Citizens and residents of Montserrat, I bring you warm greetings.
Unlike previous years, Christians were unable to observe the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of our lord and savior, Jesus the way we are accustom to.
Although we were not able to visit our churches and celebrate Easter together, through technology we were able to participate in some of these events behind closed doors. Indeed, we are living in an unusual time and we are left with no choice but to modify our way of living, adapting to the times in which we live.
The world is faced with a crisis, one which has never been experienced in the last one hundred years. Surely some of us would have gone through world wars, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but on those occasions, we waited as nature sprung back to life and mankind revert to its normal way of living.
But this COVID-19 pandemic is very different. The level of uncertainty which the world is facing at this time cannot be compared to anything which history has recorded. The toll COVID-19 has taken on human lives across the world is unimaginable,
as it continues to reap havoc across the globe, for 4 straight months and still no cure has been discovered and the end date for this remains unknown.
In our small, tight knit community, when one person is infected we all feel the impact and that is why your government will act and act decisively to stop the spread of COVID -19 among our peoples.
Presently, the data is showing Montserrat as having the highest number of cases per capita in the Caribbean: 15.25 cases per 10,000. Comparing to our neighboring island Antigua, with 23 cases (as of April 12) and their per capita 2.25 cases per 10 000, that’s how serious the situation is on this our beloved land.
In order to reduce the spread of this virus within our minute population your government must and will introduce measures, some may seem drastic, but must be implemented when required— your health is our number one priority!
As leader of this country, I prefer to be safe than to be sorry, and I can assure you that your government will act decisively to protect all of you from this invisible enemy. We must and we will take the bull by the horn and act on the side of caution.
Large scale testing
Acquiring a testing machine is extremely high on the agenda of the Ministry of Health, and the staff there, are working with different agencies on every front to secure it.
Until the Ministry of Health is in a position to carry out large scale testing on the population, your government will continue to act to protect you the residents of this country and until then some measures will remain in place.
Asymptomatic COVID–19 cases
One of the major problems encountered by the Ministry of Health at this time is its inability to detect persons who might be roaming our streets and who might be COVID -19 positive, and are not displaying symptoms. They can then spread the disease unknowingly infecting large portions of the population.
This is one of the reasons why we must all stay at home so as to break the chain. Once large scale testing can be done we will then be able to relax some of these measures, but until then we must maintain measures that keep us away from each other.
We were expecting some physical protective equipment (PPE) to arrive approximately on April 10, in what was supposed to be the first batch of supplies from the UK. However, these have not yet arrived and I am not sure of an exact date for when they will, due to transportation issues.
Relaxing of procurement rules
You will recognize that there is a demand for COVID -19 related equipment and supplies worldwide, which creates a shortage on the world market. To this end, normal procurement rules have been suspended giving the Ministry of Health the authority to single source items needed to help manage the virus.
Temporary removal of tariffs
Government has also temporarily removed all tariff rates on selected items that can be used to prevent the spread of the Corona virus on Montserrat. Hand sanitizers, medical masks, vitamins, medicated soap, industrial soap, disinfectants and plastic coveralls: These can be imported for the next 3 months duty free.
Situation at home
I know all too well what so many of you are going through at home during this lockdown—bored, sick of being in the house and wanting to get out! It is not easy for all of us.
It is not something many of us are accustomed to, as we are usually up and about, but this short-term sacrifice will reap dividends for all of us in the weeks and months ahead.
If this can be of any source of consolation, look at what has happened across the world. Countries who fail to act swiftly at the onset of the crisis have borne the consequence of inaction—they have lost tens of thousands of souls.
• Someone’s mother and father
• a sister or bother
• a child
• a doctor, a nurse or a helper.
Montserrat does not want a similar situation here, after all a mere 5000, that is all we have.
Believe me, we must work together and we will come out of this victorious.
Care and relief packages
With regards to support for those most affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to report that we have been rolling out our care and relief packages, assisting persons who have been experiencing economic challenges from the fall out of COVID -19. In the first three days of implementation, the department of Social Services, assisted by the Montserrat Defense force and other public servants delivered three hundred and forty food packages at an average cost of $400 each.
Self employed individuals
Work is progressing on a data base of self-employed persons to allow for the roll out of the second component of relief, known as the ‘Covid-19 unemployment allowance’; this is in addition to a food package which these persons are entitled to.
I have asked the Ministry of Finance to accelerate this process to allow for distribution of payment as soon as possible.
Persons who were self-employed should call the Social Services Department on 495-3895 or 495-7491 to ensure that their names are on the list.
Hospitality & Tourism Sector workers
I have been advised that persons in the hospitality and tourism sector have not been responding as quickly as they should to the application process, which is open for affected individuals to receive financial assistance.
Employers are encouraged to apply for their staff to receive financial support, and self employed individuals in this sector are also encouraged to apply for themselves.
Employees and individuals should complete their application forms as soon as possible, to allow for the wage component of the package to be disbursed: forms should be submitted on line or email to email@example.com
If persons within the sector are having difficulty filling out the application on line they should call the ministry of Finance at telephone number 393 9878 to ask for assistance.
Setting up of an operational center
As part of our efforts to stream line operations and to connect members of the public to services and departments most frequently contacted, an operating system will be established at the Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA). Individuals will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to take your calls and transfer you to the relevant department or agency. Or you may be directed to other contacts, based on the type of assistance required.
This service is expected to be available either today or tomorrow (April 16).
As I leave you today, I want to assure you that your government is working for the better good of all of us. Government’s primary concern is you and your health, and to ensure that as a people we protect each other. We are here to ensure that your health is safeguarded and of course when this coronavirus pandemic is over, we would then mingle with each other; after all we are social beings.
It won’t be tomorrow, life will not return to the way it use to be in a hurry, but slowly and surely if we work together and get this crisis behind us, we will then join hands and hearts together and give God the glory.
May God’s name be praised.
Stay safe everyone!