The NDP has been championing the cause for our sailors and oil rig workers to return during the COVID- 19 pandemic. It is disingenuous for spokespersons of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) regime to imply that the New Democratic Party (NDP) is opposed to bringing Vincentian sailors and oil rig workers home.
Dr. Friday is consistent on this issue. He addressed the nation on 1st April and advised the government on a number of measures that it should take to reduce the spread of COVID- 19. He recommended that the borders be closed for a while but our nationals should be allowed to return. He stated.

“Clearly, we are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. This means we must do all we can to protect our people. This requires closing our borders for a while by suspending all arrivals at our airports and seaports, except essential travellers (including nationals) and commerce.

We would then review the decision as conditions change. Taking this action now will give us the best chance of avoiding more cases of COVID-19 in SVG and of reducing the risk of an outbreak that may overburden our fragile healthcare system.”

Further, at the sitting of parliament on 7th April, during the debate of the supplementary Estimates; Dr. Friday raised the issue of our sailors and oil rig workers and pleaded with the government to put protocols in place so that they can return. From the debate, I Witness News produced a news story captioned; ‘Bipartisan support for bringing Vincy sailors home’.

The news article states, “Six days after Opposition Leader Godwin Friday used a national address to call for the nation’s borders to be closed to all but essential workers and returning nationals, he told Parliament that he had spoken to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves that morning about repatriating Vincentian sailors and oil rig workers.”

I witness News quotes Dr. Friday as he dealt with the issue, he said, “And I want to say, that we all share the concern of their family members here and certainly, we would wish for them to be able to return home with the necessary guarantees, of course. That is, to ensure that the quarantine measures are in place and that they are properly enforced.”

He continued, “A number of them have called me and family members and they are concerned because some of them, they’re not working; they’re off the rigs and they are in conditions or circumstances that are really not safe for them,”

In the same article, the Prime Minister replied. “ I’m happy that that is the position also of the opposition that we cannot allow our citizens overseas who would like to return home that like some other countries in the region that you prevented them from coming home,”

For spokesperson of the ULP government to spread this propaganda that the NDP is opposed to bringing our sailors and oil rig workers home shows desperation on the part of the ULP. This is an attempt by the ULP to gain political mileage from such a sensitive issue.

It is the government’s responsibility to pay to quarantine them and to provide adequate security. Why would the government want the cruise lines to pay to quarantine our nationals when they return? We were told that about $2.1 million is needed to cover the expense to quarantine the sailors.

Why is the government not using some of the funds that it will receive from international institution specifically for quarantine purpose to pay the hoteliers where the sailors will be quarantined?

The sailors have been contributing immensely to the economic development to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They should be treated as true patriots by the ULP government. Their families are waiting patiently to welcome them home. It is said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the only country whose sailors are experiencing such difficulties. The NDP wants our sailors and oil rig workers to return and reiterates its call for the government to act reasonable and rational during this crisis. Dr. Gonsalves, the time has come for you to show that ‘Citizenship must mean something’.

COVID- 19 in SVG
The number of COVID- 19 cases in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has increased to fifteen (15) as of Sunday 26th April. The good news is that eight (8) persons have recovered so far and there are no deaths. The COVID- 19 pandemic is still a major concern for Vincentians. One worrying factor is the lack of testing. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have done very little testing thus far. As of April 27th, only 116 tests were done. The World Health Organization has made it clear that countries cannot truly know how they stand with respect to the spread of the coronavirus until they have done widespread testing. Indeed, his advice to all governments, including ours, is to test, test, test! We should follow that advice.

In the absence of decisive leadership from the government on the effective management of COVID- 19, the NDP continues to encourage all Vincentians to be safe. We should be reminded that COVID-19 spreads very easily; in fact even more easily than health officials had earlier thought. It is spread from person to person, even from a person who has no symptoms of the disease. This makes it extremely dangerous and the drastic responses to it we have seen all over the world.

The government has yet to take any such measures. Not even making the wearing of masks mandatory for its citizens, as is done in Grenada. As we go through this holiday weekend, let’s continue to be safe. And at all times, practice good personal and respiratory hygiene and maintain our social distancing, so we can help to reduce the spread of the virus in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and save lives.