Opposition Leader calls on government to close all borders
Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday says he is concerned that government has not heeded calls to close our seaports and airports to all but essential travel and commerce.
The president of the New Democratic Party (NDP) made the point on Wednesday night during a national address on the COVID-19 Pandemic.
He said nearly all other Caribbean countries and many countries worldwide have seen it necessary to close borders as this is a critical step in reducing the spread of the virus.
“It makes sense to secure the borders for a while. This would allow us to deal with the situation inside the country without having also to manage new arrivals, and worry about what might come in on the next flight or on the yachts that enter our ports at Wallilabou, Kingstown and Blue Lagoon,” Friday said.
SVG’s two COVID-19 cases are imported cases, one from the United Kingdom (UK) diagnosed on March 11 and the other from the United States, diagnosed on March 25.
The Opposition Leader said that in his opinion, protecting our people requires closing our borders for a while by suspending all arrivals at our airports and seaports, except essential travellers (including nationals) and commerce.
“We would then review the decision as conditions change. Taking this action now will give us the best chance of avoiding more cases of COVID-19 in SVG and of reducing the risk of an outbreak that may overburden our fragile healthcare system. The situation as it is now is creating unacceptable risks to the health and safety of our people. It is better to be safe than sorry,” Friday said.
He added that as the situation stands, with all airports and some seaports open, and with very limited testing for the disease being done, the only reasonable measure that can protect the public is to quarantine all arrivals into the country, wherever they come from.
The government has initiated mandatory quarantine measures for persons arriving from China, the European Union (including Italy, the Overseas Departments of France (Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin, French Guiana), Iran, South Korea, United States of America (including USVI and Puerto Rico), Canada and the United Kingdom.
“Every country in the world now has COVID-19. That is, after all, why it is called a global pandemic. So, all arrivals from any country must be considered to be potential carriers of the virus and must be handled as such.
“Further, the present system of in-home isolation or self-regulated quarantine is dangerous, because it is unenforceable. Even when the authorities seize the passports of people on arrival, as is being done in some cases, this cannot guarantee compliance with the quarantine requirements,” Friday noted.
He said that a guarantee of compliance, not merely a likelihood, is what is required in the present circumstances.
The country’s latest case broke quarantine and health officials are currently doing contact tracing.
Friday said to make sure persons obey quarantine regulations, a government-operated isolation facility to house all new arrivals for the 14-day quarantine period is needed and this is the only way to protect the public from potential harm and prevent the spread of the virus.
The opposition leader also made other recommendations to fight the virus, including staying at home as much as possible, practising social distancing and disinfecting used surfaces regularly.