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May 20th 2020


VINCENTIAN NATIONALS RETURN FROM OVERSEAS


Prime Minister D Hon Ralph Gonsalves has indicated that there has been a steady return of Vincentian nationals from overseas in recent weeks, as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.


Speaking on radio this morning PM Gonsalves gave an overview and a breakdown of the different categories of returning nationals which includes Vincentian students and workers.


The PM also said that more Vincentian students in Jamaica are due to return this week and also gave an update of the level negotiations to assist in the return of additional seafarers and oil rig workers.  Specific protocols are in place and must be adhered to by the returnees immediately upon their arrival.


EIGHTY YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS RECEIVE PRYME GRANTS


Over $600,000 was given out yesterday in grants by the government to eighty young entrepreneurs as part of the PRYME programme. (Promoting Youth in Microenterprise)

The eighty recipients are from over 50 villages from Fancy to Bequia. They received grants between $2,500 and $40,000. 


Minister of Finance Hon Camillo Gonsalves while speaking at the handing over ceremony held yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conference room encouraged persons to continue to apply to the programme.


Minister Gonsalves said that the area of agriculture attracted the largest number of successful applicants as he gave the breakdown of the different business areas and urged that persons make use of the opportunity.


The programme will contribute to the empowerment of young people, alleviation of poverty, enablement of entrepreneurship and the creation of new businesses.  Financial resources and managerial support services will be provided to promising microenterprises and startups.  The programme is financed by central Government through an annual resource allocation of EC$2.4 million.


MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE TO ESTABLISH A VIRTUAL AGRI FOOD MARKETPLACE


Minister of Agriculture Hon Saboto Ceaser who spoke at the event announced that at present the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is working along with the Ministry of Agriculture to establish a Virtual Agri Food marketplace not only for SVG but also the OECS and CARICOM.


MINISTER OF HEALTH DELIVER ADDRESS AT WHO ASSEMBLY


This country’s Minister of Health Hon Luke Browne delivered an address at the World Health Organisation Health Assembly which was held virtually.


In his address Browne reported on this country’s COVID-19 Situation and Response. The minister highlighted the process finding cases and isolating them; taking special precautions with high risk groups (such as travellers and exposed groups); providing appropriate clinical care; and applying general and specific infection prevention and control measures guided by the Science. It was also emphasized that fighting COVID-19 is like fighting a fire which must be attacked aggressively and snuffed out. 


The point was also made that the country’s response was built on a foundation of public trust and that we sought to maximize the health, freedom, rights, economic, social and other benefits to the population. Minister Browne further thanked everyone who assisted with the response to COVID-19 and called for the inclusion of Taiwan at the World Health Assembly in the interest of global health. 


CDC EXTENDS CONDOLENCES ON THE PASSING OF SOCA JONES


The Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) and its components have extended condolences to the family, close relatives, and friends of the late Brentford Ulric Jones Jr. who was affectionately known by all as ‘Soca Jones.’


The CDC in a release says that Soca was deemed the most popular entertainment promoter in New York City and was honored by the Vincentian American Independent Nation Charities Inc. (VINCI) in 2010 for being the longest serving promoter in the diaspora.


It says it joins in solidarity with all other family members, relatives and friends, well-wishers and other organizations that he may have impacted or been involved with, to express gratitude for his outstanding contributions to the entertainment and cultural industry over the years.


REGIONAL 


JAMAICA’S MINISTRY OF NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTS THERE WERE 389 GANGS AS AT THE END OF 2019


Minister of National Security in Jamaica Dr Horace Chang says that up to the end of 2019, there were 389 gangs in Jamaica.


Dr Chang was tabling the report of the Joint Select Committee of the Lower House on the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act in Parliament today.

“Based on the latest assessment carried out by the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), at the end of 2019, there were 389 criminal gangs operating in Jamaica."


This represents an increase of eight gangs when compared to the 381 in 2018. “Of the 389 criminal gangs, 250 or 64 per cent were deemed to be active, while the remaining 139 or 36 per cent, were classified as dormant.


“Three hundred and twenty-three or 83 per cent of the total criminal gangs in operation were classified as “first generation” gangs - by virtue of their loose and unsophisticated leadership.  These gangs are also identified by the fact that their main focus was on turf protection and control for financial gains.


The remaining 66 gangs or 17 per cent, were classified as “second generation” gangs. These gangs exhibited more centralized leadership and focused primarily on organized crime. According to the NIB, there were no “third generation” gangs in operation in Jamaica. These are gangs with broad reach, often across international borders,” the security minister said in his report.


May 19 2020


SVG TO RECEIVE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM CDB TO COUNTER THE COVID-19 CRISIS 


St Vincent and the Grenadines is one of seven Caribbean countries to receive financial assistance from the Caribbean Development Bank CDB to counter the COVID 19 crisis.

  

The   bank is providing a total sum of almost   $US67 million to the regional beneficiaries in the first instance. According   to reports Antigua and Barbuda will receive US$13 million, Dominica US$2.5   million, Belize, US$13 million, Grenada US$5.9 million, St Lucia US$10.8   million, ST Vincent and the Grenadines US$11.3 million and Suriname US$8.2   million. CDB’s President Dr Warren Smith says that the provision of support   to the seven countries to respond to COVID 19 and keep critical government   services and operations running is urgent to halt the economic decline and   minimize social hardship, while giving focused attention to the most   vulnerable people.


The emergency loans made under CDB’s   most concessional terms, will provide vital liquidity and increase   government’s fiscal space to allow these countries to promptly meet their   urgent financing needs without diverting resources away from critical social   expenditures or health emergency needs.

     

Caribbean     countries are especially vulnerable to the global outbreak due to their     heavy dependence on tourism for income and employment. According to CDB     estimates, many of these countries, including those, which will be   supported with emergency loans, will fall into recession this year. It is expected that the social impacts of     the COVID-19 pandemic will be significant, stemming from an increase in     unemployment, and loss of income and livelihoods, as well as substantial     disruptions of social services, with women, female heads of households     and children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and migrants     as the most vulnerable groups.


MINISTRY OF HEALTH RECEIVED PCR TESTING MACHINE


The PCR Machine required for testing for COVID-19 arrived in SVG last Friday. Minister of Health Hon Luke Browne said that it is currently being set up and lab technicians are being trained in the use of the machine. The minister added that the country should be able to commence in-country tests this week. 


Minister Browne had announced in March that the Government had placed an order for the machine, which allows for in-country testing. The shipment of that item had been delayed since that time.
 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SVG has been sending samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago for testing.
 

The health minister added that the particular machine was purchased by his ministry with funding from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). 


MINISTER OF EDUCATION ASSURES THAT DUE DILIGENCE BEING TAKEN IN THE PHASED OPENING OF SCHOOLS


Minister of Education Hon St Clair Jimmy Prince has again assured that due diligence is being taken in relation to the phased opening of schools on May 25th.   The Ministry announced last week that schools will reopen on Monday May 25th for fifth formers and sixth graders who are preparing to write final examinations in July. Minister Prince while speaking on radio last evening said that they have outlined to the schools guided principles according to the Ministry of Health that must be implemented to facilitate the students’ return to school.


Prince said that social distancing will be strictly requested and enforced and said that he is confident that the nation’s schools have the capacity to facilitate such.


The Minister also said that measures are in place to deal with students who may become ill or show any possible symptoms of COVID 19 while in school. Mr. Prince also spoke to other guided protocols to be implemented.


IRD WORKING WITH COMPANIES EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTY FILING TAXES 


The Inland Revenue Department continues to work along with Companies which are experiencing difficulty filing their taxes in a timely manner, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  The Department has granted extensions to a number of Companies up until the end of June.


Companies that have not filed their taxes as yet are encouraged to contact the Inland Revenue Department to have this issue addressed, in order to avoid late fees.


REGIONAL 


HAITI RECORDS THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF COVID-19 CASES IN CARICOM


Haiti has become the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country with the highest number of positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) after the French-speaking country recorded 77 news cases on Monday.


The Ministry of Public Health said that the new cases bring to 533, the number of people who have tested positive for the virus since the first case in Haiti on March 19. It said that the death toll also increased to 21.


Jamaica had been the CARICOM country with the highest number of positive cases of the virus that was first detected in China last December and blamed for 315, 488 deaths and more than four million others being infected globally.  Jamaica on Monday said no new cases had been reported and that the total remained at 520 with nine deaths.


On Sunday, Haiti recorded nearly 100 positive cases and the Ministry of Public Health in its latest statement said that the number of active cases now stands at 491 cases with the number of suspected cases followed being 2,120 cases.  It said that the number of people hospitalised is 253 while 1,330 persons remain in quarantine at home.


May 15 2020


14 COVID-19 CASES HAVE RECOVERIES 



A total of fourteen COVID 19 recovered cases, has been reported here, following the receipt of the second negative PCR result for two persons from the Caribbean Public Health Agency – CARPHA.


These results were included in a batch of results for 14 samples sent on Wednesday May 13, 2020 to the regional Public Health Lab, a release from the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) said. No new positive COVID-19 cases were reported.      This means there are now just three active cases of COVID -19 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“All precautionary repeat PCR COVID-19 tests done on six Carnival Cruise Line Crew members, in keeping with the May 13 updated repatriation protocol for crew members, were negative.


“Meanwhile, all Carnival Cruise Line Crew members repatriated on May 9TH are advised to complete their 14 days of quarantine,” the release said.


The public is again urged to maintain strict hand hygiene, cough etiquette, physical distancing in public spaces, smart mask use and strict adherence to quarantine and isolation instructions to ensure that we continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 


The Kingstown District Clinic which was closed temporarily as part of the national COVID-19 Response Plan will be re-opened on Monday when the usual services at that facility will be restored. Meanwhile Six portable ventilators were donated and delivered to the Isolation Centre yesterday.



RSVGPF TRAFFIC DEPT CONDUCTS OPERATION TO ENSURE SAFETY ABOARD OMNIBUSES



In light of the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19 global pandemic, the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, Traffic Department is today conducting an operation.


This is to ensure the safety of passengers aboard omnibuses and to ensure that covid-19 guidelines are adhered to. .


According to Superintendent Kenneth John, Head of the Traffic Department, the operation is paramount to efficaciously combat the issues associated with the public service transportation recommendations according to the protocols and guidelines stipulated by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment (MOHE).


The Traffic Department is soliciting the compliance of the general public as it relates to the stipulated protocols and guidelines of the MOHE.


Superintendent Kenneth John has also thanked the citizenry for  the partnership in the fight to keep St. Vincent and the Grenadines safe.  



MIN  OF  EDUCATION  ANNOUNCES  THE  RE-OPENING  OF  SCHOOL  FOR  STUDENDS  WRITING  EXTERNAL  EXAMS


The Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation and Information has announced that school will be reopened on May 25, 2020 for all students writing external examinations.

  

The school day will commence at 9:30 am and conclude at 2:30 pm. On-line teaching continues for all other students. The Ministry of Education says it is collaborating with the Ministry of Transport and Works to assist students commuting to and from school daily. All are reminded of the obligation to maintain a clean and safe environment for all. 


HEALTH FACILITIES TO BE RE-OPENED


The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment has announced the Re-Opening Health Facilities across the state.    It noted in a release that the Evesham Health Clinic was re-opened about a month ago after a period of closure during which repairs were carried out.

Meanwhile a staff nurse would move into the Layou Nurse Quarters over the weekend.  This would go a long way towards ensuring that a nurse is always on hand at that facility to respond to emergencies and the Kingstown District Clinic will be re-opened on Monday, May 18, 2020 with all services restored. 


The release further stated that these favourable developments would have an impact on the provision of healthcare to thousands of Vincentians. 




VINLEC CUSTOMERS TO SEE A 26% REDUCTION IN FUEL SURCHARGE RATE



The Fuel Surcharge rate applicable on electricity bills for May 2020 is at its lowest in over two years.  Customers of St. Vincent Electricity Services Limited (VINLEC) will see a 26% decrease in the Fuel Surcharge Rate from last month’s bill. VINLEC wishes to inform customers that the rate applicable on this month’s bills is 26.74 cents per unit, the lowest since November 2017. The decrease in the Fuel Surcharge rate is reflective of the decrease in prices on the international market.


Additionally, VINLEC is reminding customers that for the months of May and June, the Company is providing a COVID-19 relief discount of 15% on the basic energy charge.
This discount was first applied on April bills. Additionally, no VAT will be applied to electricity accounts for domestic customers, hotels and guest houses for the said months.
VINLEC will also waiver the reconnection fee for customers whose accounts have been disconnected.


VINLEC would like to encourage customers who are directly impacted by the financial fallout of COVID-19 to contact our Customer Services Department for matters relating to
payment on accounts at customerservices@vinlec.com, toll Free at 377 or 456-1701.



SVG OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FAMILIES



St Vincent and the Grenadines today joined with the rest of the world in observing “International Day of Families which is celebrated each year on May 15th.


Minister with responsibilities for the Family Hon Frederick Stephenson in a message to mark the occasion spoke to eh significance of the observance of the day.


Minister Stephenson said that the family plays a vital role in the development of the society and the world should pause to recognize the family on this day, however he said that there are many serious issues faced today by families of the world  most recent serious challenge being the emergence of the novel coronavirus COVID 19.


Stephenson made the point that the COVID 19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of investing in social policies to protect the most vulnerable in the society.

ECCO ISSUING ROYALTIES AND COVID-19 RELIEF TO MEMBERS



The Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights ECCO is issuing royalties and COVID 19 relief to its members.


ECCO in a release says that the onset of the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic and the measures put in place to limit its spread are having profound and far reaching consequences for all sectors and the wider economy of the region. Among those most affected are those engaged in the creative industries. The curtailment of carnivals, music festivals and other live events have significantly impacted the livelihoods of music composers, writers, arrangers, publishers, producers and promoters and ECCO says it has taken steps to ease the plight of its members. The Organisation added that in light of the hardship being experienced by many members as a result of the current pandemic, each of its sixty-five members in St Vincent and the Grenadines will receive a distribution out of a special COVID 19 relief allocation. This will also be done in other ECOO territories as well. 


The distribution will be done at the SVGAMP/ECCO office at the Peace Memorial Hall, Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.


REGIONAL


CARICOM APPROVES STRATEGY FOR PHASED RE-OPENING OF ECONOMIES


CARICOM has approved a strategy for a phased reopening of economies in the Caribbean Community, including the reopening of borders to intra-regional travel by next month.

The 50th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) was held yesterday, and the council agreed to a framework that focuses on the development and adherence to defined metrics related to the COVID-19 virus, which will guide in the reopening process.


The council is made up of Trade Ministers and officials from member countries.

The regional body said that the strategy recommends a graduated model that sees governments relaxing restrictions in a deliberate, phased and incremental manner based on the transmission risk profile of the pandemic in specified geographical locations, sectors or businesses


“The framework suggests establishing a national public-private consultative mechanism to govern the relaunch of economic activity at the member state level; minimum standards which must be attained before the relaxation of restrictions and communications to build public trust.


“There is also the proposal for Certificates of Operation to be issued to businesses that have been verified to be compliant in the protocols established for the industry.”

The meeting was chaired by the Grenada Minister of Economic Development, Trade, Planning and Labour, the Honourable Oliver Joseph; with ministerial representation from most CARICOM Member States.


JAMAICA BRACES FOR A SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES


JAMAICAN health authorities are bracing for a spike in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases locally, following yesterday's arrival of more than 200 stranded Jamaicans from the United States and Canada at Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston.

According to the Jamaica Observer the US has the largest coronavirus outbreak globally with 1.37 million infections and more than 82,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.


The Jamaicans arrived from Canada, Florida and New York — the epicentre of the outbreak in the US with more than 300,000 infections and close to 22,000 deaths.

A Government source who spoke to the Jamaica Observer yesterday, but asked not to be identified, said that authorities are expecting a sharp increase in the number though the arriving passengers will be quarantined at a St Ann hotel for a minimum of 14 days.

They will be tested for COVID-19 and will be subjected to daily temperature checks, the source said.  Jamaica has now recorded 509 COVID-19 cases.

Several Jamaica Defence Force members were among the group of 20 who arrived from Canada.


The army men, who were in the country for training under the Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP), became stranded after the country's borders were ordered closed on March 24.


Two passengers, who spoke to the Observer briefly before the media were prevented from continuing coverage of the Jamaicans' arrival, repeatedly expressed that they were happy to be home.  One of the passengers had been away for three months.


GRENADA ’S  LATEST  COVID-19  CASES  IS  AN  8  YEARS  OLD


Grenada’s latest confirmed laboratory Covid-19 case is an 8-year-old female student whom Health Minister, Nickolas Steele, said is asymptomatic and belongs to a household that is under quarantine because a member of the household was previously diagnosed as positive.

According to reports the minister announced that Grenada has now recorded its 22nd laboratory-confirmed case of Covid-19, the latest case being an 8-year-old family member of one of the positive workplace cluster cases.


Mr. Steele added that it is their youngest case so far, and, for now, she is considered an asymptomatic carrier—which means she is displaying no symptoms, but she can still transmit the disease. Thankfully, her family has been in quarantine for the last 2 weeks, since their relative was diagnosed,” he said.


Stressing the need for the public to comply with the health protocols aimed at containing Covid-19, Steele said that the contagion which has infected millions worldwide and cause the death of thousands shows that it respects no one.


Before Friday’s announcement the last time a person was announced as positive was on 1 May and it was a 21-year-old male who is a staff member of the workplace which government shut down. The company re-opened earlier this week after being granted permission to resume business under strict health protocol guidelines.

To date, the health minister said, Grenada has conducted 2,459 Rapid Tests and 454 PCR tests and has a total of 22 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on mainland Grenada.