By Caribbean News Global contributor
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — Delivering an address to the nation on Sunday, March 15, 2020, leader of the opposition Dr Godwin Friday called for the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to immediately close all schools, and suspend public gatherings of more than 100 people to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Accordingly, as leader of the opposition and president of the New Democratic Party (NDP) “my statements and recommendations on the matter are intended to help the efforts to slow down the spread of the virus and prevent serious illness and loss of life in SVG,” Friday stated.
He continued: The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we all work together, without political partisanship, to combat the virus. So, we know that the virus is here. In neighbouring Saint Lucia, two cases have been confirmed. Other countries in the region have also reported cases. We cannot test for the virus in St Vincent and the Grenadines and must send samples to Trinidad and Tobago to be tested.”
St Vincent and the Grenadines has one confirmed case of COVID-19, Friday stated; and that, in many countries around the world, governments have acted to reduce the spread of the virus and protect lives.
“Among our Caribbean neighbours, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Grenada, St Maarten and Montserrat, have closed schools and restricted public gatherings. This has been done even where there is no confirmed case of COVID-19. Emphasis is being placed on what is referred to as social distancing to reduce the risk of catching and transmitting the virus.”
The opposition leader called on the government to implement similar, strict measures are implemented in St Vincent and the Grenadines, “to stem the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of illness.”
Friday, therefore, called on the government to implement the following measures:
- Close all schools effective immediately and schedule reopening, at the earliest, after the normal;
- Easter vacation ending April 13, 2020, during which time the decision should be reviewed;
- Suspend public gatherings of more than 100 persons and the police cease to give or cancel permission for public gatherings involving over 100 persons;
- Suspend the recently announced travel incentive;
- Urge public transport providers to sanitize their vehicles regularly;
- Urge employers to permit employees who can do so to work from home;
- Suspend for the remainder of the season visits by cruise ships;
- Require travellers from the USA and the UK to be in-home quarantine for 14 days and discourage foreign travel by Vincentians living in SVG until further notice;
- In consultation with financial institutions including the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the IMF, and the World Bank, develop an economic relief package to respond to the economic hardship resulting in SVG from the pandemic.
Over the past three months, the opposition NDP has been holding public meetings in villages across the country. However, following the advice given, Friday stated:
“In light of the recent developments locally and internationally concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, including the confirmation of one COVID-19 case in SVG, I have taken the decision to suspend the meetings and other large gatherings until further notice.”
Additionally, Friday strongly advised that Vincentians should desist from spreading inaccurate information.
“Throughout our country, there is justifiable fear among our people. Don’t make it move from fear to panic by spreading inaccurate and sensational stories and misinformation, especially on the ubiquitous social media,” he said.