Release Date: March 17, 2020
My fellow Montserratians, residents and visitors, today as we observe St. Patrick’s day 2020, I take this opportunity to bring you greetings and to also 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 taken to cancel the St. Patrick’s festival are in the best interest of all of us—Public Health is Paramount.
We must also remember that St. Patrick’s Day on Montserrat is much more than the parade, feast and festivities. It is also a time when we reflect on our African and Irish Heritage.
Our nickname – the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, was given to us not only because of our lush green mountains, but also because of our resemblance to coastal Ireland and our Irish heritage. This heritage is still very prominent in some of the surnames which some of us still carry, and the names of some of our communities.
Without a doubt, today we can still consume some of those traditional foods which have been passed on from our ancestors, and which reminds us of our connection to Africa and Ireland.
On this very day, 252 years ago our brave African ancestors decided to take a stand—a stand against oppression, a stand against slavery and a stand for the betterment of themselves and this our beloved land.
Unfortunately, history tells us that the March 17, 1768 planned slave rebellion was unsuccessful. Even so, this very act and willingness to stand up for what is right, should empower each and every one of us to always take a stand for what is good, not only for ourselves, but also for our island and our people.
Let us take bold steps to invest in Montserrat, give back to our communities, protect ourselves and our land and be leaders in our respective professions and disciplines.
Given the ongoing corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, let us all take a stand to be leaders of positive behaviour and be bold enough to correct misinformation in our conversations, whether in person or on social media. Let us reinforce the health messages and encourage all to use basic hygiene practices by:
1. Washing our hands frequently using soap and water;
2. Using hand sanitizers;
3. Coughing into our elbows or tissue; and wash or sanitize hands after doing so;
4. Disinfect our surfaces frequently;
5. Avoid close contact with anyone with cough and fever symptoms;
6. If you experience fever, cough or difficulty breathing contact your health care provider or call 491-2802 sooner rather than later. Remember to also remain at home, if you do experience these flu like symptoms.
I know that the Ministry of Health and Social Services is investigating a suspected case, and we expect to get the results this week. While we pray the results are negative for COVID-19, we still must remain vigilant and take the necessary personal protective steps, which I just mentioned.
My Government also continues to monitor the global situation and remain in contact with our regional and international health partners, and we know that health officials here are continuing to carry out screenings at our ports of entry.
As you are all aware we have also closed schools from March 16 until April 3rd. We have taken the decision to restrict gatherings in excess of 50 persons, this will allow for personal space and will assist in minimizing the potential spread of the virus. I wish to remind us all that these measures are subject to change, if the situation so warrants. These measures are taken with your health and safety in mind; protecting all of us as a people is my governments primary aim.
Although there are no confirmed cases of the new Corona virus on the island at this time, we are not waiting until it arrives; we are not in panic mode but we are being proactive.
To this end, we have notified our regional and international partners and are in discussion with The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to supplies.
We are also in discussions with DFID explaining the fiscal fall out, of COVID -19 on our economy. And we are receiving support from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
We know that the abrupt ending to the St. Patrick’s celebration may have placed a damper on the spirits of our visitors, and Montserratians who traveled to celebrate with us.
We are also sympathetic to the promoters and organizers who have suffered losses as a result of the measures taken in response to the pandemic. But I do hope that you all understand why these actions had to be implemented, and we look forward to welcoming all of you back to our shores when the pandemic has ended and St Patrick’s will once again be celebrated in all its glory.