Weekly COVID-19 Update from Premier Joseph E. Farrell

Premier Joseph Farrell Official Photo

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 enjoying life for what is worth—together we give God thanks.
Sadly, last week Montserrat recorded its first COVID-19 death. l take this opportunity on behalf of the government and people of Montserrat, to express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased.
I pray that the God we serve would comfort them in this their time of bereavement.
Today, I wish to recognise a number of groups who have given of their time and effort in serving this country during this crisis.
I applaud, the men and women in uniform, members of:

  • the Royal Montserrat Police Service,
  • the Montserrat Fire, Search and Rescue,
  • the Royal Montserrat Defence Force,
  • the Montserrat Red Cross.

I show appreciation also to the many public servants, who in spite of the lockdown and other measures taken by the government, continue to avail themselves to the service of our people, and this island.
To our utility service providers and the many private sector businesses who never hesitated to open their doors to the public when called upon to do so, sometimes at very short notice—Thank you very much.
To all front line workers who have been caring for the sick including our coronavirus patients, whether they are in government facilities or at home, whatever roll you are playing we certainly appreciate your contribution.

Gift from the Government of Dominica
Last week, the Government of Montserrat received a gift from the Government of Dominica. The Prime Minister of Dominica, Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt, has donated two ventilators and 1000 rapid test kits to the people of Montserrat to assist in our fight against the Coronavirus disease.
The Ministry of Health accepts this gift with gratitude, and on behalf of the People of Montserrat; I wish to express our thanks to the Prime Minister for his generous contribution.

COVID-19 Care and Relief Packages
The Social Services Department continues to deliver food packages to persons who requested them, and to date 718 food packages have been distributed.
Household and self-employed persons, benefits In the meantime, the department has assured me that they are doing everything within their powers to enable payments to be made in line with COVID-19 assistance to households and self-employed persons.

It is the government’s desire to have these monies paid out as early as possible, but we do understand that having received applications a system for payment must be implemented to facilitate this. This is nearing completion and very shortly persons should be receiving cash allowances.
If you have not registered as yet for any of the benefit packages please do so by calling the Social Services Department at 491-2880, 491-5307, 491-3895 or 495-7491 between the hours of 9:00a.m. – 4:00 p.m. If you have contacted them already, there is no need to call again.

Tourism Sector Payment
I have also been advised that cheques for persons in the tourism sector have already been prepared and should be deposited to your bank account. If you have applied and you have not received your cheque, please be patient it will be coming.

Assistance to other businesses
The application process is still open for employers of other businesses to apply for salary support for their employees.
Please take the time to fill out the application form and return to the Ministry of Finance, via email by Friday May 8, 2020.
You can only receive these benefits by applying.

Management of COVID 19
Today, I am pleased to report as I did last week, that the island has not recorded any new cases of the coronavirus disease since April 12.

As at this morning, April 29:

  • 2 persons have fully recovered
  • 7 cases are still active
  • 32 persons are in quarantine, and
  • the results from 3 samples are pending.

Sometime today we should receive the results of the three pending samples, and if they return negative that will be additional good news.
The signs are showing that the island has been moving in the right direction in curtailing the spread of the virus, but may I remind us that we are in no way near the end of this pandemic.
The science tells us that countries can expect a second wave, which could be worse, because countries would have hastened to return to the normal way of life too soon.
Your government will take the advice of the health professionals and act accordingly.
The government’s ambition is to be in a position to undertake island wide testing for the virus and for this to become a reality it is absolutely imperative that we equip the health team with the required resources.
To this end, I have been informed, that a testing machine should be on its way along with some testing kits. Once they arrive and the relevant training has been completed the country will be in a better position to track, trace and test for COVID-19
It is only through a wider testing regime will we be able to identify persons who may be asymptomatic, trace their contacts and reduce the spread of the virus.
But even then, some of the actions which your government would like to take, to free up its economy would be partly dependent on actions taken by some of our neighbours.
Clearly everyone wants to get back to work, all of us want to be able to visit our favourite restaurants and spend time with our families and friends. Some are longing to go to the hair salon and barbershop like myself, but the time is not
quite right yet; we will get there but it will take some more time.
Residents and friends we are coming close to the end of our second full 7 day, 24 hour lock down.
I understand your pain, I feel it as well and appreciate the discipline and patience which you have exhibited during the past 6 weeks, as government introduced measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the population. I know it is not easy, but I wish to assure you however that I am in this with you, your government is in this with you, and we will all come out of this together.

Measures from May 1 to May 7, 2020
Today, I wish to report that while government’s priority is to protect the health of the population, it is also important at this time that some attention be given to reviving some aspects of our economy.
The Order now in place which provided for a total lockdown with some exceptions will be amended as an interim Order, as government seeks to identify and expand on the list of businesses and services it would allow to operate.
To this end, as of 12:00a.m Friday May 1 to Thursday May 7, 2020 at 12:00a.m., the following measures will be in place.
The following businesses may operate daily as follows—

  • banks, from 8 a.m. to 2 pm;
  • a gas station, from 8 am to 6 pm;
  • a bakery, from 8 am to 6 pm;
  • a grocery store, wholesale businesses or agricultural produce businesses, from 8 a.m. to 6p.m;
  • a money transfer business, from 8 am to 6pm;
  • a business connected with fisheries, at a time approved by the Minster of Health and
  • a water, electricity, telecommunications or internet service providers may open from 8a.m. to 4 p.m. to receive bill payments.

During the period 1st May, 2020 to  8th May, 2020:
Apart from the essential services and business providers, a person may leave home during the curfew to—

  • shop for necessities to include food, medicine, fuel or other necessities
  • conduct a banking transaction;
  • Exercise
    • Engage in an activity to include running, walking, swimming, alone or with one other member of the same household, each day.
    • These exercise activities must be done during the hours of 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., remaining at all times within a distance of one mile from your home.
    • Please note that a motor vehicle is not to be used to get to and from the place where these activities are being done.
  • Funerals – During this period;
    • A funeral may be conducted; and persons can therefore attend a funeral
    • The gathering for the purposes of a funeral is a maximum of fifteen persons to include the officiating pastor, the funeral director and assistants.

Social distancing
During this period, social distancing must be adhered to at all times and establishments must display social distancing markers inside and outside of their establishment.
While shopping customers are encouraged to protect themselves by wearing masks in crowded areas, and also walk with an umbrella and water when leaving home.
The number of customers inside of any business establishment must maintain a distance of 6 feet from each other.
The number of persons allowed to gather in a public place remains at four.
This is an interim measure until Friday May 8th when additional businesses and services will be added, in what will be phase-one of the reopening of the economy.

Phase-one of the phased reopening of the economy
We have reached out to a number of stakeholders and have received some positive feedback, we thank everyone for their valuable contributions and wish to assure them that we will use the information received as we proceed with a
phased-approach to opening up the economy.
Consideration will be given to areas such as:

  • Landscaping;
  • pool services;
  • hardware stores;
  • sand minding; and
  • some types of construction activities, with control on the number of persons allowed to operate, among other COVID-19 health and safety provisions.

We are on the right track and we want to remain that way. Let us work together to manage COVID-19 while at the same time government will work to restore hope to our people.
May God bless all of us!