Dear Hon Premier,
The Government of Montserrat, in the interest of public safety, have taken the decision to prevent public gatherings of more than 50 persons, along with the closing of schools for a specific period. The Ministry of Health in a recent press release informed the public of the investigation into a suspected case of COVID 19. These recent actions would naturally trigger concerns and questions from the public.
There are obvious serious implications presented by the threat of the Coronavirus COVID- 19.
The negative implications, along with the safety of the people must be taken into consideration, as we take a holistic look at the situation.
The Government of Montserrat must immediately make representation to the British Government to assist with compensation for residents and businesses due to the far-reaching social and financial impact of COVID-19.
The abrupt ending of the St Patrick’s Festival will also have consequences for the local economy due to the loss of such a great economic booster.
The closing of schools will require some parents to stay at home, away from work, but it is not clear who will pay those persons while they are absent from work. Clarification is immediately required for those persons who may have to be in self-isolation or in quarantine and cannot attend work.
There are associated hardships that will impact businesses, and also promoters who have lost heavily on their investments in the St Patrick’s Festival. Income from events has been lost, and jobs too have been lost. How will the Government move to assist these developments?
The Government must give assurance to the public of any representation it may have already made to the British Government to assist financially with compensation, and the Government must inform the people of Montserrat of the response from the British Government.
The British Government in its own budget presentation outlined its financial support to businesses and persons as a result of the negative impact of the COVID-19. Given Montserrat is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, the expectations are that Montserrat should be given priority to receive assistance from the UK during this global pandemic.
There are a number of questions about the state of readiness of the Government that was asked by the Opposition at least a month ago.
These questions still remain relevant and still require some answers.
What is the list of equipment the Government has purchased, or received otherwise to deal with the Coronavirus testing for symptoms, also testing to verify if positive or negative for the virus, and also caring for patients who show a positive result? Can you confirm if equipment on the list are on island and operational? If not when will they arrive ?
We are all aware that there are challenges with the healthcare system on Montserrat. If Coronavirus were to become a reality here, has the Government made representation to the British Government for the Navy Hospital vessel, and their personnel to assist our local medical staff in coping with any potential COVID-19 outbreak?
In addition to those questions, for persons who are asked to self-isolate, or for those who will be quarantined for 14 days - including those exposed but have not shown any symptoms - who will compensate them for extending their airline tickets if this should take them beyond their initial return date to their places of abode? They will also incur other expenses and absence from work related issues. Does the government have a plan in place to address these matters?
We currently have students abroad studying at institutions such as the University of the West Indies. With the Coronavirus impacting classes and tuition delivery, what is the Government’s plan to ensure the well-being and protection of our students currently away from home in this time of deep uncertainty?
Government and employers are responsible for making sure all necessary preventative and protective measures and procedures are put in place at the workplace.
What is the Government’s plan in addressing effective infection prevention and control in Government owned workplaces towards the safeguarding of occupational health and safety within the workplace?
I look forward towards receiving a comprehensive response to the issues raised, and an outline of the Government’s plan of action going forward.
Hon Paul J. Lewis
Leader of The Opposition