Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines: As I have stated before, the COVID-19 pandemic requires that we all work together, without political partisanship, to combat the virus. Accordingly, as Leader of the Opposition and President of the NDP, my statements and recommendations on the matter are intended to help the efforts to slow down the spread of the virus and prevent serious illness and loss of life in SVG.

In SVG, there is one confirmed case of COVID-19 so far. So, we know that the virus is here. In neighbouring St. Lucia, two cases have been confirmed. Other countries in the region have also reported cases. We cannot test for the virus in SVG and must send samples to Trinidad to be tested.

In many countries around the world, governments have acted to reduce the spread of the virus and protect lives. Among our Caribbean neighbours, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Maarten and Montserrat have closed schools and restricted public gatherings. This has been done even where there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 (e.g. Grenada). Emphasis is being placed on what is referred to as social distancing to reduce the risk of catching and transmitting the virus.

I urge that similar, stricter measures be implemented here in SVG to stem the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of illness. I, therefore, call on the Government to implement the following measures:

Close all schools effective immediately and schedule reopening, at the earliest, after the normal
Easter vacation ending April 13, 2020, during which time the decision should be reviewed.
Suspend public gatherings of more than 100 persons and the police cease to give or cancel permission for public gatherings involving over 100 persons.
Suspend the recently announced travel incentive (that is intended to attract regional visitors to SVG).
Urge public transport providers to sanitize their vehicles regularly.
Urge employers to permit employees who can do so to work from home.
Suspend for the remainder of the season visits by cruise ships.
Require travellers from the USA and the UK to be in home quarantine for 14 days and discourage foreign travel by Vincentians living in SVG until further notice.
In consultation with financial institutions including the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the IMF and the World Bank, develop an economic relief package to respond to the economic hardship resulting in SVG from the pandemic.

Finally, over the past three months, the NDP has been holding public meetings in villages across the country, and more such meetings were planned. However, in light of the recent developments locally and internationally concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, including the confirmation of one COVID-19 case in SVG, I have taken the decision to suspend the meetings and other large gatherings until further notice.