Issue Date: May 20, 2020
My fellow Montserratians, residents and friends of Montserrat I extend warm greetings to all of you.
God has truly been good to us on this island; in spite of all, when we observe what continues to happen globally were COVID-19 is concerned, we know that by God’s mercy we have come this far, and we give him thanks.
Last week in my weekly message, I reported that the number of active cases of Covid-19 on island at that time was down to one, and that the number of persons in quarantine had significantly reduced.
Just a few days later, on Friday May 15th to be exact, the Ministry of Health reported that our remaining active COVID19 patient had fully recovered. I am indeed pleased and proud that that after two months of managing the Coronavirus disease on island, the number of active cases on island is down to zero, there are no suspected cases at the moment and the number of persons in quarantine has reduced to two. The flu clinic is still open and persons are reminded that if they are exhibiting any flu like or other COVID-19 related symptoms they should visit the flu clinic immediately.
Having said this, I must remind us all that the Coronavirus Disease might still be around, even though no one is displaying symptoms, and as a result each of us must continue to protect ourselves and those around us, while the Ministry of Health, the government and other stakeholders work together to develop protocols for businesses, the workplace, schools and all other institutions. These protocols will be geared towards safeguarding the population, further reducing the threat of the virus, while we continue to reopen the island for business.
I noted last week that it matters not how much we work to keep the virus under control, there are no guarantees that it will be totally eradicated; hence we may have to co-exist with COVID-19 for some time to come.
To date, there is no cure for the virus and while the entire world waits, as labs race to develop a vaccine, no one knows for sure if and when one will be developed, tested and be available for mass distribution. In the meantime, let us continue to do our part in trying to protect ourselves and mitigate the threat of the virus through the measures of social distancing, and proper hygiene.
My brothers and sisters it is commonplace and perhaps even human nature for some of us to become complacent and very relaxed, especially when we now know that there are no known active case of the virus on island.
• We might soon forget that we must keep our distance.
• We might soon forget that we must wear a face covering when visiting crowded place, or while communicating with others who are not members of the same family.
• We may soon forget to practice safe hygiene by washing our hands properly at all times with soap and water, using hand sanitizers, and sneezing and coughing into our elbows or napkins, and disposing of the napkins properly.
• We may soon forget that we must still exercise with only member of our own household.
• When the beaches are opened, we might soon forget that COVID-19 could possibly still be in the air.
But, as the reopening of the island continues, and more persons are on the streets or in business places, I urge you to be vigilant, as though there are eleven active cases on island, be a part of the solution and not the problem.
On May, 7, 2020 a phased reopening of the economy began and I promised that each phase will be assessed, and guided by the information available from the Ministry of Health, measures will either be relaxed or reintroduced. This is the environment in which we are operating and we can never be certain, the science will therefore dictate the speed at which the country will return to some level of normality; however it will not be business as usual.
Of course, we want you to return to work, we want to allow you to exercise at free-will and we would want you to eat from your favourite restaurants.
I am therefore pleased to report that Cabinet having assessed the activities which were allowed to take place in the first phase of the reopening (13 days ago,) and having viewed the level of responsibility displayed by businesses, service providers and you the residence, Cabinet has agreed to allow some other additional businesses to reopen and the easing of some of the other restrictions as of midnight on May 22nd, 2020.
Starting on Friday May 22, at 12:00a.m:
• There will be a nighttime curfew from 8:00 p.m. -5 :00 a.m.
• There will be no weekend lockdown.
• There will be no restrictions on the times persons are allowed to exercise.
• All retail stores will be allowed to open.
• Restaurants and cook shops will be open, but for TAKE AWAY ONLY.
• No restrictions on construction work—All level of construction will be allowed.
• Visits to Margetson Memorial Home and the Golden Years Home are open to immediate family members only.
These are in addition to the businesses and services which are already in operation, since the first phase.
However, all businesses allowed to operate must be able to:
• Show that they are in a position to adhere to the social distancing requirements, and display markings of such inside and outside of their establishment.
• Be able to manage the number of persons inside the business place at any one time.
• Businesses must provide evidence that they have a plan for regularly disinfecting door knobs, trollies, refrigeration handles, and other tools and equipment being frequently touched or handled by workers and clients.
• And, provide hand sanitizers for employees and clients.
CLOSURES STILL IN EFFECT
While we have made provisions for additional businesses to operate, there are some which still must remain closed.
• The borders remain closed.
• Schools remain closed. (The Ministry of Education will give updates to teachers, parents and students on plans to reopen school and the holding of exams).
• Hairdressers and Barbershops are to remain closed.
• Bars are also not allowed to open at this time.
Information with regards to the Public Service, as to how it will continue to provide service to the public during this time, will be provided by the Office of the Deputy Governor. Radio Montserrat and the Government Information Unit (GIU) will keep the public posted, as soon as this information becomes available.
Gatherings still remain at four and preferable should be with members of the same family or household.
You will notice that businesses which are allowed to operate in the different phases are based on the level of risk. The risk level is determined by the number of persons that can encounter or come into close contact with each other, and the ability of the establishment to adhere to social distancing inside and outside of the premises.
As we continue to work together to restore some level of normality to our lives, let us not forget that COVID-19 is still a major concern; as it was when we started two months ago.
In this season, the only thing that has changed is that there are no known active cases on island at this time, and some businesses are allowed to open.
Even while we experience what appears to be a lull in known COVID-19 cases here, I can assure you that the Ministry of Health and the health team will continue to improve their techniques in identifying, tracking and tracing the disease while the lab technicians sharpen their skills in testing.
My sisters and brothers, as always, I remind us all to work together and protect each other from any resurgence of COVID-19.
We are in this together and we will come out victorious.
May God bless all of you and may he continue to watch over Montserrat.