National Address By Prime Minister Dr. The Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell

Fellow Grenadians, the past few weeks posed a critical challenge for our health care  system but thankfully, we are emerging from what will likely be recorded as one of  the darkest periods of our country’s history.  

It has also been a very challenging time for leadership and decision-making, but I  have always been confident that we will get through this. The resilience of the  Grenadian people has been demonstrated in the past, and in this period, it is no  different – there is just something about our people and the indomitable will to  survive and to thrive. 

The crisis is far from over, but there is certainly a rainbow peeking through the  stormy cloud of sickness, death, unemployment, business closures and every other  impact this pandemic has wrought on our country. The road to recovery will be long  and steep, maybe with some undulating periods where we may seem to regress, but  ultimately, sisters and brothers, we will get through this.  

One of the most painful elements of this crisis is the number of deaths occurring in  a short space of time. Death is an inevitable part of life, but the sheer volume at  which we have been experiencing death in the last few weeks, was unprecedented.  It was extremely painful to see and to hear of so many families facing the sudden  loss of loved ones.  

It was particularly disconcerting to see the number of elderly citizens we lost, the  true gems of our country, those whose sacrifices laid the foundation on which we  stand today – their lives obliterated, in a flash, taking with them elements of our  culture, our heritage as a people. It is devastating and I am heartbroken by the sudden  loss of 130 of our senior citizens. I pray that the families of all the deceased are  comforted by the fact that their loved ones are resting in peace.

In the same breath, I must acknowledge that despite the loss of life, we ought to be  grateful because so many others have recovered and remain with us today. To date,  Grenada has recorded more than 4,300 recoveries from COVID-19. Some required  medical intervention and their recovery was hard-fought. Unfortunately, many  people waited too late to seek help and, in some cases, had it not been for the  expertise and the dedicated care of our medical team and the invaluable support  system within the health care sector, our numbers may have been higher. 

Therefore, sisters and brothers, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our team  of health professionals – doctors, nurses, community health team, orderlies, drivers,  cooks, cleaning staff, maintenance personnel and oxygen plant staff – just about  everyone who contributed to the care of COVID-19 patients, whether directly or  indirectly. We recognise that the health care system is a sum total of all its parts,  with each element contributing to the overall product and we therefore thank all of you for the critical role you play in serving the people of Grenada, Carriacou and  Petite Martinique.  

Sisters and brothers, the rate of infection continues to decline and the total number  of active cases similarly continues the downward trend, but this came at a  tremendous cost to others who were put on the breadline as non-essential businesses  were forced to close their doors. It is an ongoing challenge for Government to create  that delicate balance between safeguarding lives and protecting livelihoods, such is  the complex nature of this pandemic. 

Recognising the tremendous financial impact of the pandemic, Government has  initiated a second stimulus package that will benefit a wide cross-section of the  population, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Already, the COVID-19  Economic Support Stimulus Secretariat, at the Ministry of Finance, has processed  more than 1,500 applications with more than 500 approvals to date. Beneficiaries  approved for income support have already started receiving payments on October 1.  Those approved under SEED, will receive their first payments on October 15. In  addition, 55 small business loans worth about $600,000 and qualifying under the  stimulus package, have already been approved, to help business owners recover from  the impact of the pandemic and to stimulate operational growth and development.  

Given the positive trend we are now seeing and the optimism of the health experts,  that this will continue, the Cabinet has agreed on a number of measures that will in  essence, provide an easement of the regulations that have been in place for the last  few weeks.

Effective, October 5 and continuing until October 19, the nightly curfew will  continue, but will be adjusted from 7:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. 

The no-movement weekends will be discontinued. This measure has certainly  helped to curb the rate of infection, but health experts have continuously  indicated that we must learn to live with COVID-19, therefore it is imperative  that we seek to resume a degree of normalcy while continuing to safeguard  our people.  

Retail stores across the country will be allowed to resume normal operations  but we encourage store managers to maintain 50% capacity in store at all times  and ensure that workers and patrons alike, are following the recommended  protocols – proper wearing of masks, appropriate physical distancing,  avoiding large gatherings and regular hand sanitisation.  

Beaches will be accessible for an extended period, between 4:00 a.m. and 4:00  p.m. daily. 

In the food service sector, dine-in services will resume for fully-vaccinated  persons only. 

Gyms and fitness centres are also permitted to resume operation. Likewise,  day care centres and businesses in the beauty sector including hairdresser  salons and barber shops. However, there is one caveat which is based on  consultation with representatives in the private sector to help facilitate  continuity of operations in the event of future spikes that could otherwise force  another shut down of operations.  

Having consulted with stakeholders in the following industries and acting on their general recommendation, employees in the food service,  accommodation, fitness, beauty, child and elderly care sectors, must be fully vaccinated, or in cases where they have received only one dose, the second  dose must be administered within a specific period after the resumption of  operations.  

The re-opening of schools is widely anticipated by students, parents and  educators and while I am keen to see our children back in the classroom, our  primary concern must be their health and safety. The vaccination rate among  teachers and other personnel in the education sector is abysmal. The uptake of 

the Pfizer which is administered to children 12 and above, is also low at this  point. Against this backdrop, it is difficult for Government to announce the  re-opening of schools.  

Sisters and brothers, during the past few weeks, our vaccination numbers have  continued to improve, with latest figures showing that about 25,000 people are fully  vaccinated. In addition, more than 10,000 people are partially vaccinated, meaning  they have received the first dose of the two-dose regimen. This is a welcome  improvement in the number of persons opting for vaccination but we are still a long  way from where we need to be in terms of achieving herd immunity.  

I must recognise the role of volunteers in helping us to achieve the significant  increase in vaccinations. Over the past four weekends, teams of doctors, nurses,  ordinary citizens as well as faculty and students from St. George’s University volunteered their time to provide testing and vaccination clinics across the country.  This outreach effort, undertaken in collaboration with public health officials, made  testing and vaccination more accessible to many people and contributed to about  4,000 more people being vaccinated and the Ministry of Health being able to acquire  much more data on the extent of the spread of the virus across communities.  

On many occasions during those weekends, I acknowledged the enormous sacrifice  being made by the volunteers and it is important that I do so again as part of this  national address. Volunteers, thank you for your selfless service and partnership with  the Government of Grenada.  

Continuing on the subject of gratitude and patriotisim, I must acknowledge the  valuable contribution of our diaspora community – the doctors who have travelled  to Grenada to provide physical support to their colleagues on the frontline; the many  organisations and individuals, who readily donated supplies to bolster our inventory  and ensure that our health team is properly outfitted to execute the challenging tasks  they face. Several other initiatives are likely in the coming weeks, including the  provision of telemedicine service by our diaspora doctors.  

We are also grateful for the generosity of medical professionals from Cuba, Mexico  and Nicaragua who are currently supporting our own health care professionals. I  must acknowledge the sizeable donation expected shortly from Direct Assist, a  charitable organization based in the United States.

I have mentioned on many occasions, that getting through this crisis requires a  collaborative effort and I am pleased to see that many have seen the value in this  approach, volunteering where possible and initiating and engaging in the necessary  dialogue, making recommendations for improving this collective fight against  COVID-19. I must make special reference here to Brother Randal Robinson of the  National Democratic Congress who has been volunteering his service at vaccination  and testing clinics. I call on all to follow his example. 

Sisters and brothers, vaccine inequity continues to be a significant challenge around  the world, but we are thankful to our international partners who have ensured that  Grenada and our OECS and CARICOM neighbours receive this critical resource to  help fight the spread of the virus. Government is currently engaged in discussions to  source additional supplies of AstraZeneca and Pfizer. We anticipate a second  shipment of Pfizer in the coming weeks. 

The operations of Government have not been immune to the impact of the pandemic.  Several public officers have themselves contracted the disease and while we have  lost a few, the vast majority has recovered. We have implemented the necessary  measures to adapt to the new environment, including the rotation of staff where  necessary to ensure adherence to physical distancing, remote work where possible and greater emphasis on digital transformation and online services. We also 

encourage the continued enforcement of protocols across Government to ensure that  public officers and the people they serve are kept safe. 

Sisters and brothers, I close by saying, these unprecedented times require equally  extraordinary fortitude. For individuals and organisations alike, it is not a period for  the faint of heart, but we have persevered thus far and I must reiterate the need for  us to continue working collaboratively, in the interest of our people and our country.  It is imperative that we join hands regardless of political, religious or other  affiliation. That said, we must guard against complacency being allowed to  undermine the gains made. The reduction in active cases should motivate us to  become even more cognizant of the protocols, ensuring that we safeguard ourselves  and our loved ones, as we seek a return to some sense of normalcy.  

I thank you.