Address to the nation by Franka Alexis-Bernardine, party leader of National Democratic Congress

Fellow citizens, I greet you with hope and optimism in this trying and difficult time. I address you today, not just in my capacity as the Party Leader of the National Democratic Congress, but also as a mother, grandmother, sister, friend and daughter of a senior citizen who is 99 ½ years old.

Most important, I greet and address you today as a fellow patriot of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and once again, to join the government, in the urgent call to heed the orders to observe the curfew and stay indoors.

Sisters and brothers, this pandemic that we face together, caused by the coronavirus is unprecedented. The Covid-19 pandemic presents a threat to the existence of humanity everywhere. We in Grenada are no exception. It also creates an environment where things change rapidly, as information is constantly updated and fed to us. This environment makes it difficult for all of us, including the authorities, healthcare workers and law enforcement personnel to plan well ahead.

We are facing a common enemy that knows no boundaries and does not discriminate between rich and poor, upper class and lower class, NDC and NNP. No individual is immune. It means, as we have been saying, that we must come together as one people to fight and defeat this common enemy. Our very survival depends on this.

The good news is that once we all contribute to defeating this common enemy, we will prevail. Other countries around the world have shown us that this is possible. Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Cuba and our neighbour, St Vincent & the Grenadines have all shown us how, working together as one, we can adopt best strategies and overcome the Covid-19 disease in Grenada.

In this context, I am lending my voice as a national leader and patriot, to urge all citizens, no matter your political leaning to work closely with the government and the National Covid-19 Response Team to contain the spread of the disease and in so doing, save lives. We each must take individual responsibility for our safety and that of our loved ones, especially the elderly and those with health challenges.

The National Democratic Congress is not in the business of paying lip service or engaging in empty rhetoric. We say what we mean; and mean what we say. We have always been that way!

Therefore, on Monday, 23 March 2020, on the invitation of Prime Minister Mitchell, I had a face to face discussion with him on how we might join forces to defeat this common enemy, Covid-19. At that meeting, we agreed that this pandemic transcends all boundaries, including political boundaries and requires all hands on deck. I undertook that our Public Relations Unit will continue co-operating with the Minister of Health and his Covid-19 Response Team, in educating and informing the public on the disease, and that as a party, we will continue to share our views and perspectives, and offer suggestions and ideas, as we have been doing from the beginning of this crisis.

The Prime Minister also invited the NDC to be part of the national effort to fight this disease. We accepted this invitation and have since nominated 3 of our members to serve on the committees that were established to address different aspects of the crisis. Our 3 members nominated are: Lennox Andrews – Economics; Cecelia Ann John – Social, and Kennedy Roberts – Public Health.

We are grateful to our Minister of Health, the Covid-19 Response Team, and medical personnel and health caregivers. I too have a son and 4 immediate family members on the frontline of healthcare and I experience the concerns of families for their relatives in this position. I want to reassure our nurses, community health providers, doctors, orderlies and all others, of our deepest appreciation for their efforts and risking their lives to help the rest of us. To our men and women of the Royal Grenada Police Force we thank you for stepping up and providing exemplary service at this time.  We thank the business community, our many vendors, farmers and fisher folk for keeping our economy functioning. We also thank our teachers, who continue to instruct our students under trying circumstances. We empathise with parents and the struggle with the children at home at this time; BUT IT MUST BE DONE. Indeed, we thank our entire nation for your shared sacrifice.

Brothers and sisters, I hasten to add here, that while we work together to defeat Covid-19, we in the NDC understand that we must not neglect our duty to you the people in addressing other issues of national importance and certainly, in addressing issues related to this Covid-19 crisis. We are fully aware that lives depend on this issue being handled efficiently. Therefore, we believe that joining hands to win this fight means that we must continue to offer constructive criticism where warranted. Constructively criticising should only result in improved performance overall.

In this regard, we in the NDC again urge our government to give serious consideration to some of our suggestions already given. We believe that certain proactive measures can still be implemented to help win this fight. Therefore, once again, the NDC calls on government to consider taking on board the following recommendations:

  1. Identify and outfit a national quarantine shelter where people showing symptoms and/or testing positive but not requiring hospitalisation will be housed. This facility will separate such persons from the rest of the community.
  2. Government must be sensitive to our social realities where in most instances, people live very close to each other in small homes and in tenements with several households occupying the same yard space. In many instances, social distancing is almost impossible and self-isolation is definitely impossible. Our existing Public Health Act makes provision for this very situation and so far, we have seen no good reason why the provisions of that law are not applied.
  3. We again ask government to take all steps that are needed, to put Grenada in a position where we can do more regular testing for the virus. It is simply not acceptable that our healthcare professionals are put in a position where they know that a person was exposed but they must wait for that person to begin to show symptoms before testing that person for the virus. Worse yet, persons who are exposed are sent back to their homes to potentially infect other family members. The science is clear. A person can spread the virus even if they are showing no symptoms.
  4. Government must ensure that our first responders, police and security forces are properly equipped and outfitted with protective gear while executing their duties. They too are at great risk of contracting the virus.
  5. Although we pledged to work together, the nature of this virus does not always allow for prediction. Let me be clear that I became aware of the 2 declarations of a state of emergency on 25 and 29 March 2020 at the same time with the general public. In both instances, especially with the total lockdown announced by the Minister of Health on Sunday night, unnecessary hardship was visited on the people, which could have been avoided with just a little more notice given. The rush to the grocery stores, gas stations and to complete errands, and the long lines across the country on Monday morning, not only caused undue stress, but also put the nation at greater risk, with the inability to observe social distancing as so many were forced to congregate close to each other.
  6. Address the transport issues being experienced by essential workers and others by thinking creatively and also subsidising the bus drivers.
  7. The losses suffered by the vendors of fresh produce and tourist vendors need to be addressed.
  8. A united approach in this fight requires continued and genuine engagement and consultation. We would have pointed this out!

Brothers and sisters, today I appeal to each one of you to take the deadly threat of the Coronavirus seriously. It is our common enemy, hovering around and searching for its next victim. There is only one way that the virus can get us, that is, by humans moving it around and spreading it. That is why it is so important to listen to the guidelines of the WHO, PAHO and our local authorities.

  • Stay indoors
  • Comply with the curfew now in place
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Bar your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing

If you do these things, you might just be saving your own life and the lives of others including your elderly relatives.

My fellow Grenadians, let us use this crisis to demonstrate our true Grenadian spirit. Look out for the elderly, the shut-ins, the disabled and those who live alone. Give them a call. Get a care package to them. Be your brother’s keeper. The NDC will continue its drive to distribute packages of food items to those who need. We urge individuals to do the same. When you purchase your food items take up a little extra to help even one family!

We have witnessed the quick, devastating effects such an outbreak can cause on a country’s economy. It therefore behoves us as a responsible party to again call for genuine corporation and to plan for a more robust and diversified economy which will help to cushion any future shocks.

I take this opportunity to appeal to the authorities to ensure that the promised economic relief package is rolled out soon and shared effectively and fairly and in a timely manner. When addressing the distribution we urged that Members of Parliament bear in mind that they are the MP for everyone in their constituency, and bear the moral burden of ensuring that taxpayers’ money goes to those who need it most and not to those supporting or not supporting any particular party. Distribution must not bring strife and contention but relief and peace.  In keeping with the requests of many persons, we strongly suggest that the care packages containing food and other essentials be given higher priority and to the poorest of the poor.

My brothers and sisters, in this difficult time I encourage you to remain positive! Stay inside! Stay healthy!  Stay safe! Love one another! And be assured, we shall overcome together as one people, one family, one nation! May God bless us all and may God bless our nation!

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