The following is the full text of Premier Joseph E. Farrell’s weekly update to the nation.
My fellow Montserratians, residents and friends of Montserrat, warm greetings to all of you!
Many, if not all of us, know of someone whether on Montserrat or overseas, who has been personally afflicted by the coronavirus disease. Some have overcome and are able to share their testimonies, others are still fighting, and sadly some have lost the battle. So, I wish for all of us to pause for brief moment to remember persons who have succumbed to COVID-19 some we know, others we do not but they are in our thoughts and prayers; may their souls rest in peace.
To our front line workers here at home and those in CARICOM and indeed across the world, we extend our sincerest appreciation for the work you are doing in caring for those who have been adversely affected by this disease. To the extended family of health workers— thank you very much.
I observed the movement of persons over the past two days, as you went about securing essential supplies in preparation for the extended shutdown, as part of measures to control COVID-19. I noted a mixture of emotions—some smiling as they were able to interact with others; some persons visibly tired or frustrated with the waiting period, which would naturally be longer than normal as only a few customers at a time are able to access services. As uncomfortable as it was for some of us, I truly appreciate your understanding of the present situation and your willingness to cooperate.
Today is the last day for shopping, before we return to another 7 days of total shutdown and may I remind us as I often do; the measures are put in place to reduce and contain the spread of the coronavirus and consequently protecting all of us.
COVID -19 Update
The science tells us that in the absence of a vaccine, treatment or cure for COVID-19, we will all have to live and work with this virus. And while the island has not recorded any new cases since April 12, there were ten active cases at that date.
- 2 persons have since fully recovered.
- 8 cases are still active
- and the number of persons in quarantine has been reduced to 27.
This is indeed good news, providing some indication that the lockdown is working. However, we should not be overly optimistic at this time as the virus has a way of re-emerging, as a result we cannot lay down our guards.
We do have a long way to go before the island is returned to normal; it could be months and maybe years, before we no longer feel the effects of COVID19 on our economy, our health system, our families, and indeed our social integration activities. But, we will be victorious.
The governments’ intention is to be able to test every person on island for the coronavirus, in this way the Ministry of Health team will be able to identify persons who may be carrying the virus but are not displaying symptoms. Unfortunately, this will not be possible immediately, as we await word on the arrival of a testing machine and test kits.
In the meantime, I urge all of you to continue practicing social distancing, maintain the required hygiene practices, and please stay at home.
At the same time, I am appealing to persons who might be displaying COVID -19 symptoms to please contact and visit the flu Clinic in St Peters which is open, Monday to Friday from 9:00a.m. – 5:00p.m., after hours and on weekends persons should call 491-2802 or 491-2836 or 491-2552. Please do not go to the Hospital Casualty department.
We are aware that the country cannot remain in lockdown mode indefinitely, and that is why government is seeking to put in place measures geared towards opening up some businesses and services, incrementally. We will be soliciting input from the private sector and other stakeholders as we work to reinstate some services to the population.
However, during any period of a phased reopening of businesses, we will be guided by the science and the Ministry of Health will continue to vigorously monitor and manage COVID–19 on island, and measures will be modified as
Arrival of Cuban Medical Team
I am pleased to provide a further update on the medical support from Cuba. The Cuban Medical team has been assembled and the logistical arrangement for their travel to Montserrat is being worked on. We look forward to their arrival as it will be a welcome relief to the overstretched medical staff. Their arrival date will be announced at another time.
Last week, I announced that efforts were being made to stream line operations to allow for one central distribution network for public enquiry. However, due to technical difficulties the system cannot facilitate this operation, as initially planned, where an operator at the DMCA would have been able to connect callers to their party based on their needs.
Nonetheless, persons can still call the DMCA at 491 3076 from 8:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. and will be advised on appropriate numbers to call, based on their need or requests.
Care and relief packages
Efforts continue to ensure that individuals and families affected by the COVID-19 economic fallout are able to receive assistance. To date, the number of food packages delivered from the food bank amounts to 480. The Social Services
Department is working diligently with partner agencies on this initiative, even as they continue to make improvements to these operations to be able to better serve you and meet your needs.
Persons can now call the Department of Social Services and register for the various benefits packages under the government’s stimulus programme. These programmes were designed to cushion the economic hardship which households and individuals are experiencing, as a result of COVID19 fall out.
Persons can qualify for assistance and register within the following groupings:
- single low income earners
- Large family low income earners
- Vulnerable families whose children are on the lunch programme list
- Persons in quarantine
Additionally, an unemployment benefit package is available, providing financial assistance to;
- Persons who are registered as self-employed;
- Persons who lost their job after March 27;
- Persons who were unemployed before March 27, 2020.
Registration for this assistance is managed by the Social Services Department. You are encouraged to call and register. The numbers to call are 491- 3895, 491 – 5307or 495 3895 between 8:00 am and 4 :00 p.m.
In the evenings and on weekends, please call 495 5307, and 495 5308.
Tourism Sector Payment
I also wish to report that applications received under the tourism sector are being processed and payments will be posted to given accounts shortly.
Assistance to other businesses
Assistance to other businesses across all sectors is also available. Applications are now being accepted from employers of other businesses who may wish to apply for salary support for their employees.
Business owners are asked to take the time and fill out the application forms and return to the Ministry of Finance, on or before Friday May 8, 2020.
2nd Lock Down
After a three-day break, the island will once again return to lockdown starting at 12:00a.m. on April 23 (midnight tonight), this can be seen as a continuation of the previous measures which were in place as of April 13.
I recognize that it is not the ideal situation to be in but the situation demands it, if we are to break the chain of the Coronavirus.
Tomorrow will be a new day and while we are free to exercise within our immediate surroundings, (no more than 1 mile from your home), we will all remain at home; bearing in mind that the only businesses which will be allowed to open are:
- Doctors office
Along with the essential service providers, which were identified under the April 13th arrangement.
Only persons with passes will be permitted to be on the roads and they must carry their ID’s, and must only be engaged in the task for which the passes were issued and within the specific timelines.
Please continue to listen to Radio Montserrat for regular updates on the restrictions which are in place for the next seven days.
I want to leave us with a quote from the Director General of the World Health Organization (W.H.O). “COVID-19 is taking so much from us but it is also giving us something special: The opportunity to come together, as one humanity- to work together, to learn together and to grow together.”
Indeed, this coronavirus pandemic has robbed us of so much, but it has restored some of the values which we as a community have lost over these many years.
- It allows us to be still, and to recognize Gods creation, something which we have not appreciated for a long time;
- It provides us with a relaxed moment which we just couldn’t find for ourselves;
- It allows us to rest, restore and to be renewed for the months ahead;
- It allows us the opportunity to strengthen family bonds;
- It has given parents an opportunity to be involved in their children’s education;
- It provides us with the time which we could not have found to do so many things at home;
- It allows us to get in touch with the friends who we have not spoken to for such a long time;
- But more so, it allows us to see our country and our world as one.
Staying at home is not all negative; staying home is not so bad after all.
For the next seven days let us obey the law; and stay at home. We are all in this together for the good of each other:
Please stay safe everyone. And may God continue to watch over us all.