The Grenada government, acknowledging that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic “is far from over” says it has initiated a second stimulus package that will benefit a wide cross-section of the population, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in a radio and television broadcast to nation on Tuesday, said that his administration has recognised the “tremendous financial impact of the pandemic” on the population.
“Government has initiated a second stimulus package that will benefit a wide cross-section of the population, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Already, 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,” Mitchell said.
He said beneficiaries approved for income support have already started receiving payments on October 1 and that those approved under SEED, will receive their first payments on October 15.
“In addition, 55 small business loans worth about EC$600,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) 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,” Mitchell added.
Prime Minister Mitchell said that given the positive trend now being seen in the country and the optimism of the health experts, the Cabinet has agreed on a number of measures that will in essence, provide an easement of the regulations that have been in place for the last few weeks.
He said effective October 5 and continuing until October 19, the nightly curfew will continue, but will be adjusted from 7:00 pm. to 4:00 am (local time) and that the no-movement weekends will be discontinued.
“This measure has certainly helped to curb the rate of infection, but 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.”
Mitchell said that retails stores across the country will be allowed to resume normal operations but the government was encouraging store managers to maintain 50 per cent capacity in store at all times and ensure that workers and patrons alike, are following the recommended protocols, including the proper wearing of masks, appropriate physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings and regular hand sanitisation.
He said beaches will be accessible for an extended period, between 4:00 am and 4:00 pm (local time) and that 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.
“However, there is one caveat which is based on consultation with representatives in the private sector to help facilitate continuity of operations in the event of future spikes that could otherwise force another shut down of operations.”
He said having consulted with stakeholders in the several 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.
Mitchell said that 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 the 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 said that during the past few weeks, the 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 regiment.
“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,” he said, praising the role played by volunteers in helping health authorities 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 vaccinations 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.”
Mitchell said while he was grateful to the diaspora and others for assisting in the provision of medical supplies to Grenada, his government was 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 sizeable donation expected shortly from Direct Assist, a charitable organization based in the United States. I have mentioned on many occasions, that getting through this crisis requires a collaborative effort and I am pleased to see that many have seen the value in this approach, volunteering where possible and initiating and engaging in the necessary dialogue, making recommendations for improving this collective fight against COVID-19.”
But he said he also wanted to single out the leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Brother Randal, who has been volunteering his service at vaccination and testing clinics, adding “I call on all to follow his example”.
Mitchell acknowledged that vaccine inequity continues to be a significant challenge around the world, but Grenada is thankful to its international partners who have ensured that the island and other member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) receive “this critical resource to help fight the spread of the virus”.
He said the government is currently engaged in discussions to source additional supplies of AstraZeneca and Pfizer and anticipates a second shipment of Pfizer in the coming weeks.
“The operations of Government have not been immune to the impact of the pandemic. Several public officers have themselves contracted the disease and while we have lost a few, the vast majority has recovered.
“We have implemented the necessary measures to adapt to the new environment, including the rotation of staff where necessary to ensure adherence to physical distancing, remote work where possible and greater emphasis on digital transformation and online services,” Mitchell said, encouraging the continued enforcement of protocols to ensure that public officers and the people they serve are kept safe.
He said that Grenada is facing “unprecedented times” that require equally extraordinary fortitude.
“For individuals and organisations alike, it is not a period for the faint of heart, but we have persevered thus far and I must reiterate the need for us to continue working collaboratively, in the interest of our people and our country.
“It is imperative that we join hands regardless of political, religious or other affiliation. That said, we must guard against complacency being allowed to undermine the gains made. The reduction in active cases should motivate us to become even more cognizant of the protocols, ensuring that we safeguard ourselves and our loved ones, as we seek a return to some sense of normalcy,” Mitchell added.