Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has announced that Dominica is now free of any active COVID-19 cases.
He said in an address to the nation on Sunday evening that the last remaining active case of the novel coronavirus in the country has tested negative.
The number of confirmed cases remains at 16 where it has been for the past several weeks.
However, PM Skerrit reminded Dominicans as did the Chief Medical Officer a few days before, that the battle against COVID-19 is far from over as additional threats lie on the horizon.
“But we are determined to push on with the awareness, the understanding and the discipline we have all shown thus far, ” the prime minister stated. “As we have done in almost every stage of our development, this government is cognisant that the interest of our people must be at the centre of every measure we take.”
In addressing the reopening of different sectors of the economy, the prime minister made it clear that the guiding factor has to be protecting lives and livelihoods.
“To prevent community transmission, government continues to strengthen our surveillance, contact tracing and isolation systems,” Skerrit stated, adding, “As we gradually reopen, it is imperative that we take all the necessary measures to slow the potential spread of the virus throughout our society; our approach must be measured”
The prime minister stressed the need to learn from the experience of other countries pointing out that some had taken quick measures to reopen and have had to review that decision in light of a new wave of the coronavirus.
“We are learning and we need to learn more,” he asserted.” And importantly, listen to the science; saving lives is our utmost priority.”
Skerrit said reentry into Dominica will be phased to ensure that facilities and health staff are not overwhelmed. He said the government was working to ensure that the many Dominicans out of the country, including students who wished to return home, could do so without placing their families, themselves and others at risk.
The prime minister announced the reopening some business sectors in addition to those that have already been allowed to open.
“Effective Monday 18th May, the following sectors will be allowed to reopen by appointments only in the first instance. Hair salons and barber shops, sulphur spas, manicure and pedicure and massage parlours,” Skerrit announced.”Also, guidelines are being developed in coordination with other countries in the region for the gradual resumption of travel. Should we continue to on the current trajectory of this pandemic situation, we should be able to facilitate at least regional travel by July.”
The prime minister said by then his government should be able to lift the current curfew restrictions in Dominica.
“Our projections, also, is that by that time, we should be able to consolidate the various protocols for the reopening of restaurants, bars, cinemas and hotels,” he continued.”Discussions are ongoing with our church and faith-based leaders on how to facilitate the congregating of worshippers at their various places.
He said for the time being schools in terms of the traditional gathering of classes will remain closed but alternative methods of teaching especially through online training are continuing and being fine-tuned further. According to Skerrit, the current arrangements could continue until the end of the school term.
In respect of these stages, the appropriate protocols and guidelines are being developed for each sector which the ministry of health will share with the public at the appropriate time, the prime minister indicated.
“I cannot overemphasize the need to adhere strictly to all health protocols. I have instructed that the environmental health officers conduct random checks on businesses to ensure that all protocols are being followed,” he warned. “We have noted that as restrictions are being lifted, there is a sense of returning to business as usual.
“The threat of COVID-19 is not over and until a vaccine is found, we must function as if everybody is infected.” Skerrit declared.
He urged people to maintain their distance from others outside of their home circle by staying home unless they need to go out to access services or go to work and to limit their time during activities such as walking or going ton the beach.
He again thanked frontline workers and essential service providers for their “yeoman service to their fellowmen and country” and appealed to Dominicans for their “continued cooperation and support so that Dominica can successfully navigate this pandemic”.
“Throughout history, our country has faced many challenges. and on each occasion, our people have risen to the task. This is another moment in history,” the prime minister stated. “While this current pandemic is unprecedented in many ways, we are confident that through the grace of God, through our working together, and through your determination and spirit, we will once again, rise”