PR – Fellow Grenadians, we have arrived at a critical juncture in our fight against COVID 19! In the past week, 20 of our fellow citizens, residing right here among us, have tested positive for the disease. They are our family, our friends, our colleagues, the school mates of our children. My friends, the risk of exposure has never been greater.
Earlier this week, health officials disclosed the emergence of what appeared to be a cluster of cases, linked to a number of unauthorised social activities. In the ensuing days, the ministry undertook massive contact tracing and testing in various communities, to determine the extent of the locally transmitted infections.
The epidemiological situation continues to unfold, and to date, Grenada has recorded 211 cases since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Currently, there are 30 active cases and 20 of these persons have no recent travel history. This is the single most concerning factor as it confirms local transmission of this dreaded disease. Further, two of the positive cases are minors, one as young as five years old. This in particular, breaks my heart. I wish them all a speedy recovery.
More than 140 persons are currently in isolation and health officials are continuing the arduous task of tracing the contacts of the infected and getting them tested. The situation could get worse, before it gets better, but we remain prayerful and steadfast.
Three clusters have so far been identified and are directly linked to private parties and unauthorised events in St. John, St. George North West and St. George North East, all of which were attended by more than 20 persons. None of these activities were granted permission by the Royal Grenada Police Force and there was general non
compliance with established protocols. In addition, some of the same individuals who attended these events and tested positive, also participated in the carnival-like activities in Gouyave and Sauteurs during last week. In short, sisters and brothers, we had a series of super-spreader events during the week of August 8-15.
Based on the science, and the multiplier effect with respect to transmissibility, it is likely that the number of infected persons could rise further in the coming days. Additionally, if it is in fact the Delta variant that is circulating in Grenada, the rate of infection can be much higher, but we await confirmation of that from the Caribbean Public Health Agency when they have tested the samples provided by the health team.
In hindsight, we can easily cast blame and point fingers, whether to revised protocols or a greater demonstration of personal responsibility and compliance with the regulations, but the fact is, we are where we are. As with many other issues of national importance, this administration has repeatedly advocated collaboration and in this ongoing fight against COVID-19, our recommended approach remains the same. We must work together, we must unite, we must synchronise our efforts, particularly during this challenging period. I commend all the citizens of this country who have diligently followed the protocols and played their part in this fight. Encourage your peers to do the same as we work towards the common objective of surviving COVID-19.
This morning, I convened an emergency session of the Cabinet, for my colleagues and I to collectively identify the way forward. Our backs are against the wall, but as responsible leaders, we will take the necessary actions, maybe sometimes unpopular ones, to continue safe-guarding the people of our beloved country.
There will be changes in the COVID-19 Regulations as of midnight, therefore, effective Saturday, August 21, 2021, the curfew will be implemented at 9:00 p.m. and end at 5:00 a.m. daily. All approvals already granted for social events, including private parties, bus tours and boat rides, within the next two weeks, have been rescinded, with immediate effect. Therefore, there should be no social gatherings, inclusive of weddings and funerals, with more than 20 persons present and which do not comply with the stipulated protocols. These measures will remain in effect until September 3, 2021 and I encourage full compliance as the revised protocols are intended to protect us all.
Sisters and brothers, the measures are not intended to be punitive, they are necessary actions which we believe will help to contain the spread of COVID-19 here in Grenada. Countries around the world continue to grapple with finding the right combination of measures that will effectively address their national situation. Over in neighbouring Dominica, just days ago, the Government extended the daily curfew for another week and included a total lockdown this weekend. In Jamaica, my colleague Prime Minister has just announced several no-movement days in addition to daily curfew hours. And in New Zealand, the confirmation of the first case since February triggered a national lockdown, with more cases having since been identified.
My friends, this pandemic, and more so, the emergence of variants such as Delta which are far more transmissible and deadly, require swift and decisive action to save lives. And this is exactly what Government intends to do, with the measures announced.
By themselves, these measures will be useless if we do not all accept personal responsibility for our actions. Here, I must underscore the importance of adhering to all of the COVID-19 protocols that have been in place for more than a year – the wearing of the masks in public spaces, maintaining physical distance, and washing or sanitising hands frequently. I cannot emphasise enough, the importance of us all working together, for the common good. We cannot afford complacency, we cannot afford irresponsible behaviour, we cannot afford wanton disregard for the recommended protocols and the rule of law; this is a battle to be fought on multiple fronts. My friends, let us work together, we can win this war, COVID-19 will not defeat us!
Sisters and brothers, even as we focus our energies on containing the spread of the disease, we must also continue to promote vaccination. The number of persons who have been vaccinated remains unacceptably low. We are jeopardising our own ability to survive this crisis if we do not arm ourselves with the measure of protection that is readily available.
For several months, we have had the AstraZeneca vaccine available here and while close to 18,000 Grenadians are now fully vaccinated, some have expressed hesitancy and the need for a different option. We have listened to your cries and thanks to the generosity of the United States administration, we have now received, 29,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The Ministry of Health will begin administering this vaccine from Monday, August 23, thus making available to Grenadians, two options from which they can choose and giving parents for the first time, an opportunity to protect their children as young as 12 years old. Let us choose life and make good use of the availability of those vaccines.
Vaccine equity poses a serious challenge around the world, but we are blessed to have an ample supply of vaccines to safeguard a sizeable portion of our population. Herd immunity is the goal, attaining it will give those unable to be vaccinated, a better chance at surviving this health crisis. Let us be our brother’s keeper. The life we save could be your parent or grand-parent, another close family member, your friend, a colleague from work, a classmate from school, a church brother or sister. Just this week, Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church described getting the coronavirus vaccine as “an act of love”. I fully endorse that sentiment and you should too. My friends, let us show love, love for ourselves, our families, our friends, our country – get vaxxed today, it’s an act of love.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence showing that unvaccinated persons are those most at risk now. In the United States, the statistics show that nearly all COVID 19 deaths are happening among those who are unvaccinated. Here in Grenada, while thankfully we have only recorded one death, health officials have confirmed that among a group of five persons recently exposed to the virus, four tested positive, while the lone vaccinated individual, has not contracted the disease. Vaccinated persons who have contracted the disease, are experiencing much milder symptoms.
My friends, the power is in our hands, let us make the right choice to protect ourselves. I have done it and I continue to encourage all who are eligible to get vaccinated. The science is clear, the vaccine will not prevent you from contracting the virus, but in the event of a breakthrough infection, persons are not likely to experience severe symptoms and to require hospitalisation.
I must at this point, issue an appeal to our social partners and all persons of influence in the society, to be more vocal in the fight against COVID-19. The Government is doing its part, we are continuing to take the necessary measures to protect lives and safeguard livelihoods; we are continuing to ensure that public officers are paid in full and on time; we are continuing to create the enabling environment that promotes economic activity, but we need your help. We need you to stand with us, as partners in this process. Your choice to lend your voice could mean the difference in whether or not we continue to wage a successful battle against this dreaded disease, which is unrelenting in its attack on human beings around the world.
In closing, I want to acknowledge and to profusely thank our frontline team. Without your leadership and daily sacrifices, this journey would have been far more difficult. Your unfailing commitment to duty has seen us through the challenges and I am confident that here again, through your incessant efforts, we can get through this.
My friends, for three decades and more, I have served the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, There have been good times and bad, but no period has ever been this challenging for me. I am thankful for the strength of my support team, without whom, our country’s success and development gains would not be possible. It is my duty to lead this country, one which I take very seriously, but leadership isn’t always about being out front, leadership is also about empowering those around you and building capacity. I know that I am only as good as the strength of my team and this team is prepared to work in collaboration with all of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique to get us through this crisis. We are doing our part and we are counting on you to do yours.
Sisters and brothers, let us continue to be safe, protect yourselves, protect each other. I thank you.