Fellow citizens, residents and Friends of Montserrat;
I was very concerned when I listened to His Excellency Governor Pearce on the Basil Show explaining why the wearing of masks in public is not mandatory on Montserrat. Like many on Montserrat and around the world, I beg to disagree with our Governor. Yes, many including scientists, doctors and Governments around the world who have successfully contained the spread of the coronavirus also disagree.
The whole point of social distancing is to prevent the spreading of the virus through droplets coming from our mouths when speaking, coughing or sneezing as well as through droplets emitted from our nostrils while breathing. These droplets can pass from one person directly to another person’s mouth or nostril or to a surface which another person touches. That is exactly why we keep a six-foot distance from each other.
There is scientific evidence now showing that droplets containing the virus can be propelled at distances of 20 plus feet when someone sneezes or coughs. This means that the best way to prevent the spread through droplets is to cover ones face with a mask or other face covering. That is why many Governments which are used to handling such viruses have made it mandatory to wear masks or face coverings when in public.
His Excellency Governor Pearce also stated on Basil’s show that the scarcity of masks is another reason for not making it mandatory for masks to be worn in public. Surely, Governor Pearce realizes that hand kerchiefs and other homemade face coverings will also significantly limit the spraying of droplets from the mouth or nose. Surely Governor Pearce should know that eminent epidemiologists and many medical experts around the world are insisting that a homemade mask is better than no mask at all.
Therefore, the lack of manufactured masks is no excuse considering that it can be a life or death issue.
I have repeatedly shared this evidence with our Governor, Hon Premier and Cabinet Ministers and urged them to make the wearing of masks mandatory. The Governor in particular continues to state that he and the Government of Montserrat are following WHO guidelines as well as advice from Public Health UK which do not yet recommend that wearing of masks should be mandatory.
In my view, wearing masks or face coverings to prevent the spread of droplets from the mouth or nose makes so much common sense I do not see why we should wait on WHO to tell us to do that. The Governments of Antigua, France, Italy, the Governor of New York and many others are presently insisting on the wearing of face masks or face coverings.
The refusal of our Governor and Government to heed this warning and follow good examples out there may be just like the refusal to shut down the St Patrick’s festival or even worse. Even Ireland shut down their St Patrick’s festival at a time when other countries shut down similar festivals and large events, but the Government of Montserrat, with the support of our Governor refused to do so.
This is an error which many of us did not fight hard enough to prevent, so I am not putting all the blame on our Governor and Government. So, please let us not make the same mistake twice.
I therefore, urge our medical advisers, our Governor and Government to seriously consider and heed this call. I ask you once more to insist on the wearing of masks in public; especially since it may also be the best way for us to come out of lockdown and go back to work in an environment where, as experts advise, the corona virus could be with us for many months; yes even following one lockdown after the other.
Yes, wearing masks in public may very well become the norm as part of an exit strategy. This decision to make wearing of masks in public a must may very well be a life or death decision for our physical bodies as it may be a life or death decision for our economy.
I once more call on His Excellency Governor Pearce, our Hon Premier and Government to heed the strong advice given in the most recent video by researchers in Finland which I have shared with them. I urge you once more to also heed the strong advice given just one month ago, on the 15th of March, 2020 by our own Monitory Council (on which our Hon Premier sits) that “the best action to minimize economic fallout from COVID-19 is containment supported by personal responsibility combined with proactive, and where needed, aggressive public policy”.
Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat, our lives as well as our economy may to a great extent depend, not only on Government’s actions, but on each and every one of us heeding this advice by wearing masks in public.