferry at Port Plymouth this afternoon, a further determination and subsequent announcement will be made about the other trips.

Posted in Climate/Weather, Environment, Government Notices, International, Local, News, Regional, Travel0 Comments

Coronavirus and the Information War

Coronavirus and the Information War

by Shelly Palmer

March 3, 2020

Coronavirus and the Information War

TMR: After this: “I am a senior Chinese military intelligence officer and I know the truth about the coronavirus outbreak. It is far worse than the media are telling you…” It is convincing to read something from this usually credible writer. We will publish from the information that followed that quote above.Following from other sources, see this to be on point…

After speaking to numerous infectious disease experts over the past few days, I’m starting to wonder: is our reaction to COVID-19 the exact reaction an adversary in an information war would hope for? Said differently: is the COVID-19 story the Information Age Pearl Harbor we’ve been expecting?

Look at the trillions of dollars of value taken from the stock market. Look at the billions of dollars in canceled travel. Look at the interrupted supply chains. All of this for the “common cold” virus that, in truth, is deadly… but no more deadly than the flu. While the medical community will not definitively say what COVID-19 exactly is (or is not), according to the CDC, the WHO, and other credible sources, the mortality rate of COVID-19 is approximately the same as the flu, and young people are less likely to get it.

No one is less of a conspiracy theorist than I am. I’m not trying to minimize the pain and suffering caused by COVID-19. However, the more I learn about this disease, the less scared of it I get, and the more suspicious I get about the origin of the story. Is anyone else wondering about this?

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, Environment, Featured, Health, International, Local, News, Opinions, Regional, Youth0 Comments

DSC_9312-web

No landing at John Osborne airport, the runway is wet

FlyMontserrat’s aircraft ran off the edge of the runway, stopped by the wire fence

It has turned out that there must be some confusion if not just collusion of one kind or another, that flights into Montserrat have had to be canceled or aborted, “because the runway is wet”, creating an uproar among people with some apprehension as the St. Patrick’s Day Festivities approach.

Back in October last year, ZJB Radio published the following, by which today, the questions that should be asked. “Were these protocols set out by ‘The Civil Aviation Act’ followed, which fall under the Governor of Montserrat.

The Governor has softened his position recently, although he still maintains to some degree that he has no responsibility in the decision process because he is not an expert, which he is not required to be when he has the ‘experts’ who manage and run the airport, with some exclusions of those he does listen to, other than ASSI of course who depends on his reports for actions.

 ZJB News in a report sets out: “that in any incident/accident, the local Air Accident investigation Manager on the ground would contact the Air Accident Investigation Branch in the United Kingdom to give an official initial update of the situation on the ground.

Following this initial report, the incident/Accident scene would be assessed and cordoned off to secure the site.

The local Air Accident Investigation Manager would then continue his investigation including taking photographs of the scene and any debris to formulate his evidence.

It is also expected that the Air Accident Investigation Manager will conduct interviews with the pilot and passengers, as well as eyewitness accounts of what happened Monday afternoon.

Following the presentation of this information to Air Accident Investigation Branch in the United Kindom, the organization will dispatch personnel to Montserrat to carry out further investigation.

And in some interesting development, the Manager of the John A Osborne Airport has confirmed to ZJB News that the regulators Air Safety Support International (ASSI) has given instructions to close for traffic at the facility once the runway is wet.”

However, if the Civil Aviation (Investigation of air accidents and incidents) Regulations 2007 are still in force in Montserrat, Section 5 reads as follows:

Duty to furnish information relating to accidents and incidents

This snippet from the video showing the aircraft landing half-way down the runway

“(1) Where an accident or a serious incident occurs in respect of which. by virtue of regulation 8(2)  below, the Governor is required to carry out, or to cause an  Inspector to carry out an investigation, the relevant person and, in the case of an accident or a serious incident occurring on or adjacent to and the relevant person (the commander of the aircraft at the time)  and, in the case of an accident or a serious incident occurring on or adjacent to an aerodrome,  the aerodrome authority shall forthwith give notice thereof to the Governor by the quickest means of communication available and in the case of an accident occurring in or over the Territory shall also notify forthwith the local police authorities of the accident and of the place where it occurred.

No one will go on record as to whether that is the course action that took place following the ‘accident’ (as it should be properly referred to) on the evening of September 23, 2020, and following but this is what we know.

Press Releases – reports?

The Governor arrived at the airport only minutes after the event of the aircraft rolling over the end runway. see https://www.themontserratreporter.com/flymontserrats-aircraft-rolls-off-runway-after-landing/ and https://www.themontserratreporter.com/fly-montserrat-new-incident-at-jao-airport/.

It was not known whether the Governor at this point had initiated the Inspector to begin his investigation as he would now have been informed of the events leading to the accident; we do not know by whom.

An email from the Governor’s Office stamped 5.15 p.m. read:

Monday, September 23, 2019

PLANE OFF THE RUNWAY AT JOHN A OSBORNE AIRPORT

We can confirm that at around 1620 this afternoon, a Fly Montserrat Islander ran off the runway at the John A Osborne Airport today.

All six passengers and the pilot are unharmed. The airport is closed until further notice while the incident is investigated and the plane removed.  Governor’s Office

Monday, September 23, 2019

Stamped as shown here is a ‘press release’ from Nigel Harris, who reportedly was in Switzerland at the time of the accident.

Fwd: FlyMontserrat Press Release. 24 September 2019

Nigel Harris<captainnigeljohn@gmail.com>

9/24/2019 4:48 AM

To  Shelley Harris  

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Shelley Harris < shelleygharris@btinternet.com>
Date: 24 September 2019 at 15:37:54 GMT+7
To: A Nigel < captainnigeljohn@gmail.com>
Subject: FlyMontserrat Press Release.  24 September 2019

FlyMontserrat Press Release. 24 September 2019
   All FlyMontserrat’s flights are running normally from 9 am this morning following an incident at Montserrat’s John A Osborne Airport on Monday afternoon.

The aircraft, on a flight from Antigua with 6 passengers, carried out a normal approach and landing on arrival, at about 4.30 pm.
As the aircraft approached the far end of Runway 10, the Pilot turned, but due to the wet runway surface, the aircraft vacated the runway at a very slow speed, estimated at 1-2mph.

  Thanks to the skill of the pilot, no-one was hurt in the incident, but the aircraft incurred some damage to its rear elevator, and to its wingtip during recovery.

As is normal, the relevant authorities have been informed and investigations continue into all aspects of the flight.

Sent from my iPad

A press release from the Governor’s Office next day follows:

Governor releases – Incident at John A. Osborne Airport

“The Governor and his Office express their sympathy to all those involved in yesterday’s incident at the John A Osborne Airport in Montserrat. It was a huge relief that no one was injured.

We would also like to express our appreciation to the emergency services and airport authorities for their swift response and their hard work on what was a very rainy evening afterward. Their commitment and skill are a great reassurance to us all in this small island community.

A team from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) in the UK will be arriving in Montserrat tomorrow to work with the local investigator to help take forward an investigation. This will be important to ensure that any necessary lessons are identified, learned and implemented.  

In the meantime, discussions are underway on whether adjustments in airport operations are required pending the fuller investigation.”

In a press meet with the Governor the following Wednesday, he spoke officially to the public when, while admitting his responsibility for safety issues on the island, he did not see his role with the kind of overarching responsibility to make such decisions as grounding the airline, saying that their main task the following morning was to determine whether to open the airport, which they so decided.

That press meet ended with an agreement for the accident to be further addressed, but that has not happened to date. Instead, the Governor has appeared on ZJB’s breakfast show and spoke to the matter, has issued several statements as the fall-out from the instructions to close the airport when ‘the runway is ‘wet’ has been questioned, by the traveling public and the public in general.

In at least one of the Governor’s more recent statements he stated:

“There has been some good recent discussion on the closure in the media, but also some misunderstandings on some aspects. People may welcome clarifications and information on the way forward.

“The Governor does not have a personal responsibility for deciding such matters.

ASSI required that use of our runway in Montserrat in wet conditions be restricted temporarily after the accident last September. That was because they had grounds to believe that the very wet conditions at the time of the incident may have contributed to it.

The restriction is not when the runway is just damp, but when it is seriously wet. There is specific technical guidance on this for air traffic controllers.”

When the Governor first spoke to the press after the accident, he had said that the decision to open the airport the following day did not have anything to do necessarily with the wet conditions of the previous day.

There have been calls for the ASSI report to be published. The Minister of Communications and Works, Dr. Sammy Joseph has topped the list. He said that the Government has asked for the report but it had not yet been forthcoming, being told that it is still in draft. He noted, “The Governor is responsible for air safety and the regulation of airlines; while pointing out that his Ministry has responsibility for the infrastructures and the management and maintenance thereof.

For Premier Romeo said in a brief statement to ZJB Radio, that unless the Governor clears the air he will be calling for “an investigation into the investigation.” That was followed by the current Premier who had similar sentiments.

See Editorial in this overdue issue of TMR!

The confusion over the incident was clearly outlined in a telephone conversation/interview aired on ZJB What’s on your mind program when Basil Chambers spoke with the managing director, Paul Gravel if SVG the other airline out of St. Vincent that operates the Montserrat – Antigua route. He asserts that the notion of a report or decisions based on the ‘wet’ runway is misguided.

After outlining his company’s own experience operating in several islands with similar runways as the John Osborne airport’s since 1990, he said, “We were Invited to come to Montserrat in 2011… Montserrat is no different than any of the islands which are easy to land and it’s the same kind of category so far, it’s the same – as a few airports in the region that are all the same runway length – as Montserrat.”

He continued:  “…there was an incident last fall where I believe it’s a knee-jerk reaction on part of the government of Montserrat with an airplane that came in way too fast and couldn’t stop before the end of the runway and ran off the runway, and fortunately got caught in the fence. So, I think we have to deal with instead of having a knee-jerk reaction we really need to finalize what happened on that day.”

Mr. Gravel said he spoke to commercial pilots, his own pilots and several people who saw the plane landing and what happened that day. He opined that the conditions that day were just too much the inexperienced young pilot.

There exists live evidence by video that supports the SVG airline manager’s opinion, to which he adds did not have necessarily anything to do with a wet runway.”

That live evidence shows the aircraft on that day landing in considerable speed and touching down just around the turn-off to enter the terminal tarmac.

Exactly five months after the FlyMontserrat accident, what many things considered is very straight forward, Friday 14, Air Safety Support International (ASSI) sent out a statement which said the same thing as the Governor had reported they were advised, “Following an incident at the airport in September, ASSI has put operating restrictions in place pending the outcome of an official accident report. These restrictions prevent the runway being used in wet conditions and are solely in place for the safety of passengers and aircrew. Aviation safety must always take precedence over commercial considerations…”

We inquired of ASSI for clarification of the reference in wet conditions” in the statement. We got immediate response over the weekend: “ASSI has stated that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) defines ‘wet’ as: ‘The surface is soaked but there is no standing water.’  Montserrat Airport complies with this definition.” We were advised to get information from the manager, who sent us the following:

The presence of water on a runway is to be reported using the following:

DAMP — the surface shows a change of colour due to moisture.

WET — the surface is soaked but there is no standing water.

STANDING WATER — for aeroplane performance purposes, a runway where more than 25 per cent of the runway surface area (whether in isolated areas or not) within the required length and width being used is covered by water more than 3 mm deep.

Follow-up questions got, “no further comments at this time.”

At the Governor’s press meet referenced above couple days after the accident, when taking all o…”f the actions, correspondence, decisions taken to date, as well as prior knowledge I asked the question of the Governor, “what is the role of Nigel Harris at the airport regarding the authority, functions, and control?”

Governor Pierce responded, “absolutely none…!”

TMR has learned, while unable to substantiate, that there are plans for protest march looming for the coming week.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Environment, Featured, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

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