February 19 2020


24 HOUR X-RAY SERVICE NOW AVAILABLE AT MCMH 


A twenty-four-hour X Ray service is now available at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, MCMH.   The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment made the announcement recently. Senior Radiographer Chevonne Stewart spoke about the operating hours of the now functioning 24-hour facility at the country’s main hospital.


Chief Laboratory Technologist at the MCMH Elliot Samuel indicated that the facility is Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA ready as he spoke to the capacity of the lab to deal with the most recent Coronavirus.  A senior official at the hospital’s laboratory further explained the purposes of some of the equipment.


PM GONSALVES ANNOUNCES A NEW STRATEGIC PLAN FOR LIAT IS BEING DEVELOPED 


This country’s Prime Minister Dr Hon Ralph Gonsalves has announced that a new strategic plan aimed at turning around the fortunes of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, is being developed.


According to reports Dr. Gonsalves, speaking to reporters at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Inter-sessional summit in Barbados, said that he was confident that the plan being developed by the new board of management, led by former Barbados prime minister Owen Arthur, would turn around the fortunes of the Antigua-based regional airline.

LIAT’s major shareholder governments are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Grenada.


Earlier, host Prime Minister and CARICOM chairman, Mia Mottley told regional leaders that the niggling issue of regional transportation to be resolved even as she acknowledged that it would be a work in progress. PM Gonsalves, who has lead responsibility for transportation within the quasi-CARICOM cabinet said that the new LIAT chairman is expected to discuss likely changes with the regional leaders to outline the specifics for LIAT’s strategic plan and then each country would have time to have their own discussions.  He said while a lot has been said on the taxes imposed by regional governments on regional travel, the challenge the leaders had to contend with was how best to fund the operations of their airport while finding the right balance.


Gonsalves said St. Vincent and the Grenadines was currently in the process of doing an analysis to determine if it could give a rebate to individuals who have to do trade within the region and therefore travel frequently.


He said that this was something other CARICOM leaders could consider and later expand the categories of those who would qualify. Dr. Gonsalves also expressed his continued disappointment at some regional countries that continue to benefit from the services of LIAT without making a contribution to the sustainability of the airline, which employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations.


SVG BEING AFFECTED BY SAHARAN DUST HAZE


ST Vincent and the Grenadines is being affected by a ‘haze intrusion’ due to the progression of a thick concentration of Saharan dust haze located in the central Atlantic.   The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Meteorological Service issued a 72-hour weather outlook indicating that “haze intrusion is forecast to thicken across Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) from Wednesday morning, February 19th, with an improvement likely around Friday February 21st 


The Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment is advising the general public that particles contained within the Saharan dust haze could cause a dry cough, sore throat, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and runny nose.  


The Ministry further advises that the health impact of the Saharan dust haze will differ due to the sensitivity of individuals and amount of exposure. 


High concentrations of the Saharan dust may worsen illness in persons with respiratory diseases such as asthma and persons with pre-existing heart disease. The elderly and children are also vulnerable at this time. Persons in these vulnerable groups limit their exposure to the Saharan dust by staying indoors when possible. Vulnerable groups should also have the necessary medication, including asthma inhalers with them at all times. Symptoms should disappear as the Saharan dust levels subside.   Affected persons should seek medical attention at their nearest health care center if they experience severe symptoms as a result of increasing levels of Saharan dust. 


NEMO TO HOST A COMMUNITY MEETING IN CALLIAQUA


The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) will later today host a community meeting for residents of Calliaqua and surrounding communities.

Today’s meeting will take place at the Calliaqua Town Hall at 5:30 p.m. 

The purpose of this community meeting is to present the draft Tsunami Inundation Maps for Calliaqua and to discuss the Tsunami Community Evacuation Plans.


REGIONAL 


OUTGOING CARICOM CHAIRMAN SAYS THE REGION NEEDS TO DO MORE TO DEAL WITH THE SITUATION IN HAITI


The outgoing chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Allen Chastanet, yesterday said the region needs to do more to deal with the socio-economic and political situation in Haiti, the French speaking member country of the regional integration movement.

Addressing the 31st inter- sessional meeting of Caricom governments in Barbados, Chastanet, St Lucia’s prime minister, said that the solutions to the “long-standing difficulty in Haiti also remains elusive.


PM Chastanet said that while understandably they have ring-fenced some of Haiti’s rights and privilege in their treaty, more importantly they must be honest brokers and admit that they, like many others, have failed in our attempts to find a solution.”


Caricom leaders at their summit in St Lucia last July had agreed to send a prime ministerial delegation, comprising the leaders of Jamaica, St Lucia and The Bahamas, to Haiti where Opposition forces are seeking to remove President Jovenel Moïse from office over allegations of embezzlement.


Last October, Caricom said that it was “deeply concerned” over the protracted political crisis in Haiti and that it was still awaiting a response from Moïse in order for a good offices prime ministerial delegation to visit.


Opposition parties in Haiti have accused Moïse of embezzlement, but the head of State has defended himself against the report of the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation (CSA/CA) into programmes and projects funded by PetroCaribe, an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.


The report found that significant shortcomings have been associated with the planning and implementation of development programmes and projects funded by the PetroCaribe Fund.

Chastamet told the regional leaders yesterday that there’s need to “collectively chart a new course” as it regards Haiti.“We owe it to the people of Haiti who deserve much more, especially given our common histories,” he said.   Chastanet said that the situation in Venezuela, where the United States is pushing for the removal of President Nicolas Maduro, seems to be at a “standstill”.


Caricom countries have adopted the position of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of the South American country, but have on numerous occasions said they are willing to serve as an “honest” broker in the situation.   Washington and many of its allies are supporting the Opposition Leader Juan Guaido to replace Maduro, who is backed by Cuba, China and Russia.



February 18th 2020


NEGOTIATIONS ONGOING REGARDING DIRECT FLIGHTS TO AIA FROM THE UK


Prime Minister Dr Hon Ralph Gonsalves has indicated that negotiations are ongoing with regards to direct flights at the Argyle International Airport from the United Kingdom (UK).

Speaking on radio recently PM Gonsalves stated that an announcement is expected to be made sometime early this year. The PM reminded that from the onset negotiations from the United Kingdom would have been a lengthy process.


Dr Gonsalves also used the opportunity to give an update on the various hotel projects that are earmarked to take place here in an effort to increase the country’s hotel room stock.


EDUCATION MINISTER DESCRIBES MEETING WITH EDUCATION OFFICIALS FROM CUBA AS SUCCESSFUL


Honorable St. Clair Jimmy Prince, Minister of Education has ended what can be described as a successful meeting with education officials from Cuba.  Mr. Prince recently paid an official state visit to Cuba to discuss the state of education in both and to advance cooperation in areas of Early Childhood Education and Education for Children with Special.


Minister Prince met with Mr. José Ramón Saborido Loudi; Minister of Higher Education, Elsa Velazquez Cobiella Minister of Education in Cuba. The strengthening of the scholarship programme was discussed, specifically; initiatives to advance the programme. 


The Minister of Higher Education expressed high praises for Vincentian students who he described as “disciplined and respectful”. Honorable St. Clair Jimmy Prince thanked the Minister for Cuba’s long-standing support and expressed gratitude to the Government of Cuba for their continued support of the “Education Revolution”.


$99M BUDGETED FOR SEA AND RIVER DEFENSE FOR 2020


This country's  GOVERNMENT has budgeted a total of EC$99 million for sea and river defense and related works this financial year, which it believes will offer the island protection from flooding and other climate hazards.
 

Minister with responsibility for National Mobilization, Frederick Stephenson spoke to this recently at the launch of a week-long workshop organized by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund of the Caribbean Development Bank, for community development practitioners across the Ministry.


In addition to the capital expenditure works – slated to stretch from Sandy Bay to Sans Souci on the Windward side of the island some EC$30 million have been set aside to respond to natural disaster shocks. The Minister said the both the capital expenditure projects and the disaster fund were critical, buffering the island in light of globally accepted science that climate change is likely to wreak havoc across the Caribbean in coming years, as well as the presence of the La Soufriere volcano. 


PHARMACY DAYS DOUBLED IN CANOUAN


The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment has announced that as of today the number of Pharmacy Days in Canouan has been doubled.   According to a release from the Ministry of Health a public pharmacist would now be available to fill prescriptions on that island twice per week (Wednesdays and Fridays) instead of once per week (Wednesdays only) as was previously the case.


This decision is justified by the increasing demand for pharmacy services on that island. In a recent reference year, over 1,200 patients were seen on a particular clinic day in Canouan in the absence of a pharmacist. The new measure would result in an additional 50 pharmacy days (or over 400 additional pharmacy hours) per year, and would therefore go a long way towards solving the problem of inadequate access to pharmacy services in that part of the country. This is an intermediate step towards the goal of having a pharmacist permanently stationed on Canouan.


SVGCA CONTRIBUTES WHITEBOARDS TO SCDSS


Continuing from a generous 2019, the SVG Cricket Association Inc. SVGCA Inc once again undertakes a purposeful project, which expands the reach of its social impact program. 

The first contribution of 2020 is the construction of whiteboards for the St. Clair Dacon Secondary School (SCDSS).


A request made by School Teacher Vanrick Williams found favor with the executive members of the national cricket body. Mr. Williams initiated and rationalized the project based on some challenges faced by students with chalk and realized that the whiteboards would be more conducive for both teaching and learning. The request was formalized by Principal of SCDSS, Mrs. Mona Green and SVGCA’s President, Dr. Kishore Shallow, in late 2019.


As a result, SVGCA Inc. embarked on the project to furnish the classrooms with whiteboards. The project planned for two phases has seen the completion of the first stage by the end of January 2020. This included eight classrooms furnished with whiteboards. The 2nd phase of the project will see six more classes completed by March.


President Dr. Shallow echoed that “the project is another effort to advocate the SVGCA’s policy of balancing education and sports. This school and community have been a nurturing ground of many elite Vincentian cricketers including the Mcleans and Josephs. We are quite pleased to be able to stretch our resources beyond cricket, especially where it facilitates holistic development and, which I am most certain would help to produce more exceptional players and citizens.”


Williams responded with gratitude to the SVGCA. “The principal, staff, and students of the St. Clair Dacon Secondary School wish to thank Dr. Shallow and the entire SVGCA for their generous contribution of the whiteboards… which would help to support the educational development of our students,” expressed Williams.


The project is valued at about $10,000 and is being done in collaboration with the contractor, Marcellus Constance.  In 2019, consistent with the SVGCA’s advocacy for education, five young cricketers were provided with financial assistance at the new school year. Also, last November, the SVGCA donated BBQ grills to St. Vincent Grammar School. And to celebrate the 40th Independence, the 2017 & 2018 Association of the Year recognized four young national sportspersons with awards valuing $1500 each.


The Child Friendly Committee of the Kingstown Government School will hold its annual Girls’ Empowerment Week from March 9th – 13th.   The topic for the week is “Child Sexual Abuse” and would be celebrated under the theme “Leave Me Let Me Grow.” The highlight of the week would be a march and rally which will take place on Friday 13th March, 2020.


REGIONAL 


16 YEAR OLD AMONG VICTIMS OF PLANE CRASH OFF DOMINICA


A 16-year-old is among victims of a plane that crashed off the coast of Dominica on Sunday evening, according to French media reports. He was the son of a 55-year-old couple who also went down in the plane. In total four people, all French citizens, are reported missing after the incident.   Search and rescue by the Regional Operational Center for Surveillance and Rescue in the Antilles and Guyana was still ongoing on Monday afternoon.  


In a press release the Prefecture for Guadeloupe said search team recovered a backpack with the passport of one of the people on the plane on Monday morning and later a new bag with the flight plan was found.  Parts of a landing gear, believed to be part of the missing aircraft, was also found on Monday.


Search and rescue by the Regional Operational Center for Surveillance and Rescue in the Antilles and Guyana was still ongoing on Monday afternoon.  “The search conditions are made difficult with strong winds and rough seas causing poor visibility due to frequent squalls,” the Guadeloupe Prefecture said.


The Piper F-OGKO went down after taking off from the Douglas Charles Airport, located on the northeastern part of Dominica, on Sunday evening.


JAMAICA ABLE TO TEST FOR COVID-19


Jamaica is now able to test for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.  Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton made the disclosure during a tour of the National Influenza Centre (NIC), based at the University Hospital of the West Indies yesterday.


The development follows training of local laboratory staff by the Pan American Health Organization last week.  The tests will be carried out at the NIC in collaboration with the National Public Health Laboratory. 


Dr Tufton hailed the development of local capacity to test for the infection as “another positive” for the country's public health system.  “It is very good because we don't have to send samples elsewhere, which would take a few days. We can now do the test and decide how long we isolate people and if the isolation has to be elevated to the highest possible level,” he said.  Dr Tufton assured that the Government is making every effort to build the capacity of the health system to protect the public, should the virus enter the island.


PAHO WARNS THAT DENGUE CASES IN THE AMERICA IS RISING


Cases of the mosquito-borne disease, Dengue, is rising in the Americas including the Caribbean, the Pan American Health Organization warned this week.


In its latest epidemiological report, the organization says three million cases were reported in 2019, the largest number ever recorded in the region. 1,500 people died from the disease in 2019.  In 2015 the number of cases exceeded 2.4-million which was the largest dengue outbreak in the region, with 1,400 people dying from the disease.


“Despite the increase in the number of cases in 2019, thanks to intense efforts from the countries, the case fatality rate, or the percentage of cases of dengue that progress to death, has been kept below the expected one per cent (0.05 per cent in 2019),” Marcos Espinal, director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health, said.


The organization is calling on families, communities and authorities at all levels to continue implementing measures to eliminate mosquito breeding sites. The controlling of mosquitos is key to reducing the transmission of the disease.