Archive | Business/Economy/Banking

CARICOM-Chairman-bdos-PM-Mia-Motley

CARICOM Observer Team for Guyana Elections Recount

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley

Statement by the Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Observer Team for the recount of Guyana’s Regional and General Elections will arrive in Guyana on Friday, May 1.

The three-member team will be led by Miss Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and includes Mr. John Jarvis, Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission and Mr. Sylvester King, Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Ms. Barrow-Giles was a member of the High-Level Team which came to Guyana last March to participate in a scheduled recount which had to be aborted. The other members of that Team are unavailable for the present mission. Both Mr. Jarvis and Mr. King participated in the CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission for the Elections held on 2 March 2020.

The Community thanks the Government of Canada for the generous support it has provided to CARICOM for this initiative.

The Community calls on all concerned to ensure a credible and transparent recount process in order to provide legitimacy to any government, which would be sworn in as a result. This process must be completed without further delay.

30 April 2020

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Elections, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Premier-responds-Mar-25-press-conf-1

Crisis mode in Montserrat – can it get worse?

7-day complete shutdown among new government measures to contain COVID-19

Curfew extended to April 30th including a complete shutdown for seven days 

The lockdown/shutdown with curfews began on April 3, followed with a complete 7-day shutdown beginning on April 12 midnight. Now, this is to be extended for another ten days to April 30, with a three-day reprieve,  April 21-23, as the Government continues to take steps to contain and prevent further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID19) on Montserrat.

We noted in the Premier’s weekly statement of April 15, Wednesday this week he corrected his Good Friday denial when he had said “…aware that not everyone carrying the virus, exhibit symptoms…the danger where persons who are asymptomatic are walking around affecting others.”

We just learned that the Premier will deliver a Statement on Saturday, April 18, when he will be interviewed! He will probably at that time outline the ‘new’ arrangements with the relaxation for the three days. But will there be information on the much needed medical supplies?

Premier Easton Taylor Farrell

In the new Statement, he says: “One of the major problems encountered by the Ministry of Health at this time is its inability to detect persons who might be roaming our streets and who might be COVID -19 positive, and are not displaying symptoms.  They can then spread the disease unknowingly infecting large portions of the population.”

So, going back, that was an admission of sorts, that was the reason for the complete shutdown which began on Sunday midnight.

Today the announcement comes of continued lockdown, perhaps not unsurprisingly, following the Premier’s observation in his Wednesday 15th Statement. “Presently, the data is showing Montserrat as having the highest number of cases per capita in the Caribbean; 15.25 cases per 10,000. Comparing to our neighboring island Antigua, with 23 cases (as of April 12) and their per capita 2.25 cases per 10,000; that’s how serious the situation is on this our beloved land.”

In that statement, he refers to the seriousness of “the situation’ which may have been most likely noted long before in the outside world and more importantly, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG/UKG). It might be in all’s best interest if the Premier and especially so, maybe the Governor might state ‘how’ serious the situation is.

He had also in that statement hinted that the seven-day complete shutdown would continue, “your government will continue to act to protect you the residents of this country and until then some measures will remain in place,” which also corrects his reference in his Good Friday’s statement to ‘citizens’. Enough time at the said press conference his attention would have been drawn to what might have been an oversight. That oversight could have resulted in behaviours which may have brought on some persons’ arrest.

In addition, the Premier’s statement highlighted an earlier comment in our ‘confirmed cases and recovery story’ where it is stated: “…wide-scale testing at this time…” a position created by their slothfulness even up to that point, shown up in the March 28 press conference.”

Here he says: “In order to reduce the spread of this virus within our minute population, your government must and will introduce measures, some may seem drastic, but must be implemented when required—your health is our number one priority!”

Drastic measures were already being taken, but we had sought to enquire about how informed was their implementation.

“We must and we will take the bull by the horn and act on the side of caution,” the Premier said and then he talked about the key problem.

“Large scale testing required – Acquiring a testing machine is extremely high on the agenda of the Ministry of Health, and the staff there, are working with different agencies on every front to secure it.”

On March 28, there were the soft excuses given to our question about financing for these very important things, (to the safety of our health, Governor), which if were taken into perspective weeks before would have seen different and easier management of “the situation”.

There was already knowledge that other OTs through support had testing equipment. Today Montserrat is while still waiting, will perhaps be the last to be able to get up to some semblance of control.

Some nearer OECS countries and OTs had already received training in the use of these equipment and the question looms large whether or not Montserrat, as our earlier headline suggested, was concerned early enough what was expected.

Now it appears that no testing is the reason no one can get a direct response as to how the ‘tracing’ is done. In Antigua, it was reported that ‘rigorous testing’ was carried out on a Montserrat passenger arriving on the ferry. What testing was being done then in Montserrat?

The continued lockdown and ensuing curfew will now continue until May 1, clearly no expectation to have equipment available to carry out tests that will at this time assess how deep transmission has been effected.

With no early available testing, there is the obvious void and cause of fumbling in answer to certain questions. The only plan to effect the containment of transmission of COVID-19 was “stay at home”, don’t break the curfews and as usual the penal messages spout.

See story on ‘slothfulness’ surrounding the lack of testing equipment and other medical supplies

Extended Lockdown

The release announcing the further shutdown reveals that “On Monday, April 20 to Wednesday, April 22, supermarkets, banks, and money transfer services, petrol stations and bakeries will be allowed to open for members of the public to access these services and conduct shopping within specified hours…the island will shut down again from 12:00a.m. on Thursday, April 23 to Friday, May 1, at 12:00a.m.”

“Shopping at the supermarkets will be conducted in alphabetical order to provide for smaller groups to access these businesses places and to ensure that social distancing is maintained.”

New or different arrangements are to be announced for the shopping directives, recalling that on Good Friday, April 10, no surprise, there was uncertainty as to how the plans for shopping would be exercised. This, it is also believed was partly responsible for curfew hours maintenance to be irregularly managed by residents who were also denied the availability of public transportation, where bus owners were told to stay off the roads as there are no tourists. But according to the Premier, they would suffer no loss and will be taken care of financially.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Featured, Features, Health, International, Local, News0 Comments

COVID19-Report-April-17

Active cases down one, with second person recovered

as of April 17, 2020

With the Royal Montserrat Police Force (RMPS) boasting and becoming it seems the most important agency in the fight against COVID-19, with the emphasis on containment in the unknown or the most serious method of transmission, they announce and give a breakdown of the 46 arrests they have made since the Health Act began to show its emergency powers.

Today, the Ministry of Health in its most recent release via the Government Information Unit says, “A second person has fully recovered from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Montserrat.”

The release explains confirmation by CARPHA after investigating “seven (7) local samples which included five (5) follow-up swabs from confirmed cases and two (2) suspected cases. These latest results mean that Montserrat’s active, on–island cases have now decreased to eight (8), and recoveries have increased to two.

Unfortunately, with the police saying the 46 arrests they have made between March 28 and April 14, it is bothersome that between those dates there were two newly confirmed cases of infected persons with the virus. More worrisome was, that the Premier in his statement and subsequent press conference on Good Friday said that the reason for imposing a complete shutdown as of April 12 from midnight was, being “…aware that not everyone carrying the virus, exhibit symptoms…the danger where persons who are asymptomatic are walking around affecting others.”

He provided no evidence for this and even denied that was what he said. That was preceded with the excuse, “The Ministry of Health is unable to undertake wide-scale testing at this time…” a position created by their slothfulness even up to that point, shown up in the March 28 press conference.

According to the police, the most arrests occurred on April 11, (Saturday after Good Friday) when 15 persons were arrested.  A further breakdown of the arrests during this period is as follows: 18 arrests were made between March 28 to April 8; three arrests on April 10; two arrests on April 2 and 4 arrests on April 13 and 14. Between March 28 and April 8, the police had to issue 12 warnings, which included two juveniles.

Sounding like a boast with no new cases, “All 46 arrests will advance to court on breach of the Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression) (no 2) Order S.R.O. 22 of 2020 (those before April 13), and breach of the Public Health (COVID-19 Shelter in Place) Order 25 of 2020, for those arrested after 12:00 a.m on April 13.

While no matter the size of the population 46 arrests within that space of time, statistically is considerable, though the demography may be an important consideration. It would be interesting to learn the reasons being proffered by these persons for their suspected infractions. It may not surprise that some of those reasons may be the shortcoming of how the whole situation is being managed.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, Government Notices, International, Legal, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

Governor-at-press-conference-DSC_0471

Open letter to the Governor of Montserrat

On April 3, 2020, the Hon Donaldson Romeo, former premier and currently opposition member of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly wrote to His Excellency Governor Pearce and the Hon Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell with concerns, “…that you would both be cooperative, transparent and timely in answering these questions which I shall share publicly.  You may wish to answer them publicly.”

See Questions below:

On April 5, 2020, the Governor replied: “As far as your first two questions are concerned, we are currently managing the crisis using the normal structures of our government.

We aim to take decisions as always through discussion and consensus. Decisions are then passed swiftly to line ministries for implementation. The Deputy Governor is assisting with this to ensure good coordination and responsiveness…”

Romeo reports that there was no direct response from Premier Farrell. He then submitted this as an open letter for publication.

Hon. Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell
Hon. Donaldson Romeo

See the thread also below.

Hon Donaldson Romeo
Box 340 Brades
Montserrat MSR 1110

9th April, 2020

His Excellency, Governor Pearce
Governor’s Office
Farara Plaza
Brades
Montserrat MSR 1310

Your Excellency,

Thank you for your April 5 response to my email and to two of the eleven questions which I posed to you (Governor Pearce) and our Honourable Premier on April 3, 2020.  I still am awaiting a response from the Honourable Premier.

At this point, I will not debate the use of existing Legislation as opposed to evoking Emergency powers.  Instead, I believe it is more important that I address the question of whether lockdown and curfew policies, are appropriate, adequate and effective, and being enforced.  For, even under these pandemic circumstances, it is my duty to constructively scrutinise and hold Cabinet to account while giving support wherever possible or permitted.

As a start, I remind you of the strong advice given on Sunday, March 15 from our own EC Dollar Monetary Council (on which our Hon Premier sits); that the best action to minimize economic fallout from COVID-19 is containment supported by personal responsibility combined with proactive, and where needed, aggressive public policy”.

The People of Montserrat are personally responsible for what they do individually and in their homes.  However, once they leave their homes they walk into the areas under Government control.  So the main question that needs to be answered is:  How effective are you (Governor Pearce), our Honourable Premier and Cabinet in promoting good physical distancing and, in so doing, limiting or containing the spread of the coronavirus in public places, including where essential services are carried out?  In other words, how is the spread of the coronavirus (via infected droplets in the air to other persons or surfaces we all touch) in public places being prevented and contained?

This is indeed the whole purpose of enforcement by legislation and having frequent Cabinet meetings.  Clearly, if Cabinet’s decisions through discussion and consensus are not appropriate, adequate and properly funded, then those who follow Cabinet’s lead in implementing those decisions will fail.  

For instance:

  • Why is it that weeks prior to, and one week into the lockdown, members of the public are allowed to enter the premises of supermarkets and banks without having their hands sanitised? 
  • Why are the elderly being taken by frontline workers (themselves highly exposed to viral infection) from their homes to the bank and then to the very same supermarkets to purchase food during a Lockdown? 
  • Would the delivery of a package of food to homes of the vulnerable not significantly lessen their exposure to contracting the virus and thus be less of a health risk and economic cost to the Government and entire community? 
  • Will the unemployed and needy not be forced to break isolation at home by reaching out to others for food and other basic needs? 
  • Will those who have no transportation of their own not seek the assistance of a neighbor or friend living in a different location?

Clearly, a well-thought-out package of assistance with a delivery mechanism that reaches all in need, national or non-national in their homes, must be devised and implemented ASAP. The method of delivering food, medicine or financial packages must not weaken or defeat the purpose of isolation.

I must also ask, why many essential workers (in healthcare, government offices, supermarkets, etc) whose jobs require close contact with others, and with goods to be handled by the public, are not equipped with and required to wear a mask (manufactured or homemade) while at work?  Will wearing a mask or cloth covering the mouth and nose not reduce the level transfer of and exposure to droplets carrying the virus –  especially since essential workers may be asymptomatic carriers?

If so, why is there in over a week of confinement, a reluctance on your part and that of Cabinet to insist on the wearing of masks in all public places, as is well argued by doctors on the frontlines? Why ignore a measure that costs very little and could prevent much pain and suffering and save lives later, a measure that is now being actively promoted by epidemiologists, doctors on the frontline and governments in our region and around the world, and which is recognized as having played a vital role in South Korea’s impressive record of controlling the spread of COVID-19? 

( See https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/rff5i2c9q177dfk/VID-20200330-WA0005.mp4?dl=0)I also strongly recommend Dr. John Campbell’s solidly research-backed presentation of the same information with some very helpful visual aids “To mask or not to mask”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycf6bAMKgjg )

Clearly, having frequent Cabinet meetings, admonishing the public to observe washing of hands, staying at a 6-foot distance and staying at home for a two-week lockdown period, etc. are meaningless on their own, if, at the same time, contamination is encouraged on the very premises of the essential services that the public is allowed to frequent. 

That is exactly contrary to what our OECS Monetary Council (on which our Hon Premier sits) advised three weeks ago –  that our Governments must be proactive and aggressive through policies aimed at controlling the mingling of people and thus the spread of the coronavirus.

Today, that advice is proven to be absolutely correct and it is not too late for us to heed it.

That is why I urge you (Governor Pearce) and our Honourable Premier once more to be extremely vigilant in addressing obvious shortcomings that clearly defeat the whole purpose of the isolation that has been enforced.  These failures should not continue to linger long after being reported and practical solutions presented to you (Governor Pearce) and our Honourable Premier; especially since such failures could mean avoidable loss   

In conclusion, I repeat the call for you (Governor Pearce), our Honourable Premier and Cabinet to be more proactive, aggressive and strict in implementing policies that help to contain and control the spread of the coronavirus.  As a start I suggest: 

  1. that all persons leaving their homes and at work on the front lines be required to wear masks (manufactured or homemade).  We can show the way by doing that ourselves every time we got out of your house!
  2. That, as soon as possible, sufficient funds be made available to reach and help as many as possible, national or non-national, in addition to those in the tourism sector, who, especially since the lockdown, are unemployed and in need.  Why is tourism a separate category?
  3. that a method of delivering financial and food packages be devised which does not undermine the effect of isolation and the containment of the coronavirus.
  4. the same goes for delivering cooking gas to people’s homes.
  5. that assisting with utility and telecommunication bills be a part of the financial packages being offered to the needy, including those on social welfare who are mostly the elderly.  This will ensure relief to the needy, income for the providers, that all can be communicated with and have electricity and water for cleaning, cooking, and essential purposes. Most of all it will lessen person to person contact between hundreds leaving their home to wait in line and pay bills. 
  6. a bonus is considered for Doctors, nurses, health and other overstretched front line care workers.
  7. that car licensing due in the month of April be postponed Until May 31st, 2020.
  8. that GoM encourages insurance companies to cover losses or extend their clients’ insurance coverage until May 31st when payments would become due.
  9. that the sanitising of hands be required at the entrance to all public and private premises where essential services are delivered, and that staff be provided with materials for washing and disinfecting their hands and surface areas while at work.
  10. that every effort is made to acquire the necessary equipment for targeted testing, which seems to be emerging as a key part of a successful strategy of containment and elimination in a context where the virus is spread, undetected, by people without apparent symptoms.

Unless Montserrat gets a firm grip on containing the spread of the coronavirus through practical policies, stricter measures and a more aggressive overall approach along with a call for greater personal responsibility, the agony we suffer may be prolonged.  For, already, experts are predicting one or more onward waves, similar to the three waves of the Spanish Influenza in 1918 to 1920.  

Montserrat’s economy is already hard hit by this lock-down, and many are expressing to me the hardships they face. With God’s help, we must find a sustainable solution.

I sincerely hope that, as a start, the concerns I have raised and the suggestions made will be of positive influence and support to you (Governor Pearce), our Honourable Premier and Cabinet in the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Best regards,

D. Romeo’s emailed letter to Governor and Premier.

From: Donaldson Romeo
Sent: Sunday, April 5, 2020 1:44 PM
To: ‘Andy Pearce (Sensitive)’ <andy.pearce@fco.gov.uk>
Cc: Joseph E. Farrell <farrellje@gov.ms>
Subject: RE: Questions to His Excellency Governor Pierce and our Hon Premier and Government March 3, 2020

Governor Andy Pearce

Your Excellency,

Thanks for your response, which I shall review while I wait on our Hon Premier to respond to the other questions. He may wish to address the first two questions as well.

As you would imagine, these are the sort of questions that I am faced with on a daily basis.  Your cooperation in providing such a prompt and detailed response will surely assist me in performing my role as an elected representative of the People.

Best regards,

D. Romeo

———————————————————————————

From: Andy Pearce (Sensitive) [mailto:andy.pearce@fco.gov.uk]
Sent: Sunday, April 5, 2020 9:48 AM
To: Donaldson Romeo <romeod@gov.ms>
Cc: Joseph E. Farrell <farrellje@gov.ms>
Subject: Fwd: Questions to His Excellency Governor Pierce and our Hon Premier and Government March 3 2020

Dear Donaldson,

Thank you for your email below. 

As far as your first two questions are concerned, we are currently managing the crisis using the normal structures of our government. 

Cabinet meets frequently using remote video and audio conferencing facilities. I chair Cabinet in the usual way, working closely with the Premier, who of course leads the elected wing of the government. We aim to take decisions as always through discussion and consensus. Decisions are then passed swiftly to line ministries for implementation. The Deputy Governor is assisting with this to ensure good coordination and responsiveness. The Health Ministry is leading for us on the front line medical response and on aspects of public health policy. But as you would imagine this crisis requires a whole of government approach and all ministries are closely engaged. I have convened and chaired our National Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Advisory Committee to further strengthen cross-government coordination. We have also asked the DMCA to play a key coordinating role with its volunteer network and the Royal Montserrat Defence Force in support.  

We have used existing legislation so far to establish and enforce our lock-down and curfew policies. 

So far, on this basis, we have not found it necessary to proclaim emergency powers. These would become important if the situation changes and we were to need new laws quickly to enforce decisions or if we felt we needed to change our coordination machinery. 

I do understand that some may find it surprising that emergency powers have not been declared in what is clearly in many ways an emergency situation. But the emergency powers were designed in particular for situations such as the aftermath of hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters. This COVID-19 virus is certainly a disaster, for the world, but dealing with it will be a very long-running challenge that will require all aspects of government to work together across the piece for many months. There may come a time when we need the flexibility that emergency powers can provide and the Premier and I are keeping this under close review, but we are not there yet. 

On your questions about masks, I have written to you separately a few hours ago.  

The Premier may wish to respond on your other questions, which are more matters for him and his ministerial colleagues and our experts. 

I hope this helps clarify matters. 

Regards, 

Andy Pearce OBE | Governor of Montserrat | Montserrat 

——————————————————————-

From: Donaldson Romeo <romeod@gov.ms>
Sent: 03 April 2020 17:45
To: Andy Pearce (Sensitive) <andy.pearce@fco.gov.uk>; Joseph E. Farrell <farrellje@gov.ms>
Subject: Questions to His Excellency Governor Pierce and our Hon Premier and Government March 3, 2020 

Your Excellency and Hon Premier, 

Below are 11 questions that I ask on behalf of the People of Montserrat whom we all represent.  

His Excellency stated this morning on the ZJB breakfast show, I expect that you would both be cooperative, transparent and timely in answering these questions which I shall share publicly.  You may wish to answer them publicly. 

1.       Who is really constitutionally in charge of the emergency response to the Pandemic? Is it His Excellency Governor Pierce? Is it our Hon Premier or is it the Hon Minister of Health?

2.       When or under what circumstances would a state of emergency be declared? 

3.       When persons do report to the flu clinic that they are displaying serious flu-like symptoms, including cough, fever, and shortness of breath are they tested or are they told to stay in isolation?

4.       On Tuesday, March 1, our Hon Premier announced measures he states will ensure that “no one goes hungry during this crisis”.  How soon will needy and vulnerable persons presently in lockdown (many of whom are not working) get financial or other assistance through the stimulus package which was announced by our Hon Premier several days ago? How much is that support and how was it set at that level?

5.       Will the process of applying for financial or food packages of assistance mean that persons will have to leave their homes to go to offices where they will have to wait in line to fill forms, answer questions, provide bank account details, etc.? If so, will that level of, person to person contact not defeat the purpose of the lockdown?

6.       Can our Hon Premier explain in ordinary dollar and cents language how and when will raising the tax bracket to help those in lockdown who are working for $2,000, $2,500 or even $3,000 a month?

7.       Just before the lockdown, an elderly couple spent about half of the $800.00 they received in pension and social security payments to pay for utility and phone bills.  Many other needy persons have done the same. Do they qualify for financial or other assistance and how soon can they get that assistance?

8.       Are customers allowed to enter the premises of essential Offices and Businesses, such as Banks, supermarkets and even our hospital without sanitizing their hands?

9.       Is there a shortage of masks? If not, why don’t our Governor and Hon Premier insist that all members of the public wear masks, when leaving their homes; especially since experts suggest that wearing a mask could help to prevent further transmission of the Coronavirus by limiting droplets from infected persons getting to the face, nostril, and bodies of others or to surfaces we all touch?

10.   If there is a shortage of masks, what steps are being taken to get an adequate supply of masks?  And are there homemade masks that could prove adequate?

11.   How often will the People of Montserrat get more regular updates on Montserrat’s status regarding the Coronavirus COVID-19.

Best regards,

D. Romeo

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Health, Letters, Local, News0 Comments

Douglassss

The Rule of Law and The Creation of Wealth for the masses

Dr. Denzil Douglas shares two lofty ideals that his in-coming government stands for

Beresford Mack speaks with Dr. Denzil Douglas who prepares to take back the Government of St. Kitts-Nevis

Dr. Denzil Douglas

In the spirit of expanding partnership with those in the diaspora and sharing good governance responsibility, the Political Leader of the NextGen St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party, Dr. Denzil Douglas outlined his leadership vision and governance strategy for the Federation.

Dr. Douglas sat down for an interview with award-winning freelance journalist Beresford Mack and gave these insights.

BM: Dr. Douglas, what are some of the things that you and your NextGen Labour team think are most important for an ordered society?

Dr. Douglas: My young and vibrant colleagues and I hold two goals and lofty ideas as sacred. First, the rule of law must be an essential ingredient in maintaining our democracy. When others have demonstrated a reckless disregard and disrespect for the dignity of the court, we respect the rule of law and the judiciary and take great pride in our long tradition of the fair administration of Justice.

Second, we believe that our in-coming government must create wealth through the enormous benefits we will be bringing to the good people of St. Kitts and Nevis on returning to government.

BM: What are some of the major projects that will create employment opportunities in construction and ignite sustained economic growth across all sectors of the economy starting in 2021?

Dr. Douglas: We are anxious to deliver a bridge between St. Kitts and Nevis, which will open big opportunities and create an economic zone at both ends. This project is designed to consolidate and expand our tourism industry especially with an emphasis in medical tourism.

We will also construct a highway from western Basseterre to the Whitegate Development area. This will bring us additional economic activity for the expansion of the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College campus in Nevis and the western campus in St. Kitts, thus offering our young people a first-class education foundation nearer to their homes.

To further improve our infrastructure, we will build a brand-new airport terminal with several jet bridges to increase the number of new airlines that we will woo to our lovely Federation.

BM: What is NextGen Labour’s vision for sports development?

Dr. Douglas: The Next Gen SKN incoming government is also anxious to begin the construction of a National Sports Academy, through which our young, highly talented and skillful men and women will be prepared to compete professionally in basketball, soccer, tennis, netball, golf, volleyball, swimming, track and field, and netball. They will also be prepared with the social graces, leadership skills, commitment to excellence and resilience, all-important skills and attributes that they will need as productive citizens in their adult lives.

BM: How will local stakeholders benefit from this new economic development vision?

Dr. Douglas: Our building and construction policy is geared towards cooperation with local businesses and international investors so that we provide a fair and transparent framework of conditions that bring solid but sustainable benefits to everyone. Therefore, we envision resuscitating the La Vallee Development Project while at the same time complete the construction of three boutique hotels at Kittitian Hill and building a state of the art Technical Training Institute. I want our people to keep abreast of the latest knowledge and techniques in their fields to perform beyond expectations.

BM: What about healthcare?

Dr. Douglas: The Next Gen SKN incoming government is already engaged in dialogue with several players in the global healthcare industry to build a state of the art hospital, a medical complex, upgrade community clinics and integrate various medical and nursing programs to the deliver the best education and cutting edge health care services to our people. We must be better able to cope with and minimize the impact of global outbreaks on our citizens.

BM: I know that you are a staunch integrationist. What role do you see for St. Kitts and Nevis as a regional player?

Dr. Douglas: I want St. Kitts and Nevis to play a vital role in shaping regional politics and economics. I will promote the formation of a CAPITAL MARKET as an important instrument to raise the finances to fund several of these major projects. My young, innovative and energetic team and I, envision our Federation working together with CARICOM and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to confront global challenges and share equal responsibility for adapting to new priorities and challenges as they arise.

Beresford Mack is a strategic communications consultant, award-winning freelance journalist and social media marketing specialist. He has worked in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and the USA. He has won a Sony Radio award (which is described as the UK Radio Oscars) and a whilst working at London’s biggest Urban Radio Station Choice FM which has now been rebranded as Capital Xtra.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Culture, Elections, Local, News, OECS, Politics, Regional, Sports0 Comments

reaction-to-Mar-25-press-conf-question

Was it soon enough?

by Bennette Roach

By March 20, 2020, the Government would begin to introduce some and almost belatedly many of the suggestions made in that now infamous letter.

MoHSS preparedness and planning committee/team (from GIU photo)

On March 24 Montserrat’s second case was confirmed and on March 26 three additional cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of cases in Montserrat to five –Five cases are too many in our small population. (But so is one dead from dengue fever)

Following the first sign of the Montserrat government taking some action in concern about the COVID-19 when they signed their first Order under the Public Health Act on March 13, 2020, on Saturday when they published the said Order, the Ministry of Health (MoHSS) issued a press release in which it informed: “…are reviewing (arriving) visitors who were on the same flight as the confirmed case in Antigua. Today, March 14th, the Ministry of Health and Social Services, announces that as part of contact tracing following yesterday’s reported case in Antigua, that there is one (1) suspected case of COVID-19 in Montserrat.”

The release added that the MoH “…has made contact with around 60% of persons that came to Montserrat who were on the same flight as the reported case in Antigua, asking that, “Those persons and any other members of the household have been asked to ‘home quarantine…” That number of passengers was later confirmed at 104.

In an unprecedented move, it being Sunday, the Government issued a release that said, “GoM is advising visitors to the island, to rearrange their flights and depart earlier than they may have initially planned.”

The only visitors who were not yet on the island of the thousands expected would have been those from neighbouring islands who would have come for the 16-17th celebrations. Meanwhile, the suspected case of COVID-19 “individual is currently under home isolation,“ the release stated.

Premier Farrell, CMO Duberry and D. Hazel

The Premier’s next pronouncement was his St. Patrick’s Day message where he reiterated the cancellation of the Festival and further events. “…remind you of the significance of this day for us here…Many are captivated by the annual celebrations which accompany our St. Patrick’s Festival. However, we know the ongoing public health emergency has affected our usual St. Patrick’s festivities.  Of course, you will all appreciate that the actions are taken to cancel the St. Patrick’s festival in the best interest of all of us — Public Health is Paramount.”

Meanwhile, the ECCB revealed: “On the recommendation of the ECCB Board of Directors, the Monetary Council of the  Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) has approved grant funding, in the sum of EC$4.0m (EC$500,000 each), to the ECCB Member Governments, to help in their fight against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19…

It is uncertain whether GoM has publicly acknowledged or has said how that money was spent, considering the lame discussions that have taken place since then about money, particularly when Governor Pearce a week later misconstrued a question as to how they were accessing funds for the crisis, when promises were made to compensate or to assist employers and workers in the shutdown that had been seen necessary to avoid transmission of the virus.

The next release from the government since Sunday was one where, “The Government of Montserrat has made provisions for discretionary leave, and has issued a flexible working arrangements policy for public officers, in light of the March 13, 2020 decision to limit gatherings of more than 50 persons, and to close schools for the period 16th March to 3rd April, 2020.” Schools should be on Easter vacation for the next couple weeks

On the 19th MoH activated a 24-hour service exclusively to treat and manage persons with flu-like symptoms. “This will aid in the identification of persons infected with COVID- 19 as opposed to the other respiratory illnesses like the cold and flu…” a release explained.

That was followed with another call on visitors to leave this time with the offer that, “In light of the evolving global pandemic, major airlines are cutting back flights…To accommodate travelers who are willing to re-schedule their flights, airlines have removed change fees on bookings, so persons can amend their travels without additional fees or charges…” and that the same would “to the Montserrat Ferry Service and airline tickets between Montserrat and Antigua.”

A hastily planned press conference was called that same day, which TMR was not represented for more than questionable circumstances which may be mentioned later.

Premier Joseph Farrell

A long statement was presented at that press conference where Premier Farrell after noting “the first case might have caused some anxiety and that is a natural response,” noting also, “The commitment from the UK Government to Montserrat remains strong.”

He then announced Government “are in constant communication with the United Kingdom Government and Public Health UK, as well as regional partners including OECS, CARICOM, CARPHA, ECCB, (ECCB had previously announced grant funds, still no acknowledge to a decision he would have been part of, or privy to) so that we can continue to take the appropriate steps to minimize the threat of the virus to the country (already here) and reduce risk to citizens, residents and visitors.”

He said, “Government is in continuous dialogue with local stakeholders with the intention of further improving the COVID-19 response plan,” which “includes the social, economic and fiscal arrangements for dealing with this global pandemic.”

He announced further, some of the specific support, adding that he had instructed the Ministry of Finance in January 2020 to immediately release funds to the Ministry of Health for the purchase of medical equipment, protective clothing, and supplies, in preparation for any impending COVID-19 cases as Phase I of our preparation.

Finally, he announced further restriction of: public gatherings from 50 to 25;

a 14 day quarantine period for anyone traveling to Montserrat; a reiterated prohibition of visits to public and private homes of the elderly;

the self-isolation of elderly persons aged 70 and over with the provision for family and community members and Health authorities to provide support where necessary; and guidance that everyone adheres to ongoing Public Health Advice and precautions around social distancing and personal hygiene.

Donaldson Romeo, MLA member

Earlier that day, March 19, we received a Statement from former Premier Donaldson Romeo now opposition member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) with a note that this was following up on exchanges he has had with the Governor and by copy to the Premier. He complained: “His Excellency Andrew Pearce, Montserrat’s British-appointed Governor, and Montserrat’s elected Premier, Hon Taylor are fumbling, unprepared and ill-equipped, weeks behind the curve of the crisis, in a country that has been over-exposed to the virus after a big influx of visitors to the St. Patrick’s festival.”

He pointed out: “Many countries have declared a state of emergency in an effort to enforce a greater level of isolation, slow the spread of the coronavirus, and eventually wipe it out.”

He explained his statement citing several examples of action worldwide, pointing specifically, “the Monetary Council (on which our Hon Premier sits), and which on Sunday, March 15 declared that the best action to minimize economic fallout from COVID-19 is containment supported by personal responsibility combined with proactive, and where needed, aggressive public policy”.

He pointed to the fact, “The Government of Montserrat and the Governor turned a deaf ear to appeals to cancel the St. Patrick’s festival, and went ahead with the celebrations as usual, attracting more than 2,500 plus visitors to the island, and increasing its population by 50%.”

He questioned, “Will His Excellency Governor Pearce and our Hon Premier Taylor supported by HMG, consider calling a State of Emergency?” Then he quoted the UK Chancellor, “We want to look back on this time and remember how in the face of a generation-defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort and we stood together.”

What Romeo did not say is that he had not had any ear to his suggestions from H E and the Premier he had secured promises from the UK that support was waiting to be accessed. His statement was headed, “To be or not to be worthy of “Small Acts of Kindness”

Reacting out of view to questions from the press

Since that week, through today, there have been reports of more and suspected cases and confirmed cases, including one individual, who was tested, but who had left the island while test results were pending. Only one person remained hospitalized as shown on the front page graph, while others are questionably sent into “home quarantine.”

Donaldson Romeo’s Statement…

The British Chancellor declared today:

“We want to look back on this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us. We want to look back on this time and remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency. We want to look back on this time and remember how in the face of a generation-defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort and we stood together.”

These are heartwarming words indeed, and Montserratians are waiting to know whether the Chancellor’s “we” includes us in the British Overseas Territories.

As we wait, we in Montserrat hold fast to the Hand of God that has been, and will continue to be, a Present Help in trouble to all those, governments and people around the world, willing to work together for the common good.

“Just over a week later The British Prime Minister, like other leaders around the world, has finally ordered strict bans and provided considerable funding to address the medical dilemma and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, His Excellency Andrew Pearce, Montserrat’s British-appointed Governor, and Montserrat’s elected Premier, Hon Taylor are fumbling, unprepared and ill-equipped, weeks behind the curve of the crisis, in a country that has been over-exposed to the virus after a big influx of visitors to the St. Patrick’s festival.

Just days ago the USA issued its strongest travel advisory, level 4, urging U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.

Apart from the USA, many countries in the Caribbean and around the world experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks have implemented travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines. Some have closed borders and denied entry to non-citizens. Many cruise operators have suspended operations or canceled trips. So have airlines, leaving travelers stranded and some businesses at a standstill.

Many countries have declared a state of emergency in an effort to enforce a greater level of isolation, slow the spread of the coronavirus, and eventually wipe it out. Last week the Governor of Missouri, Michael Parson, declared a state of emergency when only two cases were found (out of a population of 6 million!). Why? To better control the level of people’s isolation, and to be allowed to waive certain state laws and regulations as needed to deal with the public health crisis. In addition, the declaration of a state of emergency permits the state to access extra funds and take additional actions to respond to the growing public health emergency.

According to statistics coming from Imperial College, London, if strict social distancing is observed, the UK can expect around 20,000 people to die over the course of a year, as opposed to up to 10 times as many (200,000) if strict social distancing is not practiced.

Previously the UK Government was slow to take drastic measures, simply requesting that people avoid unnecessary social contact, and businesses were not required to close. Today (Friday, March 20) Pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and many other venues across the UK were ordered to close, in a bid to slow the spread of COVID 19.

According to the online Guardian newspaper, the British Government “will cover 80% of the salaries of retained workers up to £2,500 per month, and defer the next quarter of VAT payments due from businesses”. It will also provide “£6 billion of extra support for the welfare system.” The scheme, says Metro, another London paper, “will run for at least three months but can be extended if necessary and will have ‘no limit’ of funding.”

With these examples of what Governments around the world (and the British Government in particular) are doing, the Government of Montserrat is still in go-slow mode, with lightweight measures banning gatherings of more than 25 persons and only asking passengers arriving on Montserrat to self-isolate for 14 days. Apart from paying public servants five days early, there is no mention of assistance to the unemployed or to struggling businesses and people who have, for the past 25 years, been living, fighting to rebound from a volcanic crisis.

And that despite the strong advice coming from our own EC Dollar Monetary Council (on which our Hon Premier sits), and which on Sunday, March 15 declared that “the best action to minimize economic fallout from COVID-19 is containment supported by personal responsibility combined with proactive, and where needed, aggressive public policy”.

What is particularly worrying is that Montserrat’s only hospital is already short of equipment and staffing to deal with specialist medical conditions in normal times, never mind handling large numbers of the respiratory and other complications that would come with a COVID 19 pandemic. Since there is no testing equipment on the island, samples must be flown more than 400 miles to Trinidad to be tested, with a turnaround time for results of 2 to 3 days. Therefore, one cannot tell in good time whether medical staff, or those with symptoms, or who have had contact with an individual, are carrying the virus or not.

The Government of Montserrat and the Governor turned a deaf ear to appeals to cancel the St. Patrick’s festival, and went ahead with the celebrations as usual, attracting more than 2,500 plus visitors to the island, and increasing its population by 50%.

On March 10, BA flight 2157 brought 300 plus passengers from London to Antigua. One of these passengers tested positive for the coronavirus – Antigua’s first confirmed case. Of the 80 passengers from the same flight that came on to Montserrat, one eventually also tested positive, becoming the island’s first COVID-19 patient.

No doubt taking their cue from the Government’s timid approach to social distancing and to severely restricting travel into Montserrat, parties, bars, restaurants and many other venues and social gatherings continued as per usual throughout and after the festival period.

Many continue to argue that the Governor (constitutionally responsible for leading out in disaster management and mitigation, as well as security), and Montserrat’s elected Government, need not have taken such a gamble with lives. After all, because of prolonged economic stagnation since the volcanic crisis, HMG is already providing 60% of Montserrat’s recurrent budget and over 90% of its capital expenditure.

Not to mention the fact that in keeping with UN article 73, Montserrat is entitled to be treated as a priority recipient of aid from the UK Overseas Development Aid (ODA) budget of over £12 billion (0.07% of UK’s GDP, totally separate from, and therefore not affecting, domestic spending). More to the point, many Montserratians fear a repeat of the belated and inadequate aid they have received since the beginning of the ongoing 25-year volcanic crisis.

So while the British Prime Minister, like other leaders in the Caribbean and around the world, enforces stricter bans on social distancing and promises billions of pounds in aid to British people and businesses, Montserratians are left, avoidably ill-equipped and vulnerable, to face an unprecedented pandemic. Our government has been hesitating instead of taking the radical action required to slow contagion, to provide adequate emergency health care, as well as measures for mitigating the inevitable social and economic impact of this new threat.

Will His Excellency Governor Pearce and our Hon Premier Taylor supported by HMG, consider calling a State of Emergency? When will they take the advice of our own Monetary Council and act swiftly to save lives and “to minimize economic fallout from COVID-19 containment supported by personal responsibility combined with proactive, and where needed, aggressive public policy”?

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World Bank Approves US$11.9 Million Additional Financing for Telecommunications Development in the Eastern Caribbean

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2020 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today, additional financing of US$11.9 million for the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) underway in Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

This financing will allow the completion of the regional broadband network as well as training activities, business incubation loans, and implementation support. The program has established undersea cables connecting the three countries and is rolling out terrestrial fiber optics. More than half of the office buildings in all three islands have been connected to the internet and over half of schools are connected in two of the countries. With this additional financing, schools in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will be connected to internet services. Key results include increasing access to regional broadband networks and helping develop an Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-enabled services industry. 

“Development of digital technology is essential for local, national, regional, and global connectivity and it is especially important for the small states in the Eastern Caribbean,” said Tahseen Sayed, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean. “Affordable and good quality high-speed internet is critical and plays a central role in connecting people, creating efficiency in public and private services, enhancing productivity and increasing countries’ capabilities to manage natural disasters and crises.”

The program was developed as part of the Caribbean region ICT strategy—the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Digital Agenda 2025—which was designed to address the challenges of a fragmented market and uneven distribution of resources in this sector.

The ongoing CARCIP program provided financing in the amount of US$25 million. Of the US$11.9 million approved today, US$3 million will go to Grenada, US$4.1 million to Saint Lucia, and US$4.8 million to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. These additional funds will cover financing gaps, including cost increases in infrastructure construction and training activities.

Contacts:

In Washington, Hannah McDonald-Moniz, (202) 250-4498, hmcdonaldmoniz@worldbank.org

For more information, please visit: www.worldbank.org/caribbean
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldbank 
Twitter: @WBCaribbean 
YouTube: www.youtube.com/worldbank   

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Features, International, News, OECS, Regional, TOURISM0 Comments

Cross-section-of-a-Corona-virus

The Corona Virus pandemic reaches the Caribbean

After BA Flight 2157 on Tuesday, March 10, could it be here in Montserrat? (What should we do?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 14, 2020 –  Over the past several days, first we learned that the Corona Virus had been confirmed in several regional territories. Then we learned how the UN Agency, the World Health Organisation, declared a pandemic – a globe-spanning epidemic.  Along the way, we heard of a Jamaican woman who flew home from the UK on March 4th to attend a funeral, and how authorities were taking steps to contain a possible outbreak. Since then schools have been closed as a second case then six more cases were diagnosed, totaling eight. Then,  it was confirmed that someone flying into Antigua from the UK on March 10 (on British Airways 2157), has been diagnosed with the virus.  Over eighty [80] passengers on that same aircraft came on their way to Montserrat, for the St Patrick’s Festival. (UPDATE: There is also a suspected case here, reported on ZJB.)

The Covid-19 virus attacks a cell,in an “isolate” from a patient(Cr: Australian Pharmacist & US CDC)

Suddenly, the Covid-19 Pandemic – global epidemic – is at our doorstep.

As a result:

After this news hit our airwaves on Friday, March 13th, a call went out for these passengers to contact health authorities.

On Saturday the 14th the recently elected Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell summarised this development, stated that the passengers were traced, contacted and told to self-isolate, adding that events with more than fifty people were restricted.

Many churches announced that worship services are suspended.

Schools (which often serve as places where viral infections spread rapidly) are closed until Friday, April 3.

Such measures are to be extended if necessary.

In effect, the 2020 St Patrick’s Festival has been shut down. That’s why promoters for some events then went on radio to announce the cancelation.

Covid 19 is indeed at our doorstep.

Cross-Section of a Corona Virus. In an infection, the S-protein spikes bind to cell surfaces, allowing penetration. The cell is then hijacked to replicate and distribute further copies of the virus using the RNA in the virus (Cr: Wiki & Scientific Illustrations)

What will we do?

Why did it take a case of possible transmission on an eight-hour transatlantic flight to trigger such measures?

(On the worst-case – let us hope, such will not be actual! – that could be shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.)

Especially as, before the event, prominent local Attorney-at-Law, Mr. Jean Kelsick publicly advised us all on February 28:

he virus has surfaced, is spreading and has already killed people . . . . Should our visitors introduce the virus to Montserrat

will have to face some very hard questions over any deaths that may ensue . . . .  the financial cost and disappointment to the island and visitors [if the Festival were to be canceled] would be very unfortunate but a price cannot be put on lives.”

We are now in danger of both possibilities, the worst of both worlds. For, on the facts admitted by Premier Taylor-Farrell, [a] visitors have come who may be exposed AND [b] we are forced to restrict gatherings of more than fifty people. That suggests, that we did not act with sufficient prudence in good time.

Now, given the Covid-19 incubation period of up to two weeks (or possibly more in some cases) we will have to wait to see if the epidemic is here already where this virus can be spread by people before they have obvious symptoms. Also, many mild cases may be confused with an ordinary cold or could even go unnoticed.

In a further complication, there seem to be two strains, L and S. As ABC reports[1]:

“Scientists from China said they’ve identified two strains of COVID-19 linked to the recent outbreak.  Coronaviruses are a large family of RNA viruses, and when RNA viruses replicate quickly, they often mutate. Researchers analyzed 103 sequenced genomes using strains from China, and found that 70% of strains were one type, which they called ‘L.’ The ‘L’ strain was more aggressive than the remaining 30% of strains, which were dubbed ‘S.’”

There is some suggestion that it is possible to catch one strain then the other, in addition to the familiar problem of relapsing if one has not fully recovered from an infection. NewScientist gives background[2]:

Viruses are always mutating . . . When a person is infected with the coronavirus, it replicates in their respiratory tract. Every time it does, around half a dozen genetic mutations occur, says Ian Jones at the University of Reading, UK. When Xiaolu Tang at Peking University in Beijing and colleagues studied the viral genome taken from 103 cases, they . . . identified two types of the virus based on differences in the genome at these two regions: 72 were considered to be the “L-type” and 29 were classed “S-type” . . . . The first strain is likely to have emerged around the time the virus jumped from animals to humans. The second emerged soon after that, says the team. Both are involved in the current global outbreak. The fact that the L-type is more prevalent suggests that it is “more aggressive” than the S-type.”

Further, in a preprint article for the New England Journal of Medicine,[3] researchers have confirmed that “viable virus could be detected in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel . . .   Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for  multiple hours and on surfaces up to days.”

These specific experimental results are generally consistent with earlier reports that the virus can survive in the air for hours and on surfaces for up to a week or more. That immediately means that we have to be particularly vigilant to protect ourselves. Pix 11 of New York summarises some typical advice[4]:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

A distance of 6 feet can protect you from droplet transmission via coughs and sneezes.

Stay home if you feel you are sick.

Cough and sneeze into your elbow, or cover [your mouth and nose] with a tissue and immediately wash or sanitize your hands.

They add the US CDC instructions on proper handwashing:

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

We can also note that for typical disinfectants, a “dwell time” of three to five minutes is advisable, to ensure maximum effect.

Of course, by definition a disinfectant can be hazardous, so we should follow instructions. Chlorine Bleach and Ammonia are particularly so, and must not be mixed. Mixing Bleach and detergents is also not advisable as chemical reactions that give off toxic gases are possible.

Alcohols are also toxic – yes, ethanol too . . . drunkenness is actually a first stage toxic reaction. Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol and Methanol (wood alcohol) should not be consumed; even though they look, taste and smell almost like White Rum. Again, follow instructions on the label.

Of course, a good newspaper is the people’s college, so we need to step back up to the policy level. Fair comment: twenty-five years ago, we were imprudent in managing the volcano crisis, often dismissing warnings as likely to cause a panic. Sometimes, we thought or even said that we needed to exercise faith that nothing bad would happen, trotting out scriptures on faith. On June 25, 1997, nineteen people died needlessly. Videos taken a few days before the fatal ash flows show people harvesting ground provisions in a field while hot ash ran down the ghaut next to them. Some of those people died in fatal flows.

We need a sounder approach: yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent and act in good time.


[1]           See ABC https://abcnews.go.com/Health/scientists-identified-strains-covid-19/story?id=69391954

[2]           See NewScientist https://www.newscientist.com/article/2236544-coronavirus-are-there-two-strains-and-is-one-more-deadly/

[3]           See van Doremalen of US NIH et al https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.09.20033217v1.full.pdf

[4]           See PIX11: https://www.pix11.com/news/national-news/coronavirus-how-to-protect-yourself-amid-covid-19-concerns

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, Education, International, Local, Opinions, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

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Covid – 19 fears and doubts

by Bennette Roach

MOHS national influenza committee

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has evidently touched most of the world and has taken place in many headlines with coverage throughout each day. And Montserrat no less, as the call for more action out of concern and the accusation of mismanagement.

The month began with a release from the Government Information (GIU) that said Officials from the Ministry of Health, Port Authority, Integrated Border Security, Customs and Excise, the Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS), Access Division, Airport and the Office of the Premier were engaged in the discussions.

These officials made up the National Influenza Pandemic and Preparedness Committee (NIPPPC) which had met to review the government’s action plan and risk mitigation for COVID-19, and to recap the evolving global and regional situation.

The release said that the NIPPPC discussed various scenarios and further actions and mitigation measures required from the various sectors, especially ahead of the St. Patrick’s festival; which is a high tourist season for the island. That the Ministry of Health is also in communication with local non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) such as Red Cross, The Montserrat Association of Persons with Disabilities and the Montserrat Senior Citizens Association; to ensure that the most vulnerable in the community are protected.

Since then a number of key exercises occurred including completion of training of emergency personnel in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), continued distribution of educational literature and continued training in handwashing and proper sanitation of special interest groups such as children and caretakers of the elderly. Situational updates and strategic response meetings also continue with local and regional partners; Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and Public Health England. 

One writer on the matter got our attention: “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?

coronavirus cells…

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?

Another story that caught our interest which spoke to the outbreak and how it began. It said, “Finally, you may have heard that although the disease is highly infectious, it is dangerous only to the elderly or to those who have a compromised immune system. The official lethality rate is approximately 2% or so… You will have been told that it is an influenza-like illness that can in severe cases cause pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death.

“All of that is a bunch of lies concocted by the Chinese state with the tacit support of the U.S. deep state and its friends in the European Union, Russia and Australia, and spread by the docile media in all of those countries…”

But on our search for the integrity and the veracity of the story, it turned out to be a well written false, ‘fake’ story. “Let them come. Let them do with me as they will. I no longer care,” the article concluded.

Soon, as the virus continued to spread to other countries first heard about in China and governments began to see this as a threat to the world’s economy and its existence; as stock markets tumbled and gatherings, sports, and cancellations of sporting games, festivals, closing of borders and travel severely curtailed, the Caribbean included and the fear of what is referred to as the dreaded virus, the Montserrat St. Patrick’s Day festivities came into focus.

Several hundreds of people began arriving with its problems of inoperable ferry trips because of high seas, the call for the consideration of canceling the festivities grew loud and louder doubts were expressed and whispers turned into questions directed at the Governor, Premier, and Ministers.

On February 28 Attorney at Law Jean Kelsick wrote to the Governor suggesting, “…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.”

A few days later the Government released information as above about the formation of the NIPPPC. It was also after that the virus infestation grew and as we have shown mostly on our Facebook page and the website, St. Patrick’s celebrations and festivities were canceled. In Ireland, San Francisco, Boston, etc. and finally after biggest arrivals of guests for the Montserrat festival, and the announcement of the first confirmed case of the virus infection in neighboring Antigua, along with an announcement from Emerald Isle, N.C., (USA) which said: “Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Festival Cancelled.”

Social media lit up and the misinformation moved quickly. That got an announcement from the government, but it also brought the issue of Montserrat canceling its own festival more to the fore. That was yesterday, but it also increased the need for the possible cancellation of the festival; and, late today we received a copy of a letter signed by Dr. Lowell Lewis, the Montserrat Chamber of Commerce and the Montserrat Bar Association. It called “…on Government to take immediate steps to bring the situation under control and make a prompt and full public statement on the matter.”

It noted 16 points outlining what they called, “government’s continued mismanagement of the coronavirus problem.” See the letter on page enumerating the concerns about the virus as it relates to Montserrat.

Premier Taylor-Farrell

In late news today, Premier Taylor-Farrell issued a statement updating plans to address the growing problem or concerns which evolved out the single reported case in Antigua.

The Premier sought to comfort residents that the plans are in operation. “Although Montserrat has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date, my Minister of Health, Chief Medical Officer and the entire Health Team have been working tirelessly to prevent, detect, manage and contain any potential outbreak in Montserrat as a matter of public health emergency,” he said.

He said his government is making sure that the right steps are being taken to try to prevent and minimize the impact of the virus. He stressed further: “I am keenly aware that Montserrat’s national security and economic prosperity require meaningful investment in public health security.  So, on my direction, the Government is deploying the full range of resources at our disposal to prevent an outbreak of the virus in Montserrat.”

He advised that people who have visited affected countries and subsequently developed symptoms of the coronavirus that they should stay at home and contact the Casualty Department at the Glendon Hospital on 491 2802 or 491 2836. See the letter here …

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