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Windrush passenger Alford Gardner's memories of voyage to UK

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Covid-19 update by Minister for Health

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Today, Friday, 3 April 2020, I announce that 2 more laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 on mainland Grenada, have been diagnosed.

This brings the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 to twelve; however, there are only 11 cases here on island, since one left.

The first new individual is a 73-year-old male, who had arrived in Grenada from the United Kingdom with his wife who is one of those that previously tested positive for the virus. The couple had sat within the 6 feet radius of our first case on that 16 March UK flight. The husband became symptomatic on 31 March and was tested on 1 April. He has been quarantined since his wife was tested and is being monitored closely.

The second individual is a 70-year-old male taxi driver, who had interacted with a previously diagnosed case before that case was tested. He was found on 27 March through contact tracing by health officials and placed under quarantine. He started exhibiting symptoms consistent with those of Covid-19, and was subsequently tested on 1 April.

I want to reassure that healthcare officials have been aggressively engaged in contact tracing, especially of individuals who arrived in Grenada during the 16–22 March period.

We have found that most of our cases so far, arrived in Grenada, or are linked to someone who arrived in Grenada, during that period. The pattern is similar in several other countries throughout the region.

Both cases announced today are stable and exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms. However, I must add that 2 of the previously announced cases are now in the ICU, having developed complications from pneumonia. They are in stable condition.

In terms of testing, 45 people in total have been tested. 12 people have tested positive to date, and there are 4 results pending.

All cases have been reported to the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation.

I have constantly stated that our healthcare team is sparing no effort in ascertaining the possibility of community spread here in the State of Grenada because while all cases so far, have been imported or import-related, several of those have had significant movement in the community, and we are following up with every possible contact.

We continue to rigorously enforce and enhance quarantine and isolation measures. Several entire households are presently under quarantine, and the RGPF has increased their surveillance mechanisms to rigidly ensure that people are observing the rules.

We are assured that all individuals currently under quarantine are being closely monitored and are fully compliant.

I remind that any individual who attempts to, or breaches the Quarantine Act, will be forcibly quarantined in public facilities, which we have already secured around the tri-island state. Furthermore, anyone who fails to comply is subject to a $10,000 fine and 6 months imprisonment. This includes anyone who visits someone who is under quarantine.

Fellow citizens, public trust is crucial in our efforts to beat this disease. So is public co-operation.

I cannot say it enough, the curfew is in place for a reason: To help us to curb the spread of this deadly disease and save lives.

While we have allowed limited grocery shopping and other access to services, we continue to see serious breaches of social distancing, and the curfew, in general.

While law enforcement has been quite active and have made several arrests so far, the lawbreaking is enough to infect an entire nation and possibly cost lives.

Every time you allow someone into your vehicle; every time you leave your house; every time you allow someone into your home; your life is in danger. Our lives are all in danger.

Every time you stand in a line at the grocery store and do not comply with the 6-feet social distancing guideline, your life is in danger.

Please remember, anyone can have and spread the disease, even if they do not have any visible symptoms.

A significant percentage of people carrying the disease in the world does not show any symptoms, but they can still spread the disease. They can still kill you, and me.

So the next time you crowd the lines at the grocery store, look at the guy in front of you; look at the lady behind you. It is very likely that one, or both, can have the disease and are in the process of transmitting to you and others.

It is also highly likely that you are the one with the disease but are not exhibiting symptoms, and you can pass it to others every time you are exposed to them. You might be responsible for taking someone’s life. Think about that the next time you break the curfew to get a drink or go out to get some potatoes.

Fellow citizens, while health officials remain vigilant, we continue to ask you to work with us, and more specifically, to do your part to help us contain the spread of this deadly virus.

We urge the public to report to, or inform the Ministry of Health or nearest health facility, of any individual displaying acute respiratory symptoms.

If you believe you are exhibiting symptoms of the virus, do not leave your house. Do not take public transportation. Do not go into any hospital or medical facility.

As the Minister of Health, I am compelled, once again, to remind that the entire population must continue to observe the practices and precautions necessary to contain the spread of Covid-19, here in the State of Grenada.

A State of Emergency is in place to safeguard the population. This is a public health and safety emergency. Failure to comply with those measures is potentially fatal to the general population and is being enforced to the fullest extent of the law.

Please observe the curfew. Stay home, unless there’s a medical or food emergency, or you are an essential worker.

Every time our men and women in uniform are called out to enforce social compliance, those who break the law are putting the lives of the armed forces and medical personnel at further risks.

I again urge you to wash your hands frequently; practice proper cough and sneeze hygiene; do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands. It is extremely critical that you also maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. I cannot stress that enough.

In recent days, due to the developing data on the virus, experts are increasingly urging everyone to wear masks when out in public, if possible. Masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are constantly being sourced and provided to all frontline workers, to limit their exposure to the virus.

In closing, I cannot thank enough, all our frontline workers, including our medical professionals and the Royal Grenada Police Force, for their selfless service in helping to protect Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, from this deadly disease.

I also must thank the artistes, other public figures, media personnel, private entities and other volunteers, who continue to lend their voices and their influence to help sensitise the population and help enforce compliance.

I thank our citizens in the diaspora, who are constantly sharing information from their respective cities around the world, especially areas hardest hit by the virus. They are sharing the information to help us to see how deadly our actions can be if we do not comply with guidelines. I thank them for this service in helping to preserve the future of this nation.

I also extend a hand in solidarity to all our diaspora citizens in areas hit by the virus, and I urge you to stay as safe as possible; in the same way that I remind our citizens here at home.

Finally, I thank those of you who are complying with the guidelines, rules and regulations shared by authorities. You are our only hope of beating Covid-19.

Help us to hold each other accountable. Help us to save your life. Help to save ours.

Help your country to win the battle against this deadly virus.

GIS

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Prime Minister Mitchell chairs special meeting of ECCB Monetary Council

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In the midst of dealing with his domestic responsibilities relative to the impact of Covid-19, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, is maintaining his regional and international responsibilities, and on Friday, he chaired a special meeting of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

Although the Prime Minister has not been very visible in recent weeks, he has been working steadfastly on refining the economic stimulus package announced in March and holding discussions with regional and international financial institutions as Grenada seeks to cope with the economic impact of the pandemic.

At Friday’s meeting, the ECCB Monetary Council approved a reduction in the bank’s discount rate which will make millions of dollars in short-term credit available to Grenada and other member states of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

A communique issued at the end of the meeting explained that, “the Discount Rate is one of the monetary policy tools the ECCB has at its disposal to influence credit conditions. This rate, set at 6.5% (since 2003), refers to the interest rate the ECCB charges on loans to commercial banks and member governments.”

At Friday’s meeting, the Monetary Council agreed to temporarily reduce the Discount Rate to 2% to provide what it terms, “low-cost short-term credit”. The decision comes against the backdrop of the bank’s recognition of the “far-reaching health, economic, fiscal and financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the context of the limited fiscal space of ECCB member countries.”

The Monetary Council also noted the increased credit allocation recently approved by the board. The decision makes an additional $138.1 million available to member Governments. The communique further explained that, “the ECCB provides a credit allocation to its member governments and commercial banks operating in the ECCU at the Discount Rate.”

Dr Mitchell has welcomed the Monetary Council’s decision saying, “It represents a vital step in helping to ensuring the economic survival of Grenada and other ECCU member countries. The Covid-19 crisis has created a serious challenge not just for our health sectors but for our already fragile economies. Grenada welcomes this move and as Chairman of the Monetary Council, I feel honoured to be at the helm at a time when we are faced with making such widely impactful decisions.”

Friday’s meeting of the ECCB Monetary Council included the Governor’s Report on Monetary and Credit Conditions in the ECCU. This report noted the prediction by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that there will be “a global recession in 2020 of a magnitude equal to or larger than the 2009 recession.”

Delegates attending the meeting also noted that “the Financing Gap for the ECCU is projected between EC$1.4 billion to EC$2.3 billion.” As a result, Grenada and other ECCU member countries have supported the call by the IMF and World Bank for G20 to suspend debt payments for IDA countries during this period.

Voicing Grenada’s support for this particular initiative, Dr Mitchell said, “The suspension of debt payments during this critical period will enable Grenada and other countries in the region to have more cash flow available to invest in the massive fight we are mounting against this dreaded disease. The vast increase in the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline personnel and other necessary health-related equipment, along with financial support for workers significantly impacted by the crisis, require a significant amount of resources. While Grenada is better positioned to face the current challenge because of the fiscal responsibility demonstrated in recent years, the crisis is unprecedented, therefore any initiative to ease its detrimental impact, will be welcome.”

Office of the Prime Minister

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Communiqué of the 1st Special Meeting of the Monetary Council of the ECCB

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Issued: 3 April 2020

The Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) held its 1st Special Meeting for 2020 on 3 April via videoconference under the chairmanship of Dr The Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Grenada.

Monetary and Credit Conditions

The Monetary Council received the Governor’s Report on Monetary and Credit Conditions in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), which focused on managing the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Report highlighted the following:

  1. The outlook for the global economy is dominated by the impact of the evolving Covid-19 pandemic. The IMF predicts a global recession in 2020 of a magnitude equal to or larger than the 2009 recession.
  2. There has been strong coordinated monetary policy action by Advanced Economies, in recent weeks, to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19 .
  3. Most ECCB member countries have developed fiscal stimulus/relief packages to counter as far as possible the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  4. Based on two scenarios, the ECCU is now projected to contract between 4.9%and 6.6% in 2020.
  5. The steady progress by ECCB member countries towards debt sustainability and attaining the target a Debt to GDP Ratio of 60.0% by 2030 will be disrupted.
  6. The Financing Gap for the ECCU is projected between EC$1.4 billion to  EC$2.3 billion. Consequently, member countries strongly support the call to the G20 by the Heads of the IMF and The World Bank Group for a suspension of debt payments for International Development Association (IDA) countries in this period. The proposed treatment for IDA countries should include non-IDA members of the ECCU which are also small, highly open and vulnerable and facing the same pandemic. Furthermore, ECCB member countries are seeking budget support through grants and concessionary financing.
  7. Exchange rate stability remains firmly entrenched and will continue to serve as an anchor and provide confidence as the Bank responds to Covid-19. As at 27 March 2020, the Backing Ratio stood at 100.7%; notably higher than the statutory requirement of 60.0%.

ECCB’s Covid-19 Response

The Council was apprised of the ECCB’s strategy for Covid-19 response, which is designed to:

  1. Focus on core mandates as enshrined in the ECCB Agreement: Exchange Rate Stability and Financial Sector Stability.
  2. Support Member Governments, as far as feasible, in their efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on their economies.

The Council was updated on the measures the ECCB has implemented, to date, as part of its response to Covid-19 :

  1. Provided financial support to Member Governments through a $4.0 million grant from the Fiscal Reserve Tranche II – 13 March;
  2. Reached agreement with the ECCU Bankers Association on a loan repayment moratorium for up to six months. A waiver of late fees and charges would be applicable to eligible customers during that period – 20 March;
  3. Discussed a moratorium with credit unions, Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU) and regulators – 25 March;
  4. Secured the ECCB Board of Directors’ approval for increased government share (75:25 from 60:40) of the fiduciary issue which will facilitate additional credit access – 27 March;
  5. Created a page on the ECCB’s website to provide information on the Bank’s Covid-19 response – 23 March; and
  6. Instituted Bank-wide telecommuting – from 30 March.

The Council commended the Bank for these proactive and helpful actions.

Monetary Policy

The Discount Rate is one of the monetary policy tools the ECCB has at its disposal to influence credit conditions. This rate, set at 6.5%(since 2003), refers to the interest rate the ECCB charges on loans to commercial banks and Member Governments.

Cognisant of the far-reaching health, economic, fiscal and financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the context of the limited fiscal space of ECCB member countries, the Monetary Council, acting on the recommendation of Bank, approved a temporary reduction in the Discount Rate to 2.0% from 6.5%, as a means of providing low-cost short-term credit, as per section 32 of the ECCB Agreement 1983, as amended.

The ECCB provides a credit allocation to its Member Governments and commercial banks operating in the ECCU at the Discount Rate. The Council noted the adjustment in the proportion of the fiduciary allocation to Member Governments recently approved by the Board of Directors. This adjustment will increase the amount of short-term credit available to member Governments by $138.1 million.

Financial Sector Stability

The ECCB is committed to working with Licensed Financial Institutions (LFIs) to protect the stability of the financial sector through the Covid-19 crisis. The ECCB has prepared regulatory guidance for LFIs to help manage the Covid-19 pandemic inclusive of bank closures, customer relief programmes/loan deferrals and contingency liquidity needs.

Attendance

Council Members who participated in the meeting were:

  1. Dr The Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Grenada (Chairman);
  2. The Honourable Victor F Banks, Premier and Minister for Finance, Anguilla;
  3. The Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Antigua and Barbuda;
  4. The Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, the Commonwealth of Dominica;
  5. The Honourable Joseph Easton Farrell, Premier and Minister for Finance, Montserrat;
  6. Dr The Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Saint Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis;
  7. The Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Saint Lucia; and
  8. The Honourable Camillo Gonsalves, Minister for Finance, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

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