With Grenada’s Covid-19 cases swiftly moving over the 1,000 mark, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell on Friday night announced a series of measures aimed at curtailing what he described as “the realisation of our worst fears” that there is now Community spread of the virus on the island.
In a 25 minute radio and television broadcast to the nation, the Prime Minister said this is the sad reality of the COVID-19 pandemic as within the past two weeks, the virus is now spreading rapidly among Grenadians.
He said the COVID-19 situation in Grenada has “deteriorated rapidly” and government is forced to implement new measures including a lengthening of the hours for the nightly curfew and the closing of a number of businesses in order to try and grapple with the situation.
The Prime Minister told Grenadians that the curfew will now start from tonight (Saturday) at 7.00 p.m. instead of 9.00 p.m. and end at 5:00 a.m. daily.
Dr. Mitchell disclosed that government would also impose a weekend lockdown of the country for a two-week period beginning on September 10.
“…No movement days will be enforced from 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 10 to 5:00 a.m. on Monday, 13 and again from Friday, 17 to Monday 20.
“During these no-movement days, the Ministry of Health will facilitate greater access to testing and vaccination within communities. No movement will be permitted, except for purposes of testing and vaccination”.
“These measures will remain in place for the next two weeks in the first instance. However, the pandemic remains fluid and we will continue to review response mechanisms and make the necessary adjustments”.
According to Dr. Mitchell, there will also be no inter-island travel between Grenada and its two sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique which are said to be free of the virus.
In recent days, residents there have been calling on their elected Member of Parliament, Legal Affairs Minister, Kindra Maturine-Stewart to take steps to prevent persons living on the Mainland from visiting the two islands.
Prime Minister Mitchell said that anyone who is granted exemption to travel between the islands must take a rapid antigen test before departure.
He stated that the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) and the commercial ports of entry into Grenada will remain open but government is continuing to examine the entry protocols, relative to the quarantine period.
“… It must be appreciated that any decision taken, will require advance notice to travel industry stakeholders and holiday-seekers,” he told the nation.
Grenadians have been taking to Social Media platforms in recent days to call for the 2-day quarantine for incoming passengers at MBIA and other points of entry to be lengthened after it was discovered that some of these people were testing positive for Covid-19 on their way out of the country.
Describing the situation as dire, Prime Minister Mitchell warned that it cannot be business as usual and that changes are necessary to the sectors that will be allowed to remain open in the local economy.
He said: “While there will be continuity of operations in some sectors including the public service, statutory bodies and state-owned enterprises, manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail grocery, banking, transportation, agriculture and fisheries, it has become necessary to implement closures in non-essential sectors to help limit the movement of people and curb the spread of the virus.
“Closures will include daycare centres, salons, barbershops, gyms and indoor entertainment facilities. Schools will offer virtual classes only. St. George’s University will continue operations, with strict adherence to the protocols”.
“Doctors, dentists, veterinarians, accountants, lawyers and insurance companies are permitted to operate by appointment only. Pharmacies and hardware stores remain open for pick-up and delivery services only”.
“All social activities, sporting events and weddings have been suspended. Funerals are permitted but are restricted to one hour between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and noon. Beach access is limited to 5:00 to 10:00 a.m. daily”.
Dr. Mitchell announced that the recently started debushing programme aimed at putting money into the pockets of the poor and vulnerable in the society will be affected by the new measures being implemented by government.
“The debushing programme which created jobs for thousands of daily paid workers across the country, will be suspended for two weeks, starting Monday, September 6. We recognise that this will be a hard-hitting measure for some of our most vulnerable citizens, but it is one that has become necessary,” he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that these containment measures are being put in place “to ensure that we protect our fragile fiscal position through continued economic activity while safeguarding the continued physical, mental and emotional well-being of our citizens”.
He also lauded the announcement made by the religious community on the island to resort to virtual services for the next two weeks.
“We welcome this initiative and ongoing collaboration with critical stakeholders,” he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell also used the occasion of the national address to make an appeal to Grenadians to join the efforts of government in helping to beat back the rapid spread of Covid-19 on the island.
He said: “Effectively dealing with this pandemic requires us to have all hands on deck and Government welcomes all strategic partnerships”.
“I want to remind you that as citizens, we have the power to stop COVID-19. We can control it through responsible actions, restricting our own movement, wearing a mask or appropriate face covering in public spaces, maintaining our physical distance and washing or sanitising our hands frequently.
“Easy steps, which, if followed consistently by everyone, can immediately stem the current trend. For now, our priority must be on achieving absolute unity in the fight against this unseen enemy. Our energies must be singularly focused on navigating through the current crisis and I cannot stress enough the importance of doing so collectively”.
“I call on all leaders within the community – church, business, trade union, political, sports, culture, social and other media influencers – just about everyone who has a sphere of influence over any sector of the society, let us please put aside personal and organisational differences and join hands in working towards promoting and achieving the behavioural change that will ultimately protect our people. We have a moral responsibility to do this”.
“My friends, this crisis is not insurmountable. As a people, we are battle-tested and resilient. We can and we will get through this, together”.
Prime Minister Mitchell made an emotional plea for volunteers “to help support the work of the Ministry of Health as it undertakes surveillance and vaccination efforts throughout the country”.
“Help us to help you and together, we will help all of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique,” he said.
The Grenadian leader alluded to the fact that if Grenada’s Covid-19 infection rate continues to spiral that the island could lose its prestigious position with both the UK and US governments.
He said: “Sisters and brothers, although our borders remain open, the current rate of infections could negatively impact travelers wishing to visit our country.
“Grenada is now on the UK’s green watchlist, meaning that we are at risk of being moved to the amber list which stipulates quarantine measures for their returning nationals, a deterrent to leisure travel that will affect visitor arrivals and further impact the hospitality sector.
“Additionally, Grenada could lose its coveted Level 1 rating by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States”.
In the face of criticisms in some quarters of the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by Health Minister Nickolas Steele and Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shawn Charles, Prime Minister Mitchell hinted that now is not the time to address the issue.
“The time will come for us to do a deep dive, a thorough analysis of Grenada’s COVID’s experience,” he said.
Last night, the Ministry of Health released figures to show that a record 281 persons tested positive for the virus on Friday and that there are now 868 active Covid-19 cases on the island.
Since the virus first showed up on the island in March 2020, the total number of persons confirmed as positive in Grenada now stands at 1098 which is still the lowest in the Windward Islands.