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Communiqué of the 96th Meeting of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank

Issued: 24 July 2020

The Ninety-Sixth Meeting of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) was held on 24 July 2020, via videoconference, under the Chairmanship of Dr the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Saint Christopher
(St Kitts) and Nevis.

  1. Monetary Stability

The Monetary Council received the Governor’s Report on Monetary and Credit Conditions in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) for the period January to June 2020.

The Council was apprised of the following:

  1. In 2020, global economic activity is expected to contract by at least 4.9 percent as the world deals with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Growth in Advanced Economies is projected at negative 8.0 percent in 2020, compared with 1.7 percent in 2019.
  2. The ECCU economy has been severely disrupted and will contract between 10.0 and 20.0 percent in 2020 before starting to recover in 2021.  Key risks to the anticipated recovery include: a delay in the global rebound; permanent job losses and business closures; natural disasters; and increasing credit and liquidity risks in the financial sector.
  3. Monetary and credit conditions in the ECCU deteriorated in the first half of 2020. That is, both the level of money available and credit extended decreased. This trend is projected to persist for the remainder of the year.
  4. Strong foreign exchange buffers, as a consequence of the ECCB’s prudent management of foreign reserves, coupled with financial stability will support gradual improvement in economic, monetary, and credit conditions.

Having received the Governor’s Report and recommendations, the Council decided to:

  1. maintain the Central Bank’s Discount Rate at 2.0 percent; and
  2. maintain the Minimum Savings Rate at 2.0 percent.
  • Financial Sector Stability

The Monetary Council received the Financial Stability Report for the ECCU for the period January to June 2020.  The key highlights of the Report were: 

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to place significant pressure on the economies of the ECCB member countries.  However, the ECCU banking sector remained stable.   
  2. The reduction in the ECCB’s Discount Rate will ease borrowing conditions for commercial banks and help to support liquidity if needed.
  3. Commercial banks and credit unions are likely to experience a significant increase in default risk, market risk, and liquidity risk. Figure 1 below shows the percentage change in Domestic and Private Sector credit conditions in the ECCU from 2017 – 2020.

Figure 1: ECCU Domestic and Private Sector Credit – 2017-2020

Data as at May 2020 | ECCB Estimates for June 2020

Framework for Macro-Prudential Regulation

The Council was apprised of the ECCB’s work on articulating an optimal framework for the ECCU financial system given the urgent need for comprehensive and coordinated oversight, especially of systemically important financial institutions, and adequate consumer protection.

  • Fiscal and Debt Sustainability

The Council was apprised that the total public sector debt of the region is expected to rise in both nominal terms and as a percentage of GDP during 2020. Convergence to the Debt-to-GDP target of 60.0 percent by 2030 will require substantial acceleration of growth and/or the generation of sustainable primary surpluses in the medium to long term.

The Council lamented the reversal of the significant progress made by member countries to meet the Debt-to-GDP target of 60.0 percent by 2030.  At the end of 2019, the Debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 65.0 percent.

The Council recognised that Member Governments will need to contract additional debt to fund critical support for their economies during this difficult period. The combination of economic contraction and the necessity of additional borrowing means a rise in the Debt to GDP Ratio in the short term.

The Council renewed calls for more financial support from the international community, at this time when the ECCU’s dominant sector, Tourism, is largely shut.

  • Growth and Competitiveness

The Council was advised that:

  1. The outlook for the ECCU in 2020 had changed profoundly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Real GDP for the ECCU is projected to decline within a range of 10.0 percent to 20.0 percent this year, a stark contrast to pre-COVID anticipated growth of 3.3 percent. Figure 2 below shows economic growth (percentage) in global, advanced, and ECCU economies for 2019 – 2021. Figure 2 below shows economic growth (percentage) in global, advanced, and ECCU economies for 2019 – 2021.

Figure 2: Economic Growth for Global, Advanced and ECCU Economies 2019-2021

Data as at May 2020 |ECCU worst-case scenario shown in chart
  1. The economic decline is largely due to the decline in Tourism. The recovery of this dominant sector is expected to be protracted with performance unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.

2. The pandemic has resulted in a drastic reduction in jobs and incomes, lower government revenues and elevated unemployment.

5.0 Programme of Action for Recovery and Resilience

The Council agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to unite around a Programme of Action for making the region’s economies more competitive, productive and resilient.  The Programme of Action will include the following:

  1. Enactment of modern insolvency and bankruptcy legislation to support the efficacious restructuring of businesses to protect jobs and to preserve financial stability;
  2. Determination of the optimal regulatory framework for the financial system of the ECCU and the enactment of a financial stability framework;
  3. Fast-tracking of the Caribbean Digital Transformation Programme;
  4. Launch of the EC Digital Currency (Cash) Pilot with an early expansion to all eight member countries;
  5. Enactment of modern Payment System and Services legislation; and
  6. Enactment of all outstanding legislation already approved by the Monetary Council including the Credit Reporting Bill.
  • Enhanced Coordination for Collective Action

In the context of the significant challenges facing the ECCU, the Council agreed to convene more frequently to address matters of critical importance and to work even more closely with the OECS Commission.  The areas to be addressed at the upcoming Special Meetings would include:

  1. Tourism
  2. Labour Markets
  3. Digital Transformation
  4. Business Support;
  5. Citizen by Investment Programmes (CIP)
  • Report from the Technical Core Committee on Insurance (BAICO and CLICO)

BAICO

The Council approved a funding proposal of US$1.4 million to support the payment of outstanding claims to 250 policyholders under the Policyholder Assistance Scheme (PAS), which was established in 2013 when SAGICOR purchased the portfolio.  The PAS was established to help settle surrenders, maturities, claims, and bonus payments owed to policyholders at the time of sale.

CLICO  

The Council was updated on the steps being taken to pursue and protect the interest of ECCU policyholders by pursuing an application, under Section 60 of the Barbados Insurance Act, for the winding up of CLICO International Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

  • Date and Venue of 97th Meeting of the Monetary Council

The Council agreed that the 97th Meeting of the Monetary Council will convene on
Friday, 23 October 2020 at 9:00 a.m. via videoconference. 

  • Attendance

Council Members attending the meeting were:

  1. Dr the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Saint Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis (Chairman)
  2. The Honourable Dr. Ellis Lorenzo Webster, Premier and Minister for Finance, Anguilla
  3. The Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Antigua and Barbuda
  4. The Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, the Commonwealth of Dominica
  5. Dr the Right Honourable, Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Grenada
  6. The Honourable Easton Taylor-Farrell, Premier and Minister for Finance, Montserrat
  7. The Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Saint Lucia
  8. The Honourable Camillo Gonsalves, Minister for Finance, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

24 July 2020

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

positivity-of-purity

This happens to your body when you eat ginger every day for a month

We didn’t know ginger is so healthy

We all know that fruit and vegetables are really good for us. It is known that we should eat colored food several times a day, but did you know that certain spices also have many health benefits? Take ginger, for example. When you eat ginger every day, a lot of good things happen to your body.

Ginger

Ginger is a spice with a very strong taste. Ginger is not only very tasty but also has a lot of good qualities. Ginger contains gingerol, shogaol, zingiberene, and a whole range of vitamins and minerals. It is therefore not surprising that ginger has a long medicinal history. Centuries ago, ginger was used to cure all kinds of ailments. In addition, eating ginger regularly also helps to keep your body healthy.

Good qualities

Ginger contains gingerol, a bio-active substance that helps to reduce symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. This substance also helps to reduce swollen joints. Ginger also contains shoagol, a substance with an analgesic effect that also helps against cancer and heart disease. Zingiberene in ginger is particularly good for digestion. But not only this: ginger also has an anti-diabetic effect and improves brain function and the immune system.

Ginger every day

Are you planning to eat ginger every day for a month? Then we will not stop you! Eating ginger daily has many health benefits. Side note: you do not have to nibble on a piece of ginger every day. Cut a large piece – about 1.5 centimeters – into small pieces and mix it with your smoothie, tea, or Asian dish. Wondering what this does to your body? We will explain it to you.

…Does this to your body:

Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation in the body is reduced faster. This is due to the anti-inflammatory effect of ginger.

Nausea disappears: are you often nauseous in the morning? We bet that eating ginger every day will help you! By eating ginger daily, the nausea will soon subside. Tip: Especially pregnant women and people undergoing chemotherapy can benefit from this.

Reduction of muscle pain: Do you have muscle pain or pain in the limbs? Eating ginger can have a good influence on this. Consuming ginger daily will gradually ease the pain.

Promotes bowel movements: Eating ginger on a daily basis does a lot of good for your bowel movements. Do you regularly suffer from constipation? Then this might help you.

Menstrual pain: Are you in constant pain during this time of the month? Then eating ginger daily may help you. The spice is similar to taking pain medications, which can help relieve acute abdominal pain.

Lowers cholesterol: Eating ginger every day for a month can help lower “bad” cholesterol in the body. The amount of triglycerides in the blood is reduced by the substances in ginger.

Boosts the Immune System: The anti-inflammatory properties in ginger strengthens the immune system. Have you already been affected by a cold or virus? Then ginger can help you recover faster.

Posted in COVID-19, Education, Features, Health, International, Local, OECS, Regional0 Comments

visa-trave

COVID-19 forces Visa-styled requirements to enter Montserrat

by Bennette Roach

As the Government of Montserrat continues to remove and amend COVID-19 suppression restrictions, and the phased reopening of the economy continues, a release from the Government Information Unit (GIU) advises:  

“As of Wednesday, July 8, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. the maximum number of persons allowed to gather in a public place will increase from 10 to 50.

  This is outlined in the ‘Public Health (COVID-19 Suppression) (No.4) Order, S.R.O. 44 of 2020’ which will be in effect until August 4, 2020.

Additionally, the categories of persons allowed to travel to Montserrat now “includes a person” who owns a habitable house or home in Montserrat.  However, persons traveling to Montserrat must register by completing and submitting the declaration form on the government of Montserrat website (www.gov.ms) no later than three days of their intended date of travel.”

Aircraft owners have seemingly (non-criminalised) responsibilities

The owner of an aircraft or vessel must also ensure that the person has been granted approval to travel to Montserrat prior to departing. All persons arriving on Montserrat must self-quarantine for 14-days commencing on the date of arrival.

The Order also “makes provisions for child care centers, nursery schools, primary schools, secondary school, tertiary school, and any other school(s) to open.”

“However, the Head or owner of the school must submit a sanitisation plan to the Minister of Health for approval, before opening.  The Head or owner of the school must also ensure that staff, students and customers practice social distancing, and comply with any direction or guideline issued by the Minister of Health regarding cleaning, sanitisation, and other precautions. Failure to comply with the directives from the Minister of Health may result in the school being ordered to close.

“As it relates to the operations of gyms and sports clubs, these entities will be allowed to offer services, but must first submit a sanitisation plan to the Minister of Health for approval, before opening.  Once approved to operate, owners of gyms and sports clubs must ensure that customers maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from each other and must comply with any direction of guideline from the Minister of Health regarding cleaning, sanitisation, and other precautions.

“Although the six feet physical distance is specified for gyms and sports clubs, the Order also makes provisions for ‘contact sporting’ activities but individuals must comply with the restriction on the number of persons allowed to gather.” 

The release concludes that all other measures which were previously announced guiding the operations of businesses such as restaurants, cookshops, barbershops, beauty salons, bars, spas and bus, and taxi operators still remain in effect.

For those so able, the full S.R.O may be downloaded at http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/SRO-44-of-2020-Public-Health-Covid-19-Suppression-No.4-Order-.pdf

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Featured, Government Notices, International, Legal, Local, News, OECS, Regional, TOURISM, Travel0 Comments

Breaking-news-Brandt

Brandt released from remand and back on bail

by Bennette Roach, London.

Bail Revoked, Brandt on remand, jailed, until? Was the headline in the TMR’s publication of July 5, 2019,  which began, “This lingering high court criminal matter has been described on Tuesday in one report as follows: “The High Court of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has ordered another ‘interesting twist’ in the case the Queen vs David S. Brandt.”

David S. Brandt

– a trial is set to begin on November 18, 2019, but meantime the judge issues ‘directive’ to stop comments on the case.

Now, yesterday originating in Antigua:

The link from July 2019 at the beginning of this story gives an extensive and somewhat detailed as to Brandt was put on remand where he has been until the breaking news. The case has been somewhat a saga with several attempts including appeals to undo the remand order and which included a new judge eventually forced to recuse from the trial.

See here: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/brandts-trial-to-begin-february-28/ another rundown as to how the matter went before we would say, COVID-19 intervened and the opportunity to end the remand and save GoM some expense from the Lockdown that ensued. That supposedly ended altogether yesterday, ‘maybe’, while it was eased earlier, there continued a curfew just ended.

The conditions of this ‘new’ bail include, among others; Mr. Brandt is to restrict his residence to his home in Olveston; he must have no contact any female under the age of 18; He must not entertain or have any interviews on the case/matter; he must have no direct or indirect contact with any jurors once the juror list is published (and he is in possession).  

The trial is now scheduled to commence on September 28.

Listen below to ZJB – Radio Montserrat’s full report:

Dr. David Dorsett, Brandt’s attorney primarily in Constitutional matters

Attorney-at-law Warren Cassell who initially provided the breaking news information, informed, “Dr. Dorsett did an excellent job in representing him from Antigua at bail hearing which was via Zoom.”

In a comment, Cassell ‘imagined how upset the DPP will be when he hears the news…..” It was probably that which drew some comments, like “For all those who talking negatively about Mr. Brandt, call on God and ask Him to deal with us the way we deserve then sit back and look. NONE will be spared……remember that.” “…everyone needs to be treated fairly; ” ”a he axx that. Everyone needs to be treated fairly.”

“The vipers them already stirring up. Everyone deserves a Fair trial. When u guys coming for people come good. Have you facts and all your Ts cross. When you assuming no carry it a court. I wonder how the High Court that doesn’t have anything to do with Montserrat favoritism is doing anything hypocritical.”

Posted in Court, COVID-19, Crime, Featured, International, Legal, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

EASTERN CARIBBEAN CENTRAL BANK

EASTERN CARIBBEAN CENTRAL BANK

V A C A N C Y

Debt Analyst Ι, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank

Suitably qualified citizens of member territories of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and wider CARICOM countries are invited to apply to fill the post of Debt Analyst I, in the Statistics Department (SD), at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in St Kitts.  Working at the ECCB provides a unique opportunity for you to help our member countries to manage their debt portfolios in a sustained and effective way to promote fiscal and debt sustainability.  The successful candidate will be based in St Kitts and will be hired initially on a two (2) year contractual engagement with the opportunity to transfer to the permanent establishment based on performance.

All applicants must complete the ECCB Employment Application Form which is available on the ECCB Website (www.eccb-centralbank.org).

SELECTION CRITERIA:

  1. A relevant first or higher degree and/or professional qualifications preferably in Economics, Finance, Business or Public Policy.
  2. At least three (3) years of relevant work experience in finance or public financial management; work experience in public debt management is a plus.

APPLICANTS MUST HAVE:

  1. Proven quantitative and qualitative analytical and problem-solving skills;
  2. Proficiency in Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint;
  3. Excellent communication skills – both verbal and written;
  4. Experience in giving presentations and training;
  5. Quick learning and creative thinking abilities, with initiative and attention to details;
  6. A high level of motivation, strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively in a team-oriented environment;
  7. Ability to deliver high-quality work, multitask and to work under tight deadlines and pressure;
  8. Good networking and self-management abilities;
  9. High ethical standards.

The following would be considered as assets:

  • Experience in analytical tools such as Fiscal and Debt Sustainability, Financial Programming, Medium Term Debt Management Strategy;
  • Knowledge of debt management systems;
  • Experience in providing policy advice in areas related to fiscal policy and debt management would be assets.

DUTIES

The successful candidate will work with the Fiscal, Debt and Domestic Market team.  The main responsibilities will include:

  1. Accurately managing and maintaining public sector debt statistics to ensure consistency with international standards;
  2. Providing technical support to ECCU member countries to enhance the quality of the data in the debt recording system;
  3. Providing technical support to ECCU member countries in building capacity in debt management to undertake debt portfolio reviews, debt management strategies, debt restructuring and portfolio realignment, fiscal and debt sustainability analyses, and risk and asset-liability management;
  4. Facilitating the production of debt procedures manuals, identification of best practices and standardized guidelines for debt management;
  5. Conducting training to ensure that debt data are based on international standards;
  6. Facilitating the dissemination of public sector debt statistics;
  7. Undertaking research and providing policy advice to ECCU member countries on debt management issues in pursuit of fiscal and debt sustainability;
  8. Any other related duties which may be assigned.

SALARY

This position will be offered at a Grade 7 level. 

The following documents must be submitted:

  • Employment application form
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Two (2) original letters of reference
  • Certified copies of certificates
  • Official transcripts where applicable

Supporting documents should be addressed to:

Human Resource Department
Eastern Caribbean Central Bank
BASSETERRE
St Kitts

hrd@eccb-centralbank.org

To reach no later than 3 July 2020.

Note:   
1.  Applicants may enquire of the Human Resource Department to ascertain receipt of applications;
2.  Only candidates shortlisted for the selection process will be contacted;
3.  Shortlisted candidates will be required to undertake various assessments.

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Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound

Reprint       News        Covid-19 is NOT a virus!

Health

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

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

So if it’s not a virus, what is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Infection Rate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incubation Time

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

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

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

Putting it all Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does the SARS-CoV virus work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens once we become infected by SARS-CoV?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symptoms of SARS-CoV-2

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

However, the 2 most common symptoms are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can I do to prevent getting Covid-19?

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

Hand Washing is Your Best Weapon

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

Should I wear a face mask?

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

Social Distancing

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

Isolate Yourself

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

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

What About Herd Immunity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When will this end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all well. Stay home, stay safe.

Mark Waterfield

Infection Control Lead for Safe and Sound

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

SKB-Labour-WhatsApp-Image-2020-05-27-at-8.32.45-PM

ZIZ St. Kitts Government Radio Station under fire from Opposition Political Party – Labour

With just over a week to go to general elections in St. Kitts, the St. Kitts-Nevis opposition Labour Party has sued the Government and the Radio Station, ZIZ.

Elections are due on June 5, 2020.

Posted in CARICOM, Elections, Featured, Labour, Local, News, OECS, Politics, Regional0 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

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

Grace-recflowers-from-Chairman-gives-flowers-to-chman-DSC_1677w

St. Patrick’s Day Lecture feature – Praedial Larceny

Contributed by Cleo Cassell

Grace Cassell, delivering the lecture

I would like to make a confession before I continue. I confess, not to committing praedial larceny, but to never attending any of the St. Patrick’s Day lectures before March 10, 2020. I believed that by fate I should go this year because every time I turned the radio on the advertisement seemed to beckon me through the speakers. The topic also appealed to my creative mind. Praedial Larceny: A Scourge on Agricultural Production and Food Security, and in my mind, I personified Praedial Larceny and imagined this character whipping agriculture and food security.

        In contrast, the setting of the conference room at the Cultural Centre was intimate and calming. The lofty windows had been dressed with draped fabric of our green, orange and white madras, while our sturdy national flower, the Heliconia, muted the stark white walls. Even more pleasing to see were the green chairs that were almost filled to capacity.

The St. Patrick’s Day lecture truly added a sophisticated element to the debauchery that the day was becoming. It was an unmistakable reminder that the St. Patrick’s celebration was much more: it was a celebration of our ancestors who fought for our freedom. Later on, it became apparent that the lecture was also important because it was a way to safeguard Montserrat’s undocumented history in this new emerging Montserrat where so many memories of the pre-volcanic times had been buried and displaced.

The lecture was amply chaired by Mr. Claude Brown the infamous host of Farmers’ Corner, President of the Farmer’s Association and Former Agriculture Development Officer. Besides his credentials, Brown’s soothing voice, pleasant way of lightening the seriousness of the mood with a joke or two and seamless way of segueing into the next segment seemed to keep the audiences’ attention.

Claude Browne

However, Brown was not the only trick up the sleeve, there was entertainment. First came Lord Meade’s calypso, which passionately told the story of a farmer who was frustrated by his neighbours’ “damn” livestock that were harvesting his produce before he had a chance to. Our very own historian and poet, Professor Sir Howard Fergus followed with two recent poems and an old one about praedial larceny.  I do not know about the audience, but I thoroughly enjoyed his readings. It reminded me of sitting in tutorials listening to the man who made me fall in love with poetry, Professor Mervin Morris.

Sir Professor Howard Fergus

The main feature did not disappoint either. Miss Gracelyn Cassell began the lecture with anecdotes. She told the story of entitled workmen who openly stole coconuts from the Open Campus to the heart-wrenching story of her uncle, Cephas Cassel who died by the scourge of praedial larceny. The saga of Cephas’ was an allusion to the Cain and Abel story told in Genesis. Cain was a farmer and Abel a shepherd; however, it was Cain’s jealousy that led his naive brother to his death just as the murderer had done to the innocent Cephas.

My mind was completely engaged by then and kept ticking as Cassell transitioned into the historical perspectives of praedial larceny. It was once accepted as a means to an end for the emancipated slave, but was also negatively described by Bryan as a ‘typical black perversion’. Bryan’s notion appeared to be a paradox as Cassell continued by illustrating contemporary experiences, praedial larceny’s impact on food security, the approaches and measures taken to solve this problem. Although not mentioned, I shuddered as I was able to make the connection with the disturbing piracy that regularly occurred off the coast of Africa. Praedial larceny was once petty theft and was tolerated as a means of subsistence, but it had morphed into the pure evil of Cain. It was the business of highly organized theft.

Praedial larceny was much more than just stealing it was a scourge on people’s psyche. At the end of the lecture, the audience was encouraged to share a memory or experience about praedial larceny. Some of the accounts had been hoarded for over 40 years and involved even huge cows disappearing into thin air. The account that really pricked me the most was hearing about a grandmother who put pins into her provisions not to harm buyers, but to discourage people from purchasing from the thieving seller. This story reminded the audience that praedial larceny was also a public health and safety issue.

I left the lecture with a lot to think about, but not ill-equipped. Although I did not have a definite remedy for the problem, I could do my part to help put an end to praedial larceny. I would make sure I bought from reputable farmers.

Posted in COVID-19, Education, Fashion, Legal, Local, News, OECS, Opinions, Poems, Security0 Comments

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