Author: Hon Donaldson Romeo | Date: 09 April 2020
On April 9th in a letter to both the Governor of Montserrat and the Premier, Member of the Opposition Donaldson Romeo stated;
"The People of Montserrat are personally responsible for what they do individually and in their homes. However, once they leave their homes they walk into the areas under Government control. So the main question that needs to be answered is: How effective are you, our Honourable Premier and Cabinet in enforcing good physical distancing and, in so doing, limiting the spread of the coronavirus in public places, including where essential services are carried out? In other words, how is the spread of the coronavirus (via infected droplets in the air to other persons or surfaces we all touch) in public places being prevented and contained?
For this is indeed the whole purpose of enforcement by legislation and having frequent Cabinet meetings. Clearly, if Cabinet’s decisions through discussion and consensus are not appropriate, adequate and properly funded, then those who follow Cabinet’s lead in implementing those decisions will fail.
• Why is it that weeks prior to, and one week into the lock down, members of the public are allowed to enter the premises of supermarkets and banks without having their hands sanitised?
• Why are the elderly being taken by frontline workers (themselves highly exposed to viral infection) from their homes to the bank and then to the very same supermarkets to purchase food during lock down?
• Would the delivery of a package of food to homes of the vulnerable not significantly lessen their exposure to contracting the virus and thus be less of a health risk and economic cost to the Government and entire community?
• Will the unemployed and needy not be forced to break isolation at home by reaching out to others for food and other basic needs?
• Will those who have no transportation of their own not seek the assistance of a neighbor or friend living in a different location?
I repeat the call for you, our Honourable Premier and Cabinet to be more proactive, aggressive and strict in implementing policies which help to contain and control the spread of the coronavirus. As a start I suggest:
1. that all persons leaving their homes and at work on the front lines be required to wear masks (manufactured or homemade). We can show the way by doing that ourselves every time we got out of your house!
2. That, as soon as possible, sufficient funds be made available to reach and help as many as possible, national or non-national, in addition to those in the tourism sector, who, especially since the lock down, are unemployed and in need. Why is tourism a separate category?
3. that a method of delivering financial and food packages be devised which does not undermine the effect of isolation and the containment of the coronavirus.
4. the same goes for delivering cooking gas to people’s homes.
5. that assisting with utility and telecommunication bills be a part of the financial packages being offered to the needy, including those on social welfare who are mostly the elderly. This will ensure relief to the needy, income for the providers, that all can be communicated with and have electricity and water for cleaning, cooking and essential purposes. Most of all it will lessen person to person contact between hundreds leaving their home to wait in line and pay bills.
6. a bonus be considered for Doctors, nurses, health and other overstretched front line care workers.
7. that car licensing due in the month of April be postponed Until May 31st, 2020.
8. that GoM encourage insurance companies to cover losses or extend their clients’ insurance coverage until May 31st when payments would become due.
9. that the sanitising of hands be required at the entrance to all public and private premises where essential services are delivered, and that staff be provided with materials for washing and disinfecting their hands and surface areas while at work.
10. that every effort be made to acquire the necessary equipment for targeted testing, which seems to be emerging as a key part of a successful strategy of containment and elimination in a context where the virus is spread, undetected, by people without apparent symptoms.
Unless Montserrat gets a firm grip on containing the spread of the coronavirus through practical policies, stricter measures and a more aggressive overall approach along with a call for greater personal responsibility, the agony we suffer may be prolonged. For, already, experts are predicting one or more onward waves, similar to the three waves of the Spanish Influenza in 1918 to 1920.
Montserrat’s economy is already hard hit by this lock-down, and many are expressing to me the hardships they face. With God’s help, we must find a sustainable solution.
I sincerely hope that, as a start, the concerns I have raised and the suggestions made will be of positive influence and support to you, our Honourable Premier and Cabinet in the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
Hon D. Romeo