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PM Gonsalves talks about combating Covid-19 in St Vincent

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent & The Grenadines

St Vincent & The Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has no intention of imposing any State of Emergency or Curfew like Grenada to combat the deadly coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping across the world.

“We organise things in a scientific manner,” said Dr. Gonsalves in an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY.

“From early I realise that a state of emergency can’t control a virus, a curfew can’t control it. I began from a simple thing – we are animals and not plants,” he added.

According to Dr. Gonsalves, he choose to go the route of putting in restrictions to help control the spread of the virus in St Vincent.

“If I have no cases (of death) and I lockdown what do I do if I have 10 or 15 or 20?” he asked.

Dr. Gonsalves said that St Vincent & The Grenadines has often “fine-tuned its system” to tackle Covid-19 including putting more “boots on the ground” and engaging in testing and contact tracing of persons exposed to the virus.

The Prime Minister stated that he has also taken to the radio stations to talk to Vincentians about the virus.

He said that since Covid-19 was discovered on the island he never closed the country’s airport from flights, as well as its seaport and never closed churches from worship.

“It’s about educating people on the ground and make sure there is no intermingling,” he remarked.

According to Dr. Gonsalves, a strategy of his government in the fight against Covid-19 is to put in additional staff at polyclinics and rural hospitals.

“I have zero deaths and I never had anybody hospitalised for Covid and I ain’t have no frontline workers – no community spread, none of those things and I keep my fingers crossed,” he said.

The Vincentian leader told THE NEW TODAY that he has no intention of imposing any ban on Grenadians coming into his country in the wake of the recent spike in positive cases discovered on the island.

He said: “No. What I have done is that I put more boots on the ground. As you know I never locked down. I put restrictions but I have boots on the ground – a lot of nurses, doctors, put more people for the Coastguard and the police.

St. Vincent has required persons coming into the country to do a mandatory 14-days of quarantine before they are allowed into the community.

Up to Thursday afternoon, St. Vincent had recorded 284 positive Covid-19 cases and Grenada 132 to the World Health Organization.

On the economic front, Dr. Gonsalves said that his island has performed better than most of the other members of the sub-regional grouping known as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

He disclosed that the economy contracted by only 4% in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19 unlike some other islands which experienced -12 and over in contraction because of “the lockdown that affected economic activities”.

“Our economy contract 4% while the others (were) around 12% and 15% because I didn’t lock down,” he said.

In addition, the Vincentian leader said that unlike other OECS territories which saw revenue intake down by 20% in some cases, this was not the case in St. Vincent which saw its revenue go up by 4%.

According to Dr. Gonsalves, the figures will show that the revenue intake by some OECS territories were down 25 to 30% for the first eleven months for 2019 when compared to the same period in 2020, while on his island it was by a mere 4%.

“If you come to St Vincent you will find an air of normalcy. I don’t have it perfect. I have been giving money to some people every month. People who lost their jobs and have diminishing income. We are still doing it up to today,” he said.

“Depending on how this thing (Covid-19) going I will have to do it up until March. I have to help – if I don’t there could be a blood bath on the street,” he remarked.

Dr. Gonsalves disclosed that each month every worker gets $300.00 to buy food, farmers get free fertilisers and a number of other things as incentives.

“They (farmers) got $500.00 as a one-off payment and another $500.00 for the Christmas holiday,” he said.

The Vincentian Prime Minister disclosed that his government spent $3 million in 2020 to help people earn a living through a debushing programme.

He said that he is confident of doing it because every dollar given to these people, the government gets back 40 cents through VAT sales.

Dr. Gonsalves was proud to boast that St Vincent sells a lot of agricultural food products and cattle to Grenada and singled out an individual in Grenville, St. Andrew popularly called “Cow Pen” who buys a lot of cattle from his island.

When Hurricane Ivan ravaged Grenada in September 2004, most of the agricultural food eaten by Grenadians came in from St. Vincent on small vessels.

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