I address you yet again, on the serious health challenges presented by the emergence of COVID-19 – this time compounded by some incomprehensible behaviour.
Glued to our television screens and other sources of information, we have seen how this pandemic has gripped the world. First in Wuhan, China, then to countries in Europe, to Australia, to the United States – almost every country in the world has reported cases of this virus. Yet we seem not to fully grasp the magnitude of the threat before us.
We have seen in the most graphic detail how healthcare systems in the most developed and advanced countries of the world have been falling apart and collapsing under the weight of this virus. Still, some of us fail to recognise or appreciate the gravity of the situation facing us.
We have witnessed dozens of patients lying in corridors in hospitals in Spain, and some of us continue with business as usual. Hundreds dying in Italy; funerals suspended, and the army called in to remove bodies…but some of us totally ignore this eventuality.
Fellow Grenadians, our country is facing this unprecedented public health threat.
On Sunday, we discovered our first laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19. The patient is now stable, and the healthcare officials continue to monitor her condition.
The implication of this disease in our population is that urgent and immediate action is required to identify and curb the spread.
In our attempt to do so, we have closed our borders. Our Ministry of Health has called for a change in our cultural and social practices; introduced measures like social distancing; and appealed to the reasoning of people’s consciousness.
Sadly, dear citizens, many have ignored these appeals. Grenadians returning home, and other visitors to our shores, have failed to comply with the voluntary requests to self- quarantine; and people can be seen up and down the country, carrying on as though these are normal times; but they are not.
At this stage, with the presence of the disease circulating within the population, and based on medical scientific projections, if we fail to give effect to the serious steps required to contain, curtail, identify and isolate this virus, Grenada will pay a significant price.
Moreover, many are using this crisis as an opportunity to play politics, or to peddle rumour, thus causing unnecessary fear and panic among the population. Sisters and brothers, this is not the time. There are no heroes in war; and make no mistake, this is a war, and the enemy is COVID-19.
Again, I urge you to listen only to the official sources such as the Government of Grenada, and in particular, the Ministry of Health, for your regular updates. Friends, as a Government, we have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by withholding critical information from you, the general public.
No one is immune to this disease. That is why we must all act and react responsibly.
Against that backdrop, fellow citizens, I am compelled to recommend the declaration of a limited State of Emergency, in order to give the medical authorities the necessary mechanism by which we can enforce stemming the community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In this regard, therefore, I am asking the Governor General to declare a limited State of Emergency in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, for the next 21 days.
This will take effect from 6:00 p.m. today, and will put a limit on a wide range of normal activities.
Citizens will be allowed, between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., to leave their homes only to conduct certain designated activities.
In the United Kingdom, where the disease is now galloping at a significant pace, and from where our first case, and most other cases now in the Caribbean have come, there are now limitations and new sweeping powers given to the police. The restrictions there call for everyone to avoid contact as much as possible.
What we are doing in Grenada is nothing less; but necessary in the battle against this dreadful disease.
Friends, these measures are not meant to punish anyone, but they are designed to ensure that this disease does as little damage as possible, to the Grenadian people and the Grenadian economy.
Sisters and brothers, I recognise and call on the religious community in our midst, who have constantly held us up, as a nation. Now more than ever, we need your spiritual guidance and your prayers. We need words of grace to cover our nation and people.
Sometime during the next 21 days, the entire nation should be called to prayer, at an assigned date and time, whether we are at home or work. I leave it to our religious leaders to design the modalities, and I thank them in advance, for their guidance.
Brothers and sisters, before closing, I must salute all the health care workers in our country: doctors, nurses, orderlies, maintenance workers, cooks, cleaners, administrators— all those who work in the medical industry, and who are at the frontline of this fight.
I thank and recognise the many volunteers: the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, the Red Cross, the Cadet Corps, and all those who have rallied to ensure, in some way, that COVID-19 is contained, and ultimately defeated.
I also thank the rank and file of our armed forces, who at this time, have the difficult task of maintaining law and order.
I recognise the frontline workers in the other sectors who served and those who continue to serve our population in the various economic sectors
I call on each and every citizen to be responsible, patriotic and cooperative.
Regulations will be announced immediately after this address, and I urge the general public to pay close attention and to observe the restrictions outlined.
Let us all do our part to keep ourselves and the rest of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique safe.
I thank you.