My fellow Montserratians, residents and friends of Montserrat, I extend warm greetings to all of you.
I hope you are all safe and well, and even in this Coronavirus era, we give God thanks for all of his blessings.
Today, I wish to recognise everyone who in their own way has contributed to this island over the past seven weeks, and I want to especially recognize our farmers, and fishers who in spite of the situation have continued to supply us with fresh vegetables, eggs, and fish—we appreciate your contribution. Thank you very much.
Last Wednesday, the Honourable Minister of Health and Social Services and his team provided an update on plans and programmes that are in place within the ministry, as they prepare for any eventuality in relation to increased cases of COVID-19.
An expanded isolation facility is near completion as work has been ongoing in retrofitting the downstairs of Margetson Memorial for this purpose. And work has commenced at the Golden Years Home to prepare it to house residents from Margetson, if the need arises.
As a government we are committed to ensuring that COVID-19 medical care is available for all persons when needed, and as such no medical personnel should be placed in any compromising position of having to decide which patient is put on a ventilator and which stays lingering. The ministry is therefore increasing the number of ventilators available to the medical staff, with an expected arrival of three others from the United Kingdom.
The ministry also awaits the arrival of its testing machine, having been told that there was a slight delay in the shipping but that it should be on island shortly. We look forward to its arrival as this will be another important tool as the island continues to manage the Coronavirus pandemic. The island must be ready to handle any resurgence of the virus among the population.
I am pleased to report that there has been no new recorded case of the Coronavirus disease on island since April 12
• 6 persons have fully recovered
• There are 3 active cases
• 20 persons are in quarantine
• Result from 1 sample is pending.
It does seem that the curve has flattened and while this is good news for us, it is not a time to become complacent, nor for us to start behaving irresponsibly.
Yesterday, (Tuesday) while reviewing the daily COVID-19 update for the Caribbean region, I noted with concern that in one of our sister Overseas Territories, where wide scale testing of the population is now been undertaken, It was reported that of a total of 74 persons who were tested positive, of that number, thirty six had COVID symptoms and 28 showed no symptoms whatsoever. Had they not been tested, 28 infected persons would have been walking the streets infecting others. It is stories such as this one, which reinforces the need for wide scale testing.
This is the nature of the disease we are dealing with; you can have the virus and not display any symptoms. So until we are in a position to test a larger percentage of our population, we cannot be certain of how many cases are on island.
As a result, we must continue to practice social distancing and wear your mask (or a suitable mouth and nose covering), when visiting crowded areas. Continue to practice good hygiene and stay at home, by doing so, we are protecting ourselves and others.
Your health remains the government’s number one priority.These practices are even more crucial as we begin to open more businesses in the coming weeks where persons could potentially be exposed.
In a previous message, I indicated that government has sought and received suggestions from a number of stakeholders as we seek to introduce a phased re-opening of the economy.
At this time, whatever actions are taken must be guided by the science, as some businesses by their very nature of bringing persons into close contact with others, cannot be considered for opening at this time.
As we embark on this phased reopening of some aspects of the economy, the Ministry of Health will monitor the situation and the government will be guided accordingly.
Under our last order a number of businesses were given permission to operate, allowing persons to undertake a number of essential household activities such as the purchasing of household supplies, undertaking banking activities and payment of bills etc.
During my message last week, I informed you that Cabinet was considering allowing other businesses and service providers to operate under a new order, which comes into force on the 7th of May, 2020 at 12 a.m.
I am pleased to report that Cabinet met and agreed on a new order with expanded businesses and services.
NEW MEASURES – PHASED REOPENING
Under this new order, provisions have been made for more businesses to operate within a set time frame. The order takes effect from May 7th at 12:00a.m. to May 22nd at 12:00a.m. During this time:
A person shall not be in a public place and shall remain at home, including weekends (Saturday and Sunday) except in a number of circumstances, which I will now outline:
A person may be in a public place between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or a Friday for the following reasons:
(a) To carry out functions as an essential service provider which includes, travelling to or from work.
(b) Assist, transport or provide an ancillary service for an essential service provider,
(c) Seek medical care,
(d) Visit the doctor or pharmacy,
One person from each household may leave home for the following purposes:
e) Shop for necessities to include food, medicine, fuel or other necessities;
(f) Conduct a banking transaction or a transaction at a money transfer business; and
(g) Pay utility bills.
Persons are allowed to engage in an activity to include running, walking, swimming, alone or with no more than 4 members of the same household, each day between of 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. but no later than 7 p.m. These activities are also permitted on the weekends. However, no motor vehicle is to be used to get to and from the place where these activities are done. In other words, do not drive to the backroad or to the park or any other location for the purpose of exercising.
Permitted activities Monday to Friday
(1) The following persons, businesses or organizations may operate on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday—
(a) an essential service provider,
(b) a bank, money transfer business or insurance business,
(c) a doctor’s office or pharmacy,
(d) a grocery store, bakery, wholesale business or agricultural produce business,
(e) a gas station,
(f) a business connected with fisheries,
(g) an undertaker,
(h) water, electricity, telecommunications or internet service provider,
(i) a mechanic or tire repair business for the purpose of offering basic motor vehicle repair services,
(j) a hardware store,
(k) a person or business that is granted a permit to carry out a construction project,
(l) a pool maintenance business, landscaping business, gardening or lawn cutting business,
(m) sand mining business,
(n) a tradesman to include, a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter or mason who is granted permission to assist in a construction project,
(o) a tradesman to include a plumber or an electrician provided the tradesman provides services for household emergencies only, and
(p) a business, person or organization that is granted permission to operate by the Minister of Health.
All of the businesses that I have just mentioned must cease to operate no later than 6 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and a Friday and may resume operations no earlier than 5 a.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or a Friday. This therefore means that these businesses are not allowed to operate on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday), except with written permission from the Minister of Health.
(1) The owner of a business or organization allowed to operate (as previously mentioned) must ensure social distancing is maintained during their operations. The following must therefore be done:
(a) establish measures that ensures customers and staff maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from another person both inside and outside the business or organization;
(b) determine the number of persons that may be permitted to enter the business or organisation at any one time by permitting one person for every thirty square feet of floor space;
(c) place distance markers six feet apart, inside the business or organisation to indicate where each customer must stand at the checkout point or in a queue;
(d) place distance markers six feet apart, outside of the business or organisation to indicate where a customer must stand while waiting to enter the business or organisation.
While we have made provisions for additional businesses to operate, there are other business establishments which are still not permitted to operate as the nature of these businesses will place persons at an increased risk of possible transmission and may also result in large gatherings.
Therefore, the following businesses are not allowed to operate, in this phase:
(a) a bar or nightclub,
(b) a restaurant, to include take-away or delivery service,
(c) a barber shop, hair salon, spa or similar business,
(d) a gym or other sports club.
All schools must also remain closed.
Further details on the order and explanations will be provided on Radio Montserrat.
I am aware that parents are asking, when will schools reopen? The answer is that no date has been set for school to reopen. The Ministry of Education will continue to update you on the plans it is considering for a smooth opening of schools when the time is right.
We all care for our children’s education and would want to have them back in school, but I am certain that none of us as parents, grandparents or guardians would want to send our children to school unless we are given that assurance that it is safe to do so. And I can assure you that the Minister of Education and his technicians have you and your children in mind. Therefore, everything which is humanly possible to find a workable solution to reopening schools, is being considered.
In the meantime, I ask that you be patient and continue to work with your child/children’s teachers as they continue to provide work for them at home.
Stay safe everyone, brighter days are ahead.
May God bless us all and may God bless Montserrat.