Leader of the Opposition Paul Lewis is asking for clarity on the government’s decision to place the island under a 24-hour lockdown as well as to share the long-term plan for managing the island’s restoration to normal operations after the COVID-19 crisis dissipates.
In a two-page letter also sent to the press, the Opposition Leader requested of Premier Farrell details on how the additional funds approved by the UK government is to be allocated.
“Hon Premier, from the last press conference held with the media, it became very apparent that you, nor any of your Cabinet members have a clear justification as to why you placed Montserrat under this new 7 day 24-hour lockdown. I understand that we are working to beat COVID-19 here on island, but your Government already had in place strict measures to include a curfew period and the closure of businesses operations, not to include non-essential services. Therefore, what is the new damning evidence that your CABINET received that prompted this 7-day lockdown decision? Also, kindly tell us what evidence you will be keeping an eye out for, so as to lift this 7-day, 24-hour full lockdown of Montserrat?
“Furthermore, Hon Premier, there are several questions which I would additionally like you to address: Firstly, during this period of lockdown that can quite probably extend for many months, what will be the COVID-19 testing protocol going forward?
“In addition, how will Government determine when it is safe enough for the island to move towards a phased approach to come out of this lockdown period? Is there a Strategic Plan? If there is one, then what is it?
“The public needs to know.
“Montserrat is still without our very own on-the-ground testing facilities for COVID-19, and we are running short of protective gear for those who are bravely working on the frontline. Every frontline worker must have sufficient adequate protective gear at all times, considering the risk to their own health as they work to keep us all safe.
“…the public deserves to know when the first shipment of gear from UK will arrive on Montserrat, and you must also indicate the list and numbers of each item received in this shipment. Government must inform the public if any complete testing equipment will arrive in this first shipment from the UK, or if we must wait for another shipment before complete testing can be done on island. If so when will this other shipment arrive?
“After the public have expressed disappointment with such long wait for shipment from the UK, it seems it could very well be a more extended wait before we can test suspected COVID-19 cases here on island.
“In one instance we were told that the equipment was to arrive by Friday April 10th, 2020. However, in a recent press conference you stated that there are transportation issues holding up this delivery, but you now expect shipment to arrive by this Friday, April 17th, 2020. Hon Premier, was this a guessing game on your behalf, or have you been given assurances that the much-needed equipment will certainly arrive by this weekend?
“Testing facilities right here on island will allow persons quarantined, even if not displaying symptoms, to be tested. Health staff and essential workers can then also be tested in case they too have been exposed. Before returning to work more speedy testing can also be done, so each person is assured that the persons they will be working alongside are not COVID-19 positive. It goes without saying also Mr Premier that the turn-around time for all testing will be shorter once they are being done here on Montserrat.
“Another area of concern is the present practice of allowing positive patients to isolate or be in quarantined in the same house with other members of their household, as this increases the chance of spreading the virus. I do hope this will be rectified soonest.
“I must take this opportunity to commend the Ministry of Health in seeking additional health staff to supplement our own local staff. Can the Government provide an update on the arrival of the Cuban medical team, and other additional staff?
“It’s understood that the lockdown could last for three months initially, however a stimulus package was only announced for businesses in the tourism sector to receive help firstly.
“This stimulus package was announced on April 1st, All Fool’s Day. I do hope this date was just a coincidence and that the people are not being fooled by your Government. Many other sectors and workers are directly affected by the lockdown as you are very well aware. It was stated stimulus packages will be rolled out for these other sectors, yet no time frame was given, and the response to this wider concern from your Government seems quite elusive.
“The public deserves to know the amount of funds and source of funds for the remaining stimulus packages for the other sector workers, as was promised by the Government. It should be clear which sectors and workers are to be included in the remaining stimulus roll out.
“Will construction workers, mechanics, body workers, cleaners, gardeners, grass cutters, self-employed, heavy equipment operators, barbers, hairdressers, sand miners, stevedores, fishermen, farmers, small business operators and the likes – will any of these workers benefit from a stimulus package funded by the £2.5 million?
“Hon. Premier the public should be given a breakdown of the agreed spending for the £2.5 million said to be received for funding COVID-19 response activities.
“The Opposition is asking The Government of Montserrat to be transparent by providing that break down to the public without delay.”