Fellow Grenadians, Carriacouans and Petite Martiniquans, the Christmas season is fast approaching, and I know many of you are filled with eager anticipation for this festive time of the year, when social gatherings are quite popular.
This year however, must be recognised as one with a difference. The Covid-19 pandemic poses a very real and serious threat to us all and we must adapt to the new circumstances. The news emerging in recent days about the sudden spike in positive cases of Covid-19, originating mainly from Sandals Grenada, demonstrates the grave danger we face from this dreaded disease. Further, it underscores the need to constantly adhere to the recommended protocols. Any deviation from what is recommended puts us all at risk.
Therefore, sisters and brothers, my advice at this time is – Do Not Drop Your Guard, Maintain the Covid-19 Protocols at all Times. Many of us were lulled into a sense of complacency because up until the detection of this cluster, our case numbers have been relatively low and very few cases have been diagnosed at any given time. Now, the grim reality is that as many as thirteen people in a single household have tested positive for the virus, a situation that can be replicated many times over, based on the number of staff who have been infected. While we empathise with the hotel staff and their affected families first and foremost, we have also taken immediate steps to address the situation. The Covid-19 Committee has directed the Ministry of Health to convene an urgent meeting with the owners of Sandals Grenada.
Obviously, there was a breakdown in the hotel’s application of the recommended protocols and while we seek to determine the exact nature of this breakdown, we must as a Government, enforce the law where breaches have been determined. We have already committed to revisiting the protocols under which hotels operate to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to protect the health and safety of employees.
As the Ministry of Health continues to spearhead our valiant efforts to keep Grenada safe, I encourage all citizens and members of the business community, to continue working in partnership with Government, in the fight against the novel coronavirus. This partnership is even more critical now as we deal with the cluster of Covid-19 cases, which has affected dozens of our nationals and which poses a threat to the capacity of the healthcare system.
The harsh reality is that Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, with some places experiencing second and third waves of infections and being forced into lockdown mode again, as a containment measure. Here in Grenada, we have so far avoided the need for more severe measures, due in large part to the rigorous protocols implemented and which you have abided with, for the most part.
Sisters and brothers, the magnitude of the newly identified cluster, signals in no uncertain terms that it cannot be business as usual this Christmas season. It will not be wise for us to sacrifice a few moments of pleasure or monetary gain this Christmas, only to face possible severe health consequences and even death in the aftermath. I therefore appeal to one and all, to exercise restraint and to be responsible.
The current situation is indeed alarming, but I must assure you, it is under control. It is important that we continue to maintain the balance between protecting lives and saving livelihoods, without having to resort to another period of lockdown. Therefore, Government has identified a number of short-term adjustments to the Covid-19 protocols to enable health officials to intensify their surveillance, monitoring and all other necessary actions to prevent the situation from escalating. Effective 15 December, 2020 all social gatherings, including weddings and funerals will be restricted to 10 persons. Permission must be sought for any additional numbers. It is recommended that all sporting, cultural and community-based events should be postponed for the next 7 days.
Further, also effective 15 December, business operations must cease at 10 pm, except for those businesses that offer essential services. Daytime operations will continue as normal; therefore, there is no need to engage in panic-buying, exposing yourselves unnecessarily to situations that can enable the potential spread of the disease. Restaurants should provide only take-away service and public transportation will stop at 10 pm, except where authorised by the Commissioner of Police to transport essential workers.
My fellow Grenadians, the general level of compliance with the new regulations will determine our next course of action, that is, whether or not we have to escalate the measures. Government therefore appeals for the full cooperation of all concerned. A nationwide shutdown is not the preferred option, but we must all work together to avoid this. On this note, Government applauds the initiative already taken by some members of the business community to adjust operations in the interest of public safety. We welcome this collaborative approach to fighting the pandemic as Government by itself, cannot win this battle.
The midst of the festive season is a difficult time to impose restrictions, but it must be done in the interest of public good. We are well aware that from the village shops to the major supermarkets; from the roadside vendors to restaurant owners and storekeepers; from promoters to operators of entertainment hotspots, Christmas is usually a time to enjoy significant profits given the heightened level of activity. I am sure many of you were looking to the season to recoup some of the losses incurred during what has been a very challenging year for operations in both the public and private sectors. However, I say to you, while business operations are largely premised on the ability to maximise revenue, do consider the potential price of that highly sought-after profit this year. Is it worth a few dollars to jeopardise your life, the lives of others, or the future of your business operations?
To the shoppers and the fun-seekers, the protocols are in place, but they can only be effective through compliance. Therefore, as I have been doing from the onset of the pandemic, I urge you to wear your masks at all times, observe the required social distancing and sanitise frequently.
It pains me to ask anything further of the population as we have all had to sacrifice so much this year, but these measures are in the interest of every one of us and my priority is keeping this entire nation and its people safe. My friends, I cannot stress enough the important role we all have to play in safeguarding each other from the detrimental impact of the deadly virus. Keeping the nation safe, requires our individual and collective responsibility, therefore the onus is on all of us, to maintain that status.
Sisters and brothers, we must be particularly grateful this year for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us, because despite the challenges of the pandemic, God has shielded and protected this nation. When we look at regional and international news, it is clear that we have avoided the true wrath of this pandemic. We therefore thank God for keeping us safe and we pray for his continued protection.
It is important here to recognise the critical role of the Ministry of Health, our healthcare team and all other frontline workers, in managing the pandemic here in Grenada. They have worked tirelessly over the past few months, to ensure that all possible actions are taken to safeguard the lives of all Grenadians. The contact tracers for example, have been operating in overdrive in recent days, as we seek to determine the true extent of this cluster. We owe them and all other frontline workers a debt of gratitude and I use this opportunity to again say thank you – thank you for selflessly putting the needs of the nation and its citizens above your own, thank you for selflessly going beyond the call of duty. On behalf of the Government and people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, we appreciate all of you.
Sisters and brothers, the psychological impact of the pandemic cannot be disregarded. The immense challenges brought about by the pandemic has significantly affected the psyche of many and their ability to cope. Therefore, even as we follow the social distancing guidelines, we must not abandon our peers and loved ones, particularly those who are finding it more difficult to cope. The impact of Covid-19 dictates that now more than ever, we should be our brother’s keeper, looking out particularly for the elderly and the more vulnerable among us.
The pandemic has not only tested our resilience, it is also testing our patience. Conflict resolution has become a much bigger challenge and I use this opportunity to encourage one and all to resort to more amicable means for resolving our conflicts. The increased sensitivity we are experiencing requires us to be less hasty in our reactions. We have seen all too well that our inability to settle disputes peacefully have led to an increase in the number of homicides recorded across the country. Therefore, I urge restraint as we tackle situations of conflict.
It is an opportune moment for me to also encourage the amicable resolution of industrial disputes. With so many of our brothers and sisters on the breadline due to the fallout from the pandemic, I am of the view that the focus at this time should be on preserving jobs, rather than threatening or resorting to industrial action. We recognise and respect the rights of all workers but we are also cognisant that we are currently operating in a new environment that requires us to think and act differently.
To the most vulnerable among us, rest assured that this Government is committed to helping you meet your basic needs. As outlined in the 2021 budget, Government will continue all of its social programmes and we have in fact increased the allocation for the Ministry of Housing, Social Services and Community Empowerment by 28.6% to $60.2 million. This includes the introduction of a new programme designed to support households headed by single parents to help them cushion the adverse effects of the pandemic.
In closing, sisters and brothers, I assure you that this administration continues to be a Government for and of the people. We are committed to participatory governance, as most recently demonstrated through the series of face-to-face meetings in every constituency. We truly value you as an important partner in the democratic process.
The unprecedented impact of the pandemic has left governments the world over, in constant pursuit of the happy medium, and the fluidity of the new environment requires a similarly fluid decision-making process that is rigid enough to command compliance, but agile enough to facilitate the flexibility that is needed. Additionally, the new reality brought about by the pandemic further underscores the need for collective action. I therefore encourage all citizens of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique to continue working with us to keep our country and our people safe. Together, we will get through this.
I thank you.