Delivered on Tuesday March 10, 2020
THANK YOU TO THE MEDIA FOR POSITIVELY RESPONDING AGAIN TO OUR CALL TO ASSIST US IN GETTING OUT IMPORTANT MESSAGING.
Over the past few months, there has been nothing short of fear and frenzy worldwide which in the end may be contributing to what we as leaders and citizens wish to not see, a people feeling hopeless and helpless. While this virus is new and there is much we do not know, there is much we do know about the spread.
This issue is a worldwide health matter that requires a steady head and hand. I want to congratulate our Health Team led by the Hon Edwin Astwood, Minister of Health, Dr Nadia Astwood, the Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary of Health, on the leadership shown since the first announcement of this virus. As early as January, we were briefed in Cabinet, saw radio appearances and witnessed press conferences. I was pleased that on February 14th, the Hon Edwin Astwood, Minister of Health presented a full statement during the House of Assembly on the coronavirus stating symptoms, precautions to take, global scenario and our state of readiness and work in train. The Health Team with full government support has been working around the clock on this issue and I ask only that we appreciate and respect in this time, the Ministry of Health as the official voice of the government and for these Islands.
It is in times like these, this must be identified for what it is: an issue of grave national and international importance that cannot and must not be ignored. We require a partnership with leaders opposite and to see a divide along party lines is to fail our people in what can be a life and death issue.
I acknowledge the leadership at the regional and global levels: CARICOM, PAHO with support from our representative in the Bahamas, WHO which attended our virtual CARICOM Leaders’ Meeting last Sunday and Public Health England who was present with us and whose team leader attended our first National Security Council meeting on this issue. We do draw on the expertise of these bodies and are united with our region in standards and basic protocols. Given our size and capacity challenges, decisions must be home grown in many aspects and they will be taken in the best interest of our people under the guidance of the Ministry of Health.
As I conclude I want to reinforce the need to take precautions. There are simple good hygienic practices that once done, helps in the fight against the virus and building your immune system is also key. The good news is many more are recovering daily and there is no reason to feel helpless. Pay attention to the PSAs and messages from the Ministry of Health and as we have done at the Ministerial level, I ask that we restrict non-essential travel at this time across the public and private sector. Our first plan of action must be to prevent.
As the Minister of Finance, I wish to say that we are at the final stages of the country’s budget preparation, and we have certainly factored in the possible economic fall-out from the CO VID 19/Coronavirus outbreak. We are cognizant that fear and travel advisories are preventing travel and we are anticipating but cannot say what the future impact can be given the uncertainty of the duration of this current crisis. We are and will be prudent in our financial plans and will revise and amend as necessary. Likewise, rest assured we continue to fund the requests of the Ministry of Health in this fight.
I only encourage us to share credible information, follow health advice, adhere to the protocols set out in the regulations published today and take the precautions necessary to keep TCI and yourself coronavirus free.