17th March, 2020
Hon Premier Eastern Taylor-Farrell Office of the Premier
As you would be aware I have written to His excellency the Governor and you under separate cover in which I congratulated your Government for having begun to finally take steps in the right direction in dealing with the threat which the corona virus COVID – 19 poses to the People of Montserrat; especially the elderly and those with respiratory related and other illnesses.
I also frankly outlined my deep concern, in many respects, regarding the way in which the crisis has so far been handled. I say so with great respect and good reason.
For example, in your response to my email of March 13, 2020, you stated that:
“surveillance have [has]been stepped up at our ports of entry”,
“government is taking every possible steps [step]to keep the people of Montserrat safe and to minimize
any potential threat posed by COVID -19” and
“your governments priority at this time is the wellbeing of our people and as a government we will do
whatever it takes to protect them”.
The fact of the matter is that:
our hospital is woefully short of the equipment needed to deal with the respiratory and other
complications which patients infected by the corona virus are expected to experience.
in addition to my personal experience in traveling on the ferry just last week, other members of the
public have confirmed that the level of surveillance at the port to address the detection of passengers
infected by the Corona virus is either poor or nonexistent
very basic and inexpensive actions which can and must be taken are not being advanced by your
Government and His Excellency Governor Pierce; examples such as enforcing the ban on meetings of 50 plus persons (and even that number is ridiculous), use of rapid action non-contact temperature guns at our ports of entry, a similar exercise at the hospital and clinics, a proper press conference and briefing for the press and public where it is explained what a pandemic is, how the virus spreads, how it affects the body and why the measures being put in place are appropriate, place added security and staff at the Hospital, etc.
the GoM does not have the financial capability on its own to “do whatever it takes’ and to, as you also said, “keep the people of Montserrat safe and to minimize any potential threat posed by COVID -19”.
we have so far been facing a repeat of what took place at the start of the volcano crisis 25 years ago and continues to date, where inadequate and delayed funding for obvious and urgent basic needs and actions to address an imminent crisis created unnecessary hardship and loss of life, livelihood and population.
The People of Montserrat, our residents and visitors alike as well as many around the world, especially in Antigua, are becoming more and more aware and concerned about the above.
Last week on March 13, 2020, I specifically asked “for a meeting with all members of the Legislature” in order to “consider what further measures we should be taking as the collective leadership of our country.” I
also specifically stated that in such a united forum, “the Opposition, in particular, will be better able to air their concerns and have questions answered privately and not publicly.”
Your lack of response and involvement and briefing of Members of the Opposition over the past weeks on a matter so serious as a Pandemic is not in keeping with your repeated promise to do exactly the opposite.
I sincerely hope that His Excellency Governor Pierce in partnership with you and your team would acknowledge that the state of affairs as described above cannot and must not continue.
Following this communication, I ask once more to brief and meet with all Members of the Legislature. A press conference where the media can be briefed and allowed ask questions.
I also call on you and His Excellency the Governor to jointly address the public with a clear and credible plan of action which outlines what the GoM will be executing as well as what will be expected of the General Public. In so doing, just as with facing the threat of a hurricane, we can all go forward in unity as a collective leadership, in harmony with the People of Montserrat who we are sworn to serve and represent.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind you, our Hon Premier, as well as HE, HMG (FCO and DfID) that throughout the past 25 years of a volcano crisis there has been no established unemployment benefit system, and our social welfare benefits have been knowingly inadequate to healthily feed the vulnerable elderly, single mothers and children. Many have pensions below or just above that of the said welfare benefits. In addition, our Hospital and healthcare system is already lacking in equipment and staffing and therefore woefully inadequate to cope with respiratory and other serious illnesses.
As it stands, I know of no arrangement for medivac to neighbouring territories of patients with serious illness due to becoming infected with the Corona virus COVID-19. Nor is there an arrangement that I know of to assist the Government and People of Antigua and Barbuda, our only travel hub, with testing and isolation in their effort to identify passengers carrying the virus at their ports of entry. The Chinese Government has, however, given kits for testing to the Antiguan government.
Therefore, in light of the already impacting social and economic hardship that is already felt from the enforcement of the drastic measures around the world (even before they are enforced on Island of Montserrat) let us not continue to repeat the mistakes of 25 years ago. Let us put PEOPLE first; especially the elderly and those with respiratory related and other illnesses and vulnerabilities to the Corona virus COVID-19.
I look forward not only to a positive response to this communication, but a renewed sense of urgency and leadership by you, our Hon Premier and His Excellency Governor Pierce (and by extension HMG).
Best regards, D. Romeo
CC His Excellency the Governor, Andrew Pierce and Cabinet All Members of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly
FCO Minister and Director
DfID Minister and Director
UN Committee of 24 and 4th Committee Montserrat Media
For your careful attention, I place below the APPENDIX (last 6 points) to my Letter to you of March 15, 2020 which was copied to His Excellency and all Members of Montserrat’s Legislative Assembly. Also, in the interest of timely and coordinated action, I shall copy this and other communications to the relevant persons.
APPENDIX; (last 6 points) to my March 15 letter to Hon Premier Taylor, (HE and Cabinet) regarding the Corona virus As a follow up to my email [to Hon Premier Taylor] I need to state that:
4. our air and sea port are the main points where we must take action to contain the spread of the corona virus to Montserrat. There needs to be a firm decision in this regard; the sooner the better.
5. the video https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/vaftr0oxq6q44aa/corona.mp4?dl=0 (by 60 Minutes, Australia) helps to explain why shutting down ports has become critical. I can imagine the tremendous challenge such action and burden can pose at this point but as you inferred yesterday morning, tough decisions may have to be made in the interest of all. https://youtu.be/Y7nZ4mw4mXw (youtube)
6. actions need to be taken to protect all of the elderly on Island and not just those under Government’s care. Also each individual with respiratory and other illnesses which make them especially vulnerable to the corona virus or complications need to be identified, educated and assisted where necessary.
7. it is more than time for the UK to offer the assistance of the British Navy ship that serves our region to be on call to assist with testing for the virus, provide the use of its intensive care facilities or supply us with such temporary or readily available portable units and make available supplies of critical medical and other equipment, medicines, key household goods and food; just as is done during the hurricane season.
8. this pandemic is clearly more of a threat to Montserrat than a hurricane. So both His Excellency the Governor and you, our Hon Premier need to be jointly addressing the public with Governor/Government’s clear plan of action as well as what is expected of the General Public. In the State of Missouri for instance, a state of emergency was declared at the point where confirmation was made of just two cases of the Corona virus.
9. I therefore call on His Excellency the Governor and you, our Hon Premier, to further address the nation on this pandemic.
https://youtu.be/Y7nZ4mw4mXw Entire documentary by 60 Minutes, Australia