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COVID-19 Global Update (29 March 2020): Spain’s daily death toll rises again; Italy expects peak in a week

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(Corononavirus liveup) Spain has joined Italy and France in demanding Europe do more to help as it reported another record single-day increase in coronavirus deaths and moved to further tighten its already strict national lockdown.

Spanish authorities said on Sunday 838 people had died from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 6,528, with 78,797 confirmed cases. All non-essential workers are to be ordered to stay at home for two weeks from Monday.

Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, said the situation was stabilising but “the main problem is making sure intensive care units aren’t overloaded”. ICUs in six of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions were at full capacity.

Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, taking its total to 10,779. The rate slowed for a second day, while new confirmed cases rose by 5.6% to 3,815. This was the lowest increase of the epidemic so far, offering some hope it may be nearing its peak there.

Spain and Italy account for more than half of the world’s death toll from Covid-19 and are each still seeing hundreds of deaths a day. According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the virus has now infected more than 680,000 people and killed more than 32,000 around the world.

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sànchez, described the crisis as “the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation” and said the 27-member bloc had to be “ready to rise to the challenge … It’s Europe’s time to act. Europe is at risk.”

Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, late on Saturday also urged Europe to show it was capable of responding. “I will fight to the last drop of sweat, the last gram of energy, to obtain a strong, vigorous, cohesive European response,” Conte said.

The country’s deputy health minister, Pierpaolo Sileri, told the BBC he expected the country to hit its infection peak in a week or 10 days “at most”, while France’s Europe minister, Amélie de Montchalin, said bloc’s “credibility and usefulness” rested on its collective response to the health crisis.

Spain, Italy and France have six others have asked the EU to issue “coronabonds” – a collective debt instrument – to help finance countries’ response to the pandemic, but the Netherlands, Austria and Germany have so far rejected the idea.

Several European countries have turned to China, where the epidemic originated but is now easing, for much-needed medical supplies such as protective masks and testing kits.

But after Spain on Friday withdrew 58,000 Chinese-made coronavirus testing kits after discovering they had an accuracy rate of just 30%, the Netherlands – which has recorded 771 deaths, with more than 10,000 confirmed cases – on Sunday recalled 600,000 Chinese face masks when they, too, were found to be defective.

France, which has reported 37,575 confirmed cases and a death toll of 2,314, excluding fatalities in its 7,000 retirement homes, evacuated 36 more patients from the hard-hit east to western areas on Sunday, hoping to free up intensive care units.

Two high-speed trains carried patients from Mulhouse and Nancy toward hospitals along France’s western coast, where the outbreak has been limited so far. “We have to free up beds, it’s absolutely crucial that we air out these intensive care units,” said Francois Brun, the head of emergency services at the regional hospital in nearby Metz.

A German military plane was also used to carry patients from Alsace to hospitals in Stuttgart and Ulm. Nearly 4,300 patients are in intensive care in France, which is racing to treble its ICU bed capacity from about 5,000 before the outbreak began.

In other developments:

  • Patrick Devedjian, a former French cabinet minister and prominent local politician, died in hospital after being tested positive. He was 75.
  • Thomas Schaefer, the finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, took his own life apparently after becoming “deeply worried” about how to cope with the economic fallout from the epidemic.
  • The main opposition candidate in Polish presidential elections called for the vote to be boycotted if the government insists on going ahead with it on 10 May.
  • Pope Francis called for a ceasefire in all conflicts around the globe to focus on the “fight of our lives” against Covid-19.
  • Egypt shut its beaches as cases in the Middle East surpassed 50,000.
  • Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced further restrictions including limiting public gatherings to just two people.
  • All travellers entering South Korea will face two weeks of mandatory quarantine starting at midnight next Wednesday.
  • Tokyo confirmed 68 new coronavirus cases, another record daily increase.
  • China continued to relax restrictions, with flights from Hubei province and tube and bus services in Wuhan city, the centre of the outbreak, resuming this weekend.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said on Sunday that the “new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as the country’s death toll rose to 2,640 and its number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309. “We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered,” he said.

In the US, which has reported nearly 125,000 cases and where the death toll has more than doubled in three days, Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious diseases expert, said it could expect more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections.

Donald Trump backtracked on a threat to quarantine New York and neighbouring states, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning against all non-essential travel in the region.

“Due to extensive community transmission of Covid-19 in the area, CDC urges residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately,” the warning said.

View the latest COVID-19 numbers.





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Dominica

COVID-19: Pronouncement of construction an essential service.

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BCAD Executive met by teleconference on 3rd April 2020 to deliberate on the Government’s consideration of construction as an essential service, as obtained in SRO 15 of 2020, and to review this new situation as it will impact and potentially affect the local construction sector within the circumstances of the COVID19 pandemic, and the sector’s collateral impact on the wider private sector and the public as a whole.

 

Contributions were received and made by the following Executive Members:

Mr Gregor Fortune

Mr Delbert Paris

Mr Kevin Henderson

Mr Melkezideck Toussaint,

Mr Steve Astaphan,

Mr Stewart Paris, and

Mr Anthony Le Blanc.

 

SRO 15 of 2020 – Emergency Power (Disaster) – (Curfew) Order

 SRO 15 of 2020 was Gazetted and came into effect on 1st April 2020.

  1. Section 7(1)(g) provides “Subject to paragraphs 3 and 5, every non-essential establishment, or business shall remain closed except for the following – … (g) Construction and manufacturing projects, … may open between the hours of 6:00 am and 4:00m pm Monday to Friday.
  2. Section 7(1)(g) (i) to (v) provides that work on-site are subject to compliance with increased attention to sanitation, provision of additional PPE (face mask) and maintenance of 2 m ( 6 ft 8”) social distances for workmen as far as reasonably possible.
  3. Section 12 limits passengers to one person per row with no passengers allowed at the front with the driver.

 

Support and Concerns:

The Meeting expressed support for activities and actions which are aimed at curtailing the spread of the COVID19 epidemic in Dominica.  That BCAD Executive supports the efforts of the Government of Dominica through the principal agency of the Ministry of Health and in general, supports the provisions in the SRO 15 which seek to encourage persons to stay home and save lives.

However, the Meeting had serious concerns with some of the provisions of the SRO 15 and its development, as it relates to the consideration of Construction as an essential service:

  • Public Information and Consultation.
  • Lack of Forewarning: The Meeting expressed concern, as was expressed in its reaction of 23rd March 2020, that the State has failed to publish a plan as to what is to be expected at each level of the COVID19 epidemic. Hence, both the pronouncements of 22nd March 2019 and that of the 1st April 2020 provided no forewarning or time to wind down activities, which would have enabled contractors to do a shutdown of non-essential or non-critical work properly.
    1. Absence of Consultation with the Local Sector: The meeting expressed surprised that the local construction sector was not consulted, and certainly the executive of BCAD had no input in the SRO which pronounced that construction projects are to be considered as essential services and ought to continue as normal in this COVIFD19 pandemic.
  • Overall responsibility of Limiting Spread of COVIOD19: The Meeting agreed that every contractor, and every employee in the construction sector, has a personal and collective responsibility to limit the spread of COIVID19, and therefore should not engage in work or other activity which has the potential to undermine the efforts of others, including the State. Hence, the meeting found that the present pronouncement of the SRO at section 7cannot be supported as:
    1. it is impractical to engage in construction site activities and expect that workmen will continually be able to maintain a 2 m(6 ft 8”) distance between them and work efficiently,
    2. given, that construction workers, on many existing projects, come from all over the island, it is, therefore, impractical to expect public transport to be readily available to carry workers to site if they are to comply with the requirement to operate at 25% capacity (1 per row) for the same fare,
    3. each exposure of a construction worker on a site or during the commute exposes his/her whole household to the possibility of infection with COIVID19.
  • Productivity and Cost.
    1. The Meeting found that the Contractor will likely be operating inefficiently, with less than ideal staffing, and at low productivity and increased cost for work which has already be priced under a contract, given the limitations provided under the curfew and SRO 15 Clause 7 and 12. It was cited that
      • it would be unlikely to have a full workday if key workmen have to commute from remote locations,
      • some workmen will not be available on account of either fear of contracting the disease, or having to stay home with minors, or having taken a proactive stance about limiting the spread of the disease, and
      • In addition to the new direct cost of the extra PPE required, these may not be readily available, and therefore require not only extra procurement cost but also, may require extra supervisory cost in order to ensure their utilisation.
    2. To mitigate against (a) (ii) above, the possibility of extra transportation cost, it is likely that the Contractor would have to contribute to commuting
    3. That it is an extra cost to the State and diverts resources from other more critical aspects of managing COVID19 if police officers or other State officials have to divert resources to ensure that construction sites comply with the requirements of SRO 15.
  1. Health and Safety and Legal Framework: The meeting noted that Contractors as employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees on the construction site.  Therefore, knowingly engaging them and exposing them and their families to COVID19, either on the site or during commute to or from the site, places employees in a compromised health and safety situation.   Further, that any incident of infection, or suspected infection, of an employee on-site, will likely result in the closing down of the site as all employees are likely to be quarantined.
  2. Duration and Implication of Consideration of Construction as an “Essential Service”: The Meeting expressed concern, that given that Construction was considered an essential service, the majority by volume of Government procured construction services were not made available to be undertaken by local contractors or construction workers. Further, it questioned whether this pronouncement would be permanent for all other disasters, or only this time.

 

Recommendations.

The BCAD Executive therefore strongly recommend the following:

  • That all Builders and Contractors, our employees and the general public are encouraged to stay at home and save lives, unless their construction activity can impact positively on limiting the spread or management of COVID19, or in some way essential for the proper functioning of the State.
  • That generally construction workers should stay at home, spending time with family and doing the long outstanding trade work at home with the help of family members.
  • That, in the circumstances of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19, construction projects are to be generally and rightly considered as non-essential economic activities. Hence BCAD Executive requests that, until at least the conclusion of the emergency period dictated under SRO 15,
    1. local Builders and Contractors should not be engaged in, or continue, construction works as normal, neither should they endanger their employees by requiring that they attend to site work,
    2. the Public Sector shuts down its construction projects and encourages consultants to work from home, and construction workers to stay at home and save lives
    3. That where restrictions are to be imposed, some forewarning be given in order that non-essential project works are brought to a close safely and with all critical elements concluded.
  • That more private sector business organisations be brought into discussions about finding more creative ways of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19.





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IN PICTURES: Dominica parliament holds first meeting since COVID-19 declared pandemic

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The Dominica parliament convened this morning for the Second Meeting of The First Session of The Tenth Parliament where two COVID-19-related bills were introduced for debate.

Dominica News Online (DNO) got some photographs of parliamentarians, most of them wearing masks, as they arrived at the Parliament building. Photos by Cecil Clarke.





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Dominica

COVID-19: Pronouncement of construction an essential service.

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BCAD Executive met by teleconference on 3rd April 2020 to deliberate on the Government’s consideration of construction as an essential service, as obtained in SRO 15 of 2020, and to review this new situation as it will impact and potentially affect the local construction sector within the circumstances of the COVID19 pandemic, and the sector’s collateral impact on the wider private sector and the public as a whole.

 

Contributions were received and made by the following Executive Members:

Mr Gregor Fortune

Mr Delbert Paris

Mr Kevin Henderson

Mr Melkezideck Toussaint,

Mr Steve Astaphan,

Mr Stewart Paris, and

Mr Anthony Le Blanc.

 

SRO 15 of 2020 – Emergency Power (Disaster) – (Curfew) Order

 SRO 15 of 2020 was Gazetted and came into effect on 1st April 2020.

  1. Section 7(1)(g) provides “Subject to paragraphs 3 and 5, every non-essential establishment, or business shall remain closed except for the following – … (g) Construction and manufacturing projects, … may open between the hours of 6:00 am and 4:00m pm Monday to Friday.
  2. Section 7(1)(g) (i) to (v) provides that work on-site are subject to compliance with increased attention to sanitation, provision of additional PPE (face mask) and maintenance of 2 m ( 6 ft 8”) social distances for workmen as far as reasonably possible.
  3. Section 12 limits passengers to one person per row with no passengers allowed at the front with the driver.

 

Support and Concerns:

The Meeting expressed support for activities and actions which are aimed at curtailing the spread of the COVID19 epidemic in Dominica.  That BCAD Executive supports the efforts of the Government of Dominica through the principal agency of the Ministry of Health and in general, supports the provisions in the SRO 15 which seek to encourage persons to stay home and save lives.

However, the Meeting had serious concerns with some of the provisions of the SRO 15 and its development, as it relates to the consideration of Construction as an essential service:

  • Public Information and Consultation.
  • Lack of Forewarning: The Meeting expressed concern, as was expressed in its reaction of 23rd March 2020, that the State has failed to publish a plan as to what is to be expected at each level of the COVID19 epidemic. Hence, both the pronouncements of 22nd March 2019 and that of the 1st April 2020 provided no forewarning or time to wind down activities, which would have enabled contractors to do a shutdown of non-essential or non-critical work properly.
    1. Absence of Consultation with the Local Sector: The meeting expressed surprised that the local construction sector was not consulted, and certainly the executive of BCAD had no input in the SRO which pronounced that construction projects are to be considered as essential services and ought to continue as normal in this COVIFD19 pandemic.
  • Overall responsibility of Limiting Spread of COVIOD19: The Meeting agreed that every contractor, and every employee in the construction sector, has a personal and collective responsibility to limit the spread of COIVID19, and therefore should not engage in work or other activity which has the potential to undermine the efforts of others, including the State. Hence, the meeting found that the present pronouncement of the SRO at section 7cannot be supported as:
    1. it is impractical to engage in construction site activities and expect that workmen will continually be able to maintain a 2 m(6 ft 8”) distance between them and work efficiently,
    2. given, that construction workers, on many existing projects, come from all over the island, it is, therefore, impractical to expect public transport to be readily available to carry workers to site if they are to comply with the requirement to operate at 25% capacity (1 per row) for the same fare,
    3. each exposure of a construction worker on a site or during the commute exposes his/her whole household to the possibility of infection with COIVID19.
  • Productivity and Cost.
    1. The Meeting found that the Contractor will likely be operating inefficiently, with less than ideal staffing, and at low productivity and increased cost for work which has already be priced under a contract, given the limitations provided under the curfew and SRO 15 Clause 7 and 12. It was cited that
      • it would be unlikely to have a full workday if key workmen have to commute from remote locations,
      • some workmen will not be available on account of either fear of contracting the disease, or having to stay home with minors, or having taken a proactive stance about limiting the spread of the disease, and
      • In addition to the new direct cost of the extra PPE required, these may not be readily available, and therefore require not only extra procurement cost but also, may require extra supervisory cost in order to ensure their utilisation.
    2. To mitigate against (a) (ii) above, the possibility of extra transportation cost, it is likely that the Contractor would have to contribute to commuting
    3. That it is an extra cost to the State and diverts resources from other more critical aspects of managing COVID19 if police officers or other State officials have to divert resources to ensure that construction sites comply with the requirements of SRO 15.
  1. Health and Safety and Legal Framework: The meeting noted that Contractors as employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees on the construction site.  Therefore, knowingly engaging them and exposing them and their families to COVID19, either on the site or during commute to or from the site, places employees in a compromised health and safety situation.   Further, that any incident of infection, or suspected infection, of an employee on-site, will likely result in the closing down of the site as all employees are likely to be quarantined.
  2. Duration and Implication of Consideration of Construction as an “Essential Service”: The Meeting expressed concern, that given that Construction was considered an essential service, the majority by volume of Government procured construction services were not made available to be undertaken by local contractors or construction workers. Further, it questioned whether this pronouncement would be permanent for all other disasters, or only this time.

 

Recommendations.

The BCAD Executive therefore strongly recommend the following:

  • That all Builders and Contractors, our employees and the general public are encouraged to stay at home and save lives, unless their construction activity can impact positively on limiting the spread or management of COVID19, or in some way essential for the proper functioning of the State.
  • That generally construction workers should stay at home, spending time with family and doing the long outstanding trade work at home with the help of family members.
  • That, in the circumstances of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19, construction projects are to be generally and rightly considered as non-essential economic activities. Hence BCAD Executive requests that, until at least the conclusion of the emergency period dictated under SRO 15,
    1. local Builders and Contractors should not be engaged in, or continue, construction works as normal, neither should they endanger their employees by requiring that they attend to site work,
    2. the Public Sector shuts down its construction projects and encourages consultants to work from home, and construction workers to stay at home and save lives
    3. That where restrictions are to be imposed, some forewarning be given in order that non-essential project works are brought to a close safely and with all critical elements concluded.
  • That more private sector business organisations be brought into discussions about finding more creative ways of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19.





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