With Covid-19 infections on the downward trend in Grenada in the past two weeks, the island’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has announced a lifting of the measures including a weekend lockdown of the country that were introduced in an effort to grapple with the situation.
In a mid-morning National Address on Tuesday, Dr. Mitchell told Grenadians that the Cabinet has agreed on a number of measures that will provide for an easement to the regulations that have been in place for the last few weeks.
He said that effective Tuesday night and continuing until October 19, the nightly curfew will be adjusted from 7:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. and no longer extend to 5.00 a.m. and that the no-movement weekends which started at 5.00 p.m. on Friday until 5.00 a.m. Monday will be discontinued.
“This measure has certainly helped to curb the rate of infection,” he said.
Grenada has seen a massive spike in Covid-19 cases from 172 on August 5 to over 5000 within a mere six weeks and a death toll of over 160 – the second highest in the sub-regional grouping of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
According to Dr. Mitchell, the 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”.
He announced that:-
- 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.
- 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 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.
Prime Minister Mitchell also addressed the second stimulus package unveiled by government to offer assistance to Grenadians whose livelihood has been badly affected by the deadly virus which first showed up on the island in March 2020.
He said 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.
He said that those beneficiaries approved for income support have already started receiving payments from October 1 and those approved under the stated-administered SEED programme will receive their first payments on October 15.
In addition, he said that 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.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that the past few weeks in which Covid-19 cases soared “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,” he told Grenadians.
“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,” he added.
He went on to say: “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”.
According to Prime Minister Mitchell, one of the most painful aspects of the Covid-19 crisis for him relates to the number of deaths occurring in a short space of time.
“… 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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
The figures seem to suggest that 130 of the 162 persons to have died on the island up to Monday night are elderly citizens.
Several of them are known to have contracted the deadly virus at homes for the Elderly around the island in which unvaccinated staff members are suspected to pass on the virus to them.
“It is devastating and I am heartbroken by the sudden loss of 130 of our senior citizens,” said the Prime Minister.
The Grenadian leader praised the efforts of those health professionals who went beyond the call of duty to treat persons affected by the virus.
He said: “…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,” he said.
Noting that the rate of Covid-19 infections and the number of active cases on the island are on the downward trend, he said this came at a tremendous cost to others who were put on the breadline as non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors.
Prime Minister Mitchell pointed out that vaccination among Grenadians is on the increase and that this is a positive sign in the fight against Covid-19.
“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.
The Prime Minister also acknowledged the “gratitude and patriotisim” demonstrated by overseas Grenadians who heeded the call of the government for assistance in the fight against the deadly disease.
He said: “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 sizable donation expected shortly from Direct Assist, a charitable organization based in the United States”.