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Bipartisan group of senators releases $908bn Covid relief bill proposal without funds for more stimulus checks

 by Oliver O’Connel

First US Covid vaccines should go to health workers and nursing home…Disney animation classics Blu-ray boxset is 15% off now

A bipartisan group of senators has unveiled a compromise $908bn (£677bn) coronavirus relief bill.

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie

© Provided by The Independent

The Republican and Democrat lawmakers have been meeting every day for weeks, including during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, trying to break the impasse between the two parties.

As Covid-19 surges and spreads uncontrolled over much of the country, the Covid Emergency Relief Framework includes provisions to help small businesses, state and local governments, and to pay for unemployment insurance.

There are no funds designated for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals as with the first relief package earlier in the year.

It is believed that this is to keep the total price tag down to appease Republican lawmakers worried about too great an increase in the level of the national debt.

However, $560bn of the total funding would be repurposed from the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in March. The actual new money is $348bn (£260bn).

The new bill is unlikely to move forward in its current state, as the dollar amount is far less than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would like, and far more than Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell would want.

Mr McConnell has said $500bn would be more acceptable, while House Democrats have a figure in excess of $2 trillion in mind.

It is nonetheless a framework within which the leaders may be able to work, and lawmakers hope it could break the months-long stalemate.

Video: Foreign Secretary: UK’s aid budget is to be cut with regret (PA Media)PauseCurrent Time 1:03/Duration 1:18Loaded: 100.00%Unmute0HQCaptionFull screenForeign Secretary: UK’s aid budget is to be cut with regretClick to expand

At the launch of the bipartisan bill, Mitt Romney said: “I happen to be a deficit hawk. I don’t like borrowing money. I don’t like spending money we don’t have. But the time to borrow money … is when there’s a crisis, and this is a crisis.”

He continued: “We want to help people at this particular time. And so we’ve come together, and we’ve been very careful. This is not a $1.8 trillion stimulus bill. This is a relief measure – half that amount.”

Headline figures reveal $160bn earmarked for state, local, and tribal governments, $180bn for additional unemployment insurance, and $288bn to support small businesses and restaurants. A further $82bn would be for education, $45bn for transportation, and $35bn for the Healthcare Provider Relief Fund.

The bill will also provide short-term federal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits so that states have time to develop their own legislation on the matter – something that Republican lawmakers had been pushing for.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr McConnell said at a press conference that he had been speaking with Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about another new proposal.

While he did not outline any details when speaking to reporters, a copy of the new plan obtained by Axios includes a fresh round of funding and improvements for the small business Paycheck Protection Program, as well as the implementation of widespread liability protections.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance would be extended until 31 January 2021 and then phased out; a grant program for shuttered live venues and theatres would be introduced; and more assistance would be rolled out for the postal service, education, and the stockpiling of medical equipment.

If any bill is to move forward it has to move quickly, as lawmakers are scheduled to begin leaving for the year next week.

Democrat senator Joe Manchin said it would be “inexcusable” for politicians to clock off for the year without ensuring Americans had more relief funding to cope with the pandemic.

Mark Warner of Virginia echoed Mr. Manchin’s comments, saying it would be “stupidity on steroids” to do so.

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of Tuesday morning, there have been 13.55 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US and more than 268,000 officially recorded deaths. Read More

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Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Elections, Features, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Devastation in the village of Harris’ Below is the same area two weeke before

25 years unforgotten memory of volcanic destruction – ‘fighting’? volcano destruct, now COVID-19

In a Government of Montserrat release, for what or any significance that may be attached, superstitiously or otherwise, it declared that July 15, 2020, was “declared a public holiday on Montserrat, in observance of 25 years since the start of volcanic activity.”

It almost evaded my attention until the very day, having not seen the promised “order of service” which, “with other details was to be published at a later date. Meantime the day July 15, would be “observed as a National Day of Prayer, Reflection, and Thanksgiving, under the theme ‘25 Years on, we are still here’.  The National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving service will be held at 5:00 p.m. at the Look Out Catholic Church.”

Yet to be forgotten as a time in history, with Montserrat is not yet near a place or time a quarter of a century (25 years) later that it can say the loss was for better days, as it has been for others with somewhat similar experience.

It is still confusing why that holiday was not given on the eve which was Friday.

As for the theme, which seemed an effort at expressing some pride by those saying it, but to me, it is quite empty. Giving God thanks, of course, but…

Five years ago, remembering this day from 20 years prior, in the article under a headline caption “Bringing 20 year volcanic crisis perspectives – Recapturing: THE VOLCANO and DEATH, we opened: “In this week’s issue we mostly feature articles and reports from first issues after July 18, 1995 and from immediately after June 25, 1997.

“This, especially in light of discussions that have taken place as a committee set up to plan the 20th-year anniversary of the beginning of what is still referred to as the eruption of Soufriere Hills volcano; “where we came from, where we ought to be, and where we want to go.”

There were some memorable times from that commemoration. It is that which makes us declare the theme of this year’s Thanksgiving seems wrong. Expect more on this.

At that time we also wrote referring to articles from 1995 on…, “… we still hope our readers may now, following, hearing or having heard or followed the debate and discussions, make their own determination as to where we are and know where we are going.

We wish the conversation now would be updated with real pride but we still find we must say, Really, as is said it is time for action. “Everyone”, they say, “has their part to play.” And isn’t odd though that those last words, we have heard them time and time again. Still more to come.

So like 20 years ago and often enough we present as we recapture for the benefit of going forward and for those who might now get a sense of then.

For Bishop Melroy’s references:

https://www.themontserratreporter.com/mdc-shut-down-montserrat-back-five-years/

It is fifteen years on and featured speaker Bishop Melroy Meade said that one day was not enough. In a passionate message, he called for a week of Thanksgiving during which time residents would give thanks to God for his protection, preservation, and faithfulness over the last fifteen years. The congregation that came together to give God thanks appeared to have agreed with him.

Bishop Meade likened the experience in Montserrat to that of Job when everything he had was taken away, but he pointed to a better day which is coming. He also referred to the determination, resoluteness, and pride of a people who have suffered greatly. Like Job, people don’t understand what Montserratians went through but when they become familiar with the island, the resilience of the people they too want to embrace it, he said.

According to Bishop Meade, “The truth is our trials come to make us strong and life cost what it cost and it never goes on sale.”

By Bennette Roach

Devastation in the village of Harris’ Below is the same area two weeke before
Devastation in the village of Harris’

One of the conditions the British Governor of Montserrat and the local Government never wanted to exist, is that they would ever have to report that lives were lost as a direct result of volcanic activity in Montserrat.

On the night of July 18, 1995, residents not far away from Soufriere Hills could hear what they later described as roaring sounds like those that come from jet planes, and it was soon realized by all that a volcano that lay in waiting at English Crater in Soufriere Hills had come alive.

Soon after from several and continuous radio broadcasts, and interviews from scientists, the Governor and the Chief Minister, his office and the offices of the Emergency Operating Centre (EOC), we were to learn that there has always been this volcano, that there have been activities at approximately 30 – 35-year intervals since the turn of this century; that there have been studies, one as recent as the mid-80s, which suggested that there will be serious activities around this time.

No attention whatever was paid to these facts and so here we were in July, less than a month under two years ago, with an erupting volcano and every resident as ignorant as ever to the dangers that this could pose for Montserrat. Since that time it has been a downhill battle, which may have not yet culminated, but which has now directly claimed the lives of at least 10 people with more almost certain to be confirmed when the ash becomes cool enough to be cleared in some way.

1997 6 24 pics
Home demolished by the power and volume of the flow

June 25, 1997, will be long remembered as the worst day of the volcano (I hope) because lives were lost. And the question that is being asked, “Could this have been avoided?” Amazingly, the homes in Long Ground are still standing untouched but for the September 17 last year’s eruption. It may well be that the Tar River valley is their protection or perhaps it is early yet.

MVO Reports

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) report for that morning read as follows: The latest earthquake swarm has just reached a peak, with 4 or 5 earthquakes occurring every minute. At the time of the highest activity, the hybrid earthquakes could more accurately be described as continuous tremors. There have been several small pyroclastic flows in Mosquito Ghaut in the last hour. Observations of the dome last night showed that the top of Mosquito Ghaut is the only active area of the dome at the moment, as the focus of activity has switched from the eastern side to the north in the last few days.

Further pyroclastic flow activity is expected, and the high level of activity means that these flows could happen at any time and be larger than before. The current area of activity makes Mosquito Ghaut the most likely pathway, but further flows in Gages, Tuitt’s, or Tar River are probable as well.”

The following recently became a standard part of the report: Bramble Airport remains operational, but the public is reminded that it is open only for essential travel purposes. The sirens will be tested as usual this afternoon.”

Now following is the evening report following the disaster: “An intense swarm of hybrid earthquakes began at 11 a.m., and rapidly escalated to repetitive events which merged into continuous tremor after 12:15 p.m. At about 1 p.m. major pyroclastic flow activity began in Mosquito Ghaut, which generated an ash cloud to over 30,000 ft within minutes. The flow traveled into Farms River to Trants Bridge. Downriver of Bramble, the flows fanned out into Bethel and Spanish Point almost to the sea. On the northern side, Farms and Trants villages were affected, and the surge reached to Trants bridge. A total of at least 2 square kilometers of land was covered by the pyroclastic flow and surge.

The lower half of Harris village was also impacted, and an ash surge traveled from the Farrell’s area down to the west at least as far as Dyers, and into the upper reaches of Dyer’s Ghaut. There was no activity in the Gages valley during the afternoon.

During the time of the reported activities above, there were people tending their animals and gardens in the Farrell’s and surrounding areas, some of whom perished; there were people in Harris’ and areas way down to Trants, Bethel and Spanish Pointe, Bramble village, etc. who were either visiting their properties or living there. Except for those properties on the perimeter of Mosquito Ghaut in Harris’, individuals were able to avoid the fury of the ash surge from the flow by moving to even higher grounds, but not those in the other areas which were all on lower ground and not far from the ghaut which became more shallow as it nears the sea.

So that just as the report above described, confirmed by the eye witness account of Roy ‘Slim’ Daley from Bramble village who was in Harris’ at the time. He said: “I saw the surges coming back up the hill from the pyroclastic flows, which moved at incredible speed down towards Farms and Trants, breaking over the walls at Brambles and rushing down towards Spanish Pointe through Bethel.”

Fatalities

Soon we were to hear the calls of the authorities for persons to advise them of persons who were known to have been in the areas for one reason another. Both the Governor and the Chief Minister appeared on the radio to tell the nation about the rescue efforts that were underway, never admitting then that there might be fatalities following the activities.

But having seen the results of the forerunning pyroclastic flows, I was certain that the persons who I discovered were in their homes or in the area, had met an unfortunate end.

Other than the sketchy and well-monitored reports that came from Government Information Unit (GIU) and ZJB, the rest of the local media was reduced to press conferences which were cut short and severely limited by interviewees who gave much too long answers, having been denied views from the helicopter or access to the area other than the rest of the general public was entitled to.

By the end of the following day, the admission of fatalities was announced and the count grew each day from four to ten by Monday. It was on Saturday when the CM came close to saying that there may be more dead who are still difficult to get to because of the still searing hot ash that lay deposited on the ground.

THE DISASTER

1997 6 24 pics a
Helicopters involved in the search and rescue missions

I was finally afforded a trip to look at the damage done on Wednesday by EMAD, on a helicopter which is one of four helicopters brought in from different sources to aid the ‘search and rescue’ effort.

The trip was not like any I’ve had and did not afford me the opportunity for detail as I rode with David Brandt and 2 others, plus Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) cameraman and video cameras. with another from Trinidad. It was only a 20-minute trip, far too short.

However, the devastation is much greater than I imagined. The lands (forest) between Tuitts and Mosquito Ghauts is no more. Although not filled with material the pyroclastic was extremely powerful as it left the volcano and that’s when the surge immediately went over Farrells and down Streatham and across Windy Hill. The Farrells estate house is completely gone and so is Mandy’s garage on the corner below the graveyard. It went through the bottom of Windy Hill and well across and into the ghaut beyond.

Escapee

One eye witness woman who escaped and who eventually went back to collect money she left in a vehicle, found it but had walked via Water Works, retracing her steps to get to it. She said she had to go reap the carrots because she was under so much pressure from the government to supply vegetables to shelters.

She got the money but the vehicle she had to leave. She described the flow that she saw as “sweet oil” running down the hill, noting how the flow backed up when the heat.

Looking down on the Harris’ road Mosquito ghaut is next to it. The surge reached across the road to the Police Station and burnt all those houses including the Church. These were not completely demolished but nevertheless destroyed, from the Morgan’s house down the hill towards farm, then there is one mass of destruction down through Farms, Bethel, Spanish Pointe, Trants.

Since that of course more flows and reports have stated that more damage was done in Harris’. I could see the walls of some of the houses in Farms, Bramble village, and Spanish Pointe, but it is obvious that truly there may be about 10 feet of material lying on the lands.

Trants village was completely demolished, hardly recognised any walls standing and it did seem such a vast area.

I saw how the flow over Farrells ran down and into the top of Belham.

I can now report that for Plymouth, we can expect worse to come along, it already looks a disaster. The flows that have been going down Gages and Fort Ghaut seemed to have damaged houses high up on the Gages corner and down the fringes of the ghaut. The Catholic convent and infant school and even the Church are now like the rest of the property in that vicinity are now in line for certain disaster as long as flows continue. At the foot of Gage’s mountain, the ghauts as I can remember are somewhat shallow, so that serious flows are likely to spread early over to Amersham as it has reportedly done.

I hardly had time for any detail or even good photographs as I was shooting through the helicopter sealed windows. Looking at the photographs, I do not remember where the various scenes are, and I was unable to make notes.

The helicopters are being operated from Geralds and joining them is that from the British navy ship.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, COVID-19, Environment, Featured, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

Express

Disaster for Boris as furious Tory rebels could BLOCK foreign aid spending cut

Reprint

REBEL Tories are plotting to block the Government’s bid to cut foreign aid spending from 0.7 percent of GDP a year to 0.5 percent, according to reports.

By Alex Shipman PUBLISHED: Thu, Nov 26, 2020 | UPDATED: Nov 26, 2020 114

Angry Conservative MPs, predominantly from the party’s liberal wing, are understood to be organising ahead of a vote in Parliament on the proposal. Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defense committee, have criticised the budget cut, which amounts to around £4bn less for aid spending.

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Mr. Hunt said: “To cut our aid budget by a third, in a year when millions more will fall into extreme poverty, will make not just them poorer but us poorer in the eyes of the world because people will worry that we are abandoning a noble idea that we in this country have done more to champion than anyone else.

Mr. Ellwood warned cutting the budget will “leave vacuums in some of the poorest parts of the world that will further poverty and instability”.

Andrew Mitchell, a former international development secretary, said the reduction in foreign aid “will be the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children”.

He added: “This is a choice I for one am not prepared to make and none of us in this house will be able to look our children in the eye and claim we did not know what we were voting for.”

Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the spending cut on Wednesday (Image: Getty)

Hunt

Jeremy Hunt is among MPs to criticise the move (Image: Getty)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the reduction in foreign aid on Wednesday.

He said the budget would be reduced to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product from 0.7 percent, prompting the resignation of Baroness Sugg, minister for sustainable development.

Mr. Sunak said: “During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services, sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people, especially when we’re seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record.

“At a time of unprecedented crisis, the Government must make tough choices.”

READ MORE: Foreign aid budget cut was right thing to do, say Express readers (TMR: Not surprising from Montserrat)

mitchell

Andrew Mitchell also voiced disapproval of the cuts (Image: Getty) TMR: Visited Montserrat in 2011 with Sue Wardel and laid the ground-work for the eventual May 1, 2012, MOU with Montserrat

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The Government plans to increase the figure to 0.7% “when the fiscal situation allows”, Mr. Sunak said

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Baroness Sugg, who served as Number 10’s director of operations under David Cameron, described plans to abandon the 0.7 percent spend commitment as “fundamentally wrong”.

She wrote: “This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good.

“Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crisis.”

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Tobias Ellwood

Tobisa Ellwood said cuts will “leave vacuums in some of the poorest parts of the world” (Image: Getty)

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a rare political intervention branding the move “shameful and wrong”

The Archbishop of Canterbury branded the move “shameful and wrong” (Image: Getty)

Backbenchers Pauline Latham and Peter Bottomley have also criticised the move.

Miss Latham said it could cause “more child marriages, more instances of early childbirth, more FGM, more domestic violence”.

However other Tory MPs, including the Conservative Party deputy chair Lee Rowley, supported the move.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight he commented: “0.5% remains a substantial amount of money, supporting the poorest around the world and helping them to grow.”

Baroness Sugg resigns after announcement of cut to foreign aid

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a rare political intervention branding the move, “shameful and wrong”.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said: “The cut in the aid budget – made worse by no set date for restoration – is shameful and wrong. It’s contrary to numerous Government promises and its manifesto.

“I join others in urging MPs to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest.”

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has described the cut as a “very sad moment” for Britain.

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Rishi SunakBoris JohnsonDavid Cameron

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UK PM reiterates commitment to Overseas Territories

UK PM reiterates commitment to Overseas Territories

This reiteration further increases our difficulty in understanding the financial stress Premier Farrell has caused for Montserrat. Besides the continuous and repeated reminders, particularly early and during the COVID-19 crisis/pandemic, the UK took action, promised further action, just as they have done for home and OTs, the Premier comes up with excuses and suggestions that there is a difficulty. Time for an honest explanation. Is, or has the Ministry of Finance, up to speed for the times?

The Prime Minister has addressed leaders of the Overseas Territories. Published 24 November 2020 – Press Release – JMC meeting begins

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP

The Prime Minister addressed leaders of the Overseas Territories this afternoon as part of the UK-Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC).

He set out the UK’s unwavering commitment to supporting the Overseas Territories as they deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister also reiterated the UK’s intention to strengthen ties with the Overseas Territories as the Transition Period ends, and build a new relationship with our European friends and partners.

Recalling his visits to Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands in 2017 following Hurricane Irma, the Prime Minister affirmed that the UK will always stand by the Overseas Territories in any crisis they face.

Addressing the JMC, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

Do not forget that the UK is absolutely committed to you, to your futures and to our partnership.

As we go forward and recover from this pandemic, we want to make sure that we build back greener and that we look after island economies that are so vulnerable to climate change.

In spite of everything, of the difficulties we are going through, we remember that we are united by deep ties of kinship and friendship and history and values. We in the UK government are going to make sure we continue to intensify that partnership.

The Joint Ministerial Council is being held over two days and will conclude on Thursday 26 November.

That JMC meeting is held virtual – and Montserrat is participating (see: https://www.facebook.com/themontserratreporter)

Posted in COVID-19, International, Local, News0 Comments

Retrogression is upon this UK Overseas Territory

Retrogression is upon this UK Overseas Territory

November 20, 2020

Since our last publication of April 3, 2020, we have prepared and made attempts to publish, the existing, ‘dire’ circumstances at the time notwithstanding. These were seriously aggravated by a Government which we must say surprisingly if not disappointingly showed the kind of ignorance or badness, which must disturb even some among them. With that said, we still leave that to the saying, ‘who the cap fit, let them wear it’!

There is much more we hope to cover that may well be more important than the scant items covered in this resurrecting issue, though there is much that must fall in place for this to continue. However, as we go forward striving to go ‘up’ where we had hoped to be as far back as 2005, we will get there.

Lord Ashcroft wrote about St. Helena in May, an article captioned, “The damage that even the threat of the virus is wreaking on St Helena”, which at the time had already highlighted some of the poor attitude and actions of the Montserrat government. Some may recall what exposed how ignorant or uninformed the Government (some of them, since nothing here, is intended to indict ‘all’ of them), when on more than one occasion, by whispers at press conferences, they would make statements that are actually contrary to what really is, or may have been published.

St. Helena up to that point did not have a case of COVID-19, and they took action, early, to ensure that did not happen, which caused them to take on such as the cancellation of St Helena Day celebrations on May 21, which as Ashcroft writes “morale on the island is said to be low. That’s entirely understandable: after all, how many setbacks can one small island take?”

On March 28, 2020, when the question of financing was put to the Government of Montserrat (GoM) at a virtual press conference, it was done with the knowledge/information that St. Helena, Cayman Islands, and indeed other OTs, had already received the £2.5 million pounds. St. Helena had already closed its borders. (Our leaders made fun at a later press conference when this was noted to them, that “nobody goes there anyway, etc.”) They seemed ignorant that the airport St. Helena now has serves their tourist industry that they rely. Montserrat should have shared that experience, if not 16 years ago, certainly four years later, i.e. 12 years ago. We were reminded of that eight/nine years ago., Today, where are we? So, is this news to anyone? Let’s talk about it!

It is still a mystery, to us here anyway, how and why there was placed before our Legislative Assembly a ‘deficit’ budget; maybe we should call it a decrepit budget. One explanation heard is that there was the anticipated shortfall in revenue because of COVID-19. Was that whole matter discussed with DFID/FCO? If so why, or where is the pressure that the Premier/Minister of Finance mentioned about being questioned, ‘how are we going fix the “problem?”

For information, Montserrat’s end of year is March 31. The government received UK approval that $79.6 million was allocated, with the additional $8.5 million added few days later; with a promise that there will be further sums after discussions would take place on submissions going further. In normal times DFID usually make good to cover needs re the budget as the year progresses. Was our Premier etc. not familiar with all those ‘sham’ (no unkindness intended here) budgets over the years he served as Minister? Maybe we should not be surprised when he stated in February this year about their ‘just observing, learning’ the discussions at the FAM talks! “…most of the sessions and the only reason why we did that is because we want to be familiar with how it works;

Somehow, hearing so little from Governor Pearce since he had recanted, rather, clarified what he said, ‘we shouldn’t be talking finance but rather concentrate on the health issues’, there seems to be something amiss with conversations with FCO/DFID. That new arrangement which began ten years ago, was what caused the Governor to be able to say regarding the above on March 28, the UK is about to settle the budget allocation and will also provide additional funds…etc.

Indeed, at least two months ago UKG had already mentioned the support they would be providing for their own existence that naturally (without saying so) included the OTs.

It has been a year since the new government and it certainly was mystifying to hear the Premier admitting that all they will be doing in the near future going forward, is continue and complete the projects began by the previous government, above asking for cooperation from a hurt and disgruntled people. The questions to follow are obvious, but they will be exposed. Hopefully by then there will be answers to the questions with admissions and at least explanations.

Of grave concern is how the relief moneys allocated by UKG for the pandemic assistance with more to come as needed, why some businesses and individuals did not benefit from the funds provided by the UKG to provide needed relief, that would save much problems later on.

Unfortunately, very early after the laisse faire approach, when it became urgent to recover and change, it was that same attitude that created hardship in how they managed what they could have avoided. They did not understand the demography and the lives of the people, nor were they familiar with the status of the not so well off. Listening to the ‘uncaring’ statements spouted in all places such as the Legislative Assembly was unbearably sickening. And to think it continues. That is more than sad. Perhaps they do not know or probably do not care but all those actions and lack of plans going forward hurt the island and the people therein. The one word that is matching is ‘retrogression’.

Posted in COVID-19, Editorial, Legal, News, Regional0 Comments

BBC-News

Covid: Vaccine or no vaccine, we have to get through this first

Nick Triggle, Health correspondent @nicktriggleon Twitter

Bus in Liverpool

After the euphoria of a vaccine breakthrough, it did not take long for the virus to provide a reality check. Within days of the news that an effective vaccine may have been found, it was being announced the UK was the first European country to pass the grim milestone of 50,000 deaths. This was quickly followed by a record rise in new cases with 33,400 reported on Thursday.

Both are a clear reminder, if we needed one, that there are many more difficult days to come. So what’s in store?

The vaccine is no magic wand

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised the NHS will be ready to start rolling out the vaccine from 1 December if its passes its final regulatory hurdles.

But that doesn’t mean the epidemic will be brought to a sudden halt. There is a huge logistical exercise in vaccinating large numbers of people – the UK has bought enough for 20 million people. And don’t forget, unlike the flu vaccine, this one requires two doses.

Health and care workers along with older age groups will be prioritised. But given it takes a month from the first dose for an individual to get the full protection and the fact there are 12 million over 65s – nine in 10 deaths have been in this age group – winter is likely to be well gone by the time significant numbers are protected.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam was unequivocal this week when he said he didn’t see the vaccine “making any difference” this winter.

Infection rates are high

In the meantime, infection rates remain high. Despite seeing over 30,000 cases on Thursday, the UK is averaging over 20,000 confirmed infections a day.

However, estimates from the government’s surveillance run by the Office for National Statistics suggests the true figure may be double that.

Chart tracking daily cases and seven-day average

The situation has left hospitals dangerously close to capacity in the most hard-hit regions. NHS trusts in Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham and Bradford have all announced the cancellation of non-urgent work to free up beds.

Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, which represents hospital managers, warns staff are “exhausted” and “traumatised”. If hospital cases keep rising it will quickly begin to affect non-Covid work even more, he says.

Lockdown may be followed by… lockdown

We were always warned lockdown, which is underway in England, would take time to have an impact. The good news is that cases had started to stabilise before it came in, with strong evidence the regional tiers had begun to have an impact.

If the rise in cases on Thursday is a blip – there are suggestions it may be linked to a last bout of socialising before lockdown came in – the expectation is the number of infections will soon start to drop. Friday’s figures were 6,000 cases down on the day before,

Prof Tim Spector, who runs the Covid Symptom Study, an app which one million people use, believes the crucial R number – the measure of how many people an infected person passes the virus on to on average – is now below one. This would mean the epidemic should start to shrink.

But no-one knows exactly what sort of impact lockdown will have. There have been suggestions the number of infections could be reduced by three-quarters.

But the early evidence from Wales’ 17-day fire-break is that it stemmed the rise in cases rather than significantly shrinking it. There could be a delayed impact and England’s lockdown is longer, but clearly, nothing is guaranteed. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, has just extended some of its national restrictions because of concern about infection levels.

And the problem is that once lockdown is lifted in England, cases are likely to take off again. It is, after all, winter, when respiratory viruses tend to thrive.

Does that mean another lockdown in a few months? This is the nagging fear.

Ministers are just “deferring the problem”, says Prof Mark Woolhouse, an expert in infectious diseases at Edinburgh University, who sits on the government’s committee on modelling. Even if we had had the lockdown earlier, as some scientists had argued, we would have already been talking about the next one.

More testing, more tracing, but enough isolating?

Those backing lockdown argued it could be used to fix the test-and-trace system, which identifies close contacts of infected individuals and asks them to isolate. Each nation runs its own tracing service, but all have faced the same problem – such high rates of infection make test-and-trace more difficult and less effective.

In England, councils are working hard to set up local teams to support the national system. But most of these are in their infancy and will take some time to bed in. The government has started piloting mass testing in the hope it could be a way of containing the virus given significant numbers of infected people show very mild, or even no, symptoms. The first pilot in Liverpool has been followed by others being set up in more than 60 local authority areas.

Soldiers talk to people at The Exhibition Centre, in Liverpool, which has been set up as a testing centre as part of the mass coronavirus disease
Soldiers have been brought in to help with the mass testing programme in Liverpool

But some question how effective this approach will be.

The rapid tests being used are “not fit for purpose” says Prof John Deeks, an expert in testing at Birmingham University. He points to evidence suggesting they may miss up to half of Covid cases.

He also says identifying previously undetected cases only works if those that test positive isolate. Evidence on those going through the standard testing process is that they are not always doing this. A need to work and earn money is, understandably, a key issue.

The virus isn’t going away

This brings us back to vaccination. While the breakthrough is great news, the jury is still out as to how much impact it will have. For example, we don’t know how well it works in the elderly, whether it stops people passing it on or simply stops them getting ill or how long immunity lasts.

Even with the vaccine the virus is “not going away”, says Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Sage advisory group.

Graph of deaths by age

It is, he says, now part of humanity and here to stay. Instead, the most we can hope for is providing some protection to those who are most at risk.

The sad reality is that, despite the vaccine breakthrough, we are still going to have to learn to live with Covid this winter – and beyond.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Health, International, News, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

Is this the anti-christ?

by William Bubblicous Galloway

This was submitted in April 2020

It’s amazing this virus took us by surprise but in so doing exposed us and our insecurities. COVID-19 peeled back our inner onion-like reality. The tears are true but the honesty is deep.

It’s amazing for our security and the security of others we were directed to isolate, quarantine or plain avoid contacting for spreading it with others. An unselfish move for the good of mankind. Allow the professionals to dissect the virus, get its DNA, and find a way to tackle it. Not too much of a task, but being human our wondering minds took off and because of our lack of trust in humanity, the conspiracy theories ran rampant. It’s not that there is no room for conspiracies but let’s go beyond that.

It’s a virus like many other viruses, humanity has been there before. It’s just that now we are more technologically advanced and we can curtail this before it gets out of hand. Like a wildfire, staying home is like wetting your house while your neighbor’s house is on fire. Except now information gets into the hands of too many influential fools and they have social media.

But let’s go one step further. We are all trying to avoid getting sick or die. This is akin to everyone believing in something or someone. Yes! I’m going down the religious road. It is dangerous but we got to face facts. I don’t care what religion you are or if you are an atheist. You believe that you are going to die once you were born. Now there are no facts of anyone living forever, though many of us hope to. What a farce. The promise of eternal life is guaranteed through religion all that is required is that we believe.

Let me make a sidebar here. There are no special permits or allowances for the rich, stinking rich, or pauper. Death is the only guarantee, so all greedy politicians, neighbors, and preachers beware.

If in reality, we believe that together we can beat this virus we will because COVID-19, shut down Mecca churches, mosques, courthouses, jails, shows, cinemas, sporting events, etc. It exposes that all men are equal. Once you are born you are going to die. It went across all barriers from pauper to prince. From Muslim to Christian from preacher to lying politicians.

Breaking the barriers of racism. Color of the skin or the entrenched religious belief that their God or whoever the supreme being, is the right one. Does a name really matter? God, Buddha, Allah, Sun, Nature. I know minds are trained to believe this and humanity is built on this belief. I’m not trying to change one’s belief. I’m saying let’s see each other as a person irrespective of a member of the human race. Respect their boundaries and just let us live. COVID-19 is not racist, sexist, religious, xenophobic, gluttonous, or hateful. Just an equal opportunity contaminant.

Posted in COVID-19, Environment, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

PAHO-officials

Aggressively on top of COVID-19 Virus right from the beginning – but deep and destructive

Really? The chaos is felt and not unnoticeable

As of today, Montserrat would be congratulated for being COVID-19 ‘infected free’ having gone from a nonchalance and carefree approach. Many would say that the unnecessary they willfully or otherwise created a police state. It was and still is the result of the disgraceful and uncaring extreme, leading the charge of criminalising the safeguards, guidelines, and restrictions they copied and found necessary. It’s not tasting well to those who must suffer the unbelievable indifference.

We wrote many drafts written since April, all lamenting the poor extremes of a less than six-month-old Government that promised it would be different working only in the interest of the people of Montserrat (whoever those represent) have been able to deliver or not deliver. This due of course to what is considered a very poor beginning, continuing in the way they handled a pandemic that had been pointed out was likely due to happen.

Well placed professionals and concerned persons aided by TMR publicity had documented to Governor Pierce and Premier Farrell, suggesting and asking: 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.”

That was not even met with an acknowledgement far less a response. In April we reported already that the Government may have missed the boat, having ignored completely the warnings and suggestions to cancel or postpone the large gatherings and visitors from areas where COVID-19 was already a great concern and people being infected.

Instead, we were to learn of comments and worse than Trump-like suggestions, “Oh this is just going to be like a (normal) flu…nothing to worry about…”, coming from top government officials including those who would have enormous powers and responsibilities in these matters.

Premier Easton Farrell with Dr. Dorothea Hazel-Blake during a virtual press conference responding a Nerissa Golden (inset) at bottom

Meantime, on March 5, 2020, we were told that “On Monday, March 2, the National Influenza Pandemic and Preparedness Committee

(NIPPPC) met to review the government’s action plan and risk mitigation for COVID-19, and to recap the evolving global and regional situation.”

Now could be that, that the Premier and his team at a press conference took issue with me when told that there was a lack of seriousness early as February about the seriousness of this potential pandemic. The Premier with verbal support and head-nodding said: “Montserrat did take it seriously. No one can accuse this administration of not acting aggressively….We were on top of this right from the beginning.”

Premier Farrell-made weekly statements and held virtual press conferences. two at the end of March, April, May; he was accompanied by his ministerss members and other health officials. The Governor seen (left) on two occasions, but Minister Kirnon (left) below ceased to attend, wants to have nothing to do with the media. Mrs. Hazel Blake now takes questions dealing directly with COVID. There will be more on the press conferences

The question must be, “when was that beginning? Indeed at that meeting, we were told in a release, “The islands Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Quarantine Authority, Dr. Sharra Greenway-Duberry, and other senior Health Officials presented updated information on the spread of the COVID 19 and the Ministry of Health’s plans related to screening, isolation and quarantine.”

Great! But the timing and the urgent seriousness was lacking for reasons noted; because at that time as I learned later from participating in regional PAHO/WHO/CARPHA press briefings, Montserrat was part of their excellent and tremendous support.

I attended a regional MEDIA briefing by PAHO/WHO/CARPHA, I asked the question, how come with all the support they had just boasted to the region, that Montserrat ended up with the highest per capita number of cases as early as April, embarrassing the region and its mother country, with a threat of being taken over. The response was though true and not surprising, heard by the entire region, exposed a situation that has plagued us, certainly more so, the past 10 years.

What ensued after mid-March into May/June, the height of ignorance, and foolish and dishonest utterances; the poor way Montserrat has handled its finances, exposing the obvious lack of proper financial planning, exposing the worst kind of governance, management and lack of knowledge of really what is Montserrat, with ultimately the need now to cover it all up is setting us so far back, must be discussed. In time, or else.

A report following that briefing included this: “Leveraging PAHO’s long-standing working relationship with the Barbados Defense Force (BDF) and the Regional Security System (RSS), especially in response to public health emergencies, Barbados worked with both the BDF and RSS to facilitate the distribution of critical COVID-19 related supplies and equipment, procured by PAHO, and destined to its 10 countries and territories in the Caribbean: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

It can be seen right away one reason we might not have benefited as we ought to. No wonder there is no longer the ferry and why Premier Farrell is adamant that Prime Minister Gaston Browne should be the one to take the initiative to improve our transportation to Montserrat from the outside world? What a way to love Montserrat.

On 17 January, 2020 the Pan American Sanitary Bureau activated an organization-wide response to provide all 51 of its Member States and territories with technical cooperation to address and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. PAHO’s work to date falls under the following four key objectives from its regional response strategy delivering resources in different forms:

Ensure real-time information to countries and efficient coordination of national and regional response operations;

Limit human-to-human transmission, including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and healthcare workers, and preventing transmission amplification events;

Identify, isolate, and care for patients early, including providing optimized care for infected patients;

Communicate critical risk and event information to all communities, and counter misinformation.

We would learn that as far back as January 2020, PAHO/WHO/CARPHA had been already holding training sessions, logistics, communicating and distributing equipment, PPE and equipment (testing machines and masks) educational materials, posters, and pamphlets throughout the region. What did Montserrat to this day have to show they participated in anything from these organisations, except maybe some posters and pamphlets? They waited for the UK to deliver, then waited for training; and was it in May, June or even later when this equipment arrived, delivered to other OTs months earlier?

We had seen reports of some islands, such as Dominica included, had received testing machines since mid-late March, while Montserrat was busy importing the virus, misleading people about the non-existent screening they had touted in the March 5 release. I looked for it when at the seaport, asking questions discreetly, but only saw it quietly being done in Antigua. In fact, questions were being asked when it was not seen at the airport with the belief it was being done at the seaport.

Other OTs had already received the UK funding planned months ago while Montserrat was still thinking about asking at the end of March. In October members of the Legislative Assembly as well as the rest of Montserrat are still waiting for a clear explanation about the unprecedented deficit budget and how some people/businesses received in April were not able to benefit from the UK $8.5 million ring-fenced for COVID-19 related support.

What exactly was contained in the request that should have been sent since the end of March, but did not leave Montserrat until well after the £2.5 million was received?

The question about the difficulties the people (mostly disenfranchised through one means or the other and for reasons not unknown but will be dealt with at different times.

The moneys! That they should refuse some people/businesses who applied for the relief, they anticipated and supplied by the UKG, under some concocted ‘criteria’! Many seek answers as to some accounting to the people, but many listened to the deplorable time and again in the Legislative Assembly. Where is that accounting? Then there are the sufferings during the lockdown, arrests, and more.

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

TMR06-Nov20_20 - br mod.indd

Premier Farrell’s Remarks commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Soufriere Hills Volcanic Eruptions

Posted in Advertisements, COVID-19, Government Notices, Local, News, Politics0 Comments

Scientists at the Serum Institute in Pune, India, working on a bioreactor. Inside is a promising coronavirus vaccine candidate.

Indian Billionaires Bet Big on Head Start in Coronavirus Vaccine Race

The world’s largest vaccine producer, the Serum Institute, announced a plan to make hundreds of millions of doses of an unproven inoculation. It’s a gamble with a huge upside. And huge risks.

Scientists at the Serum Institute in Pune, India, working on a bioreactor. Inside is a promising coronavirus vaccine candidate.
Scientists at the Serum Institute in Pune, India, working on a bioreactor. Inside is a promising coronavirus vaccine candidate. Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times
Jeffrey Gettleman

By Jeffrey Gettleman
Aug. 1, 2020

PUNE, India — In early May, an extremely well-sealed steel box arrived at the cold room of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker.

Inside, packed in dry ice, sat a tiny 1-milliliter vial from Oxford, England, containing the cellular material for one of the world’s most promising coronavirus vaccines.

Scientists in white lab coats brought the vial to Building 14, carefully poured the contents into a flask, added a medium of vitamins and sugar, and began growing billions of cells. Thus began one of the biggest gambles yet in the quest to find the vaccine that will bring the world’s Covid-19 nightmare to an end.

The Serum Institute, which is exclusively controlled by a small and fabulously rich Indian family and started out years ago as a horse farm, is doing what a few other companies in the race for a vaccine are doing: mass-producing hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine candidate that is still in trials and might not even work.

But if it does, Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive and the only child of the company’s founder, will become one of the most tugged-at men in the world. He will have on hand what everyone wants, possibly in greater quantities before anyone else.

His company, which has teamed up with the Oxford scientists developing the vaccine, was one of the first to boldly announce, in April, that it was going to mass-produce a vaccine before clinical trials even ended. Now, Mr. Poonawalla’s fastest vaccine assembly lines are being readied to crank out 500 doses each minute, and his phone rings endlessly.

  • Thanks for reading The Times.

National health ministers, prime ministers and other heads of state (he wouldn’t say who) and friends he hasn’t heard from in years have been calling him, he said, begging for the first batches.

“I’ve had to explain to them that, ‘Look I can’t just give it to you like this,’” he said.

Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive, says that he will split the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses he produces 50-50 between India and the rest of the world.
Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive, says that he will split the hundreds of millions of vaccine doses he produces 50-50 between India and the rest of the world. Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

With the coronavirus pandemic turning the world upside down and all hopes pinned on a vaccine, the Serum Institute finds itself in the middle of an extremely competitive and murky endeavor. To get the vaccine out as soon as possible, vaccine developers say they need Serum’s mammoth assembly lines — each year, it churns out 1.5 billion doses of other vaccines, mostly for poor countries, more than any other company.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Features, Health, International, Local, News, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

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