Was it soon enough?

by Bennette Roach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Farrell, CMO Duberry and D. Hazel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Joseph Farrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donaldson Romeo, MLA member

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reacting out of view to questions from the press

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

Donaldson Romeo’s Statement…

The British Chancellor declared today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Bennette Roach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Farrell, CMO Duberry and D. Hazel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Joseph Farrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donaldson Romeo, MLA member

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reacting out of view to questions from the press

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

Donaldson Romeo’s Statement…

The British Chancellor declared today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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