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Due to the virulence of the virus, the incidence of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the New Corona Virus) could greatly overwhelm the coping capacity of our health system in Dominica if we are not successful in adequately slowing the disease or preventing its further spread. This is likely even if we had prepared as best as we could to treat people who develop severe symptoms of the disease. Given that likelihood, all appropriate international assistance that our country can access at this point must be welcomed and, in that regard, we welcome the assistance from Cuba and the People’s Republic of China.
As of yesterday (Thursday 25th March) according to the government of Dominica, there were 11 confirmed cases of COVID 19 and there were 29 persons under observation – persons who came into contact with one of the two initial cases. This can quickly become a nightmare for our country, as it did in China and as is happening in Italy and other countries. Since there is no treatment to cure or build human immunity to the virus at this point, the only weapon that the world has at its disposal is to slow the social spread of the virus in order to allow health systems to cope.
If all countries act in a timely and appropriate manner, the spread of this virus can be contained and ultimately the virus can be eradicated in humans. To be most efficacious, there ought to be strict actions to limit the social and community spread of the disease.
Dominica must quickly learn the lessons from China, Italy, Spain, South Korea and other countries. The Dominica Freedom Party believes that a lockdown of the Country for about three to four weeks in the first instance would be most useful in combating the COVID-19 virus. While we would have preferred the government to act much earlier to significantly curtail social interactions even though totally precautionary, we the citizens must look past this point and do what it takes from now onwards to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, we encourage all to adhere to the current advice of our public servants to practice social distancing and to stay at home if one has no essential reason to be in public. But we further advise the government to consider the need to tighten the current proposed restrictions including travel to areas of the country currently at the centre of the outbreak if.
We are facing a grave risk to the health of many of our citizen and the plight of our already- crumbling economy, and though it has become difficult to trust our government under the leadership of PM Skerrit, we the citizen must do all in our power to support the efforts of the government to contain the virus where we judge these efforts to be appropriate. In that vein, the Dominica Freedom Party will continue to put views in the public domain that the government is free to use, as they have done in the past. However, as a political party, we will look out for the best interest of the people and, in so doing, seek to expose any instances of abuse of power, the exercise of partisanship, and we will generally seek to help prevent our nation from descending in anarchy - an outcome that can emerge from lack of trust in the leadership of the government to adequately manage such a grave danger to a people.
As a show of good faith, we call on the Prime Minister and his political regime to desist from using this crisis as a political tool. For instance, we note that the Prime Ministers statement at the press conference of Wednesday 25th March was replete with political intents, while with the same breath, he asked others not to make the fight against COVID-19 a political matter. This approach is un-helpful and the Dominica Freedom Party ask that the PM to remove all politics from the country’s attempt to effectively deal with COVID-19, to include, containing its spread, attending to the sick without political considerations, and treating with the adjustment of the country once the pandemic has passed.
At this point in the fight against COVID-19, the DFP would like to make some additional suggestions to the government and the people of Dominica in that regard.
First, to avoid any chaos, the Ministry of Health should prepare and make public, a prioritization ranking policy for the care and treatment of persons with severe symptoms of COVID-19, including the use of respirators. This is to prevent disorder in the event that the number of severe cases of COVID-19 outstrips the number of beds or ventilators available for treatment.
Secondly, we recommend that the government reconsider the intention to admit mild cases of COVID-19 to the temporary 30-bed hospital that has been established at Portsmouth. This is because many of these mild cases may not require hospitalization and could recover at home, and hence should only be brought to the hospital if symptoms are sufficiently acute. While admitting mild cases to the facility for observation may be feasible when there are few cases, it could quickly become untenable if the number of severe cases rise well above the admission capacity of the 8-bed intensive care isolation unit established at the China Friend Ship Hospital in Roseau. Moreover, if these mild cases can recover at home without hospital admittance, then admitting them represents a waste of resources and yet would do little to prevent the spread of the disease. Instead, we recommend that there be ongoing education of the public as to when to seek testing for COVID-19 and medical intervention.
Thirdly, we suggest that during the period of restricted social interactions and quasi-lockdown, that adequate attention be paid to the ability of the people to access essential services and food. This means, for instance, paying attention to the ability of some persons to purchase food where they are unable to secure wages and where they don’t have savings or social support systems that they can otherwise access. Moreover, there needs to be adequate arrangements to allow persons to access the supermarkets, food stores and essential services including medical services. That may mean for-instance, encouraging adequate private sector organization to allow adequate supplies at village stores so that people can access these without the need for public transportation. Furthermore, there should be adequate sensitization and preparation of the operators of public transportation with regards to the safe carriage of passengers to supermarkets or to access essential services. We are aware that some public transport operators are already withholding services given fear and inadequate knowledge.
Fourthly, during the period that our children will be kept at home, preparation should be made to provide teaching instruction or learning guidance online so that children will be occupied during the normal school hours. We suggest that discussion be entered into with the two major telecommunication service providers to allow this to happen in a sustainable way, without the need to place families under greater financial burden, without a high financial burden to government beyond bearing a portion of the incremental cost for internet connectivity, and with due regard to the moral responsibility of these service providers.
Though we know that the economy was already under significant contracting stress prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are aware that the pandemic will have additional significant contractionary impacts on our economy. We expect that there will be need to re-set our economy - a task that the Dominica Freedom Party can help with. We therefor offer our help should the government desire once they are ready to look at that aspect. We offer our assistance because we do not want our country to decline to unrecognizable depths and we are willing for the time-being to overlook the politics.
We will make additional recommendations in subsequent statements as well as on our radio programme aired on Q95 radio every Wednesday form 8.00pm to 10.00pm and in our weekly column in the Sun Newspaper. In particular we will provide recommendations on how to support the survival of small businesses during the quasi-lockdown, support for workers who are unable to work due to the quasi-lockdown, and on strategies to support business recovery in the aftermath of the quasi-lockdown.
Dominica Freedom Party