Premier Banks outlines current COVID-19 position and economic support

Premier Banks outlines current COVID-19 position and economic support

ANGUILLA—A press conference on Friday gave health, social and economic updates pertaining to Anguilla and COVID-19. It was presented by Premier Victor Banks, Minister of Social Development Evans McNiel Rogers and Permanent Secretary for Health Foster Rogers.

 The Permanent Secretary confirmed that the Health Authority of Anguilla has tested 17 persons for COVID-19, three were positive and 14 negative. There are no cases pending at this time and persons who arrived in Anguilla prior to the port closure are now out of quarantine. Rogers said that he has received notification from regional and international trauma centres that due to the pandemic they have closed their borders and will not accept incoming airlifted patients from Anguilla for treatment. He said Anguilla’s health system has a very limited major trauma care capability and the current inability to airlift patients to offshore trauma centres, patients requiring specialized care will negatively impact such care. He pleaded with the public to practice safe behaviour, especially while driving.

 Minister of Health Rogers noted that exemptions to the regulation enacted the previous week limiting personnel movement failed to include the fisher-folk and farmers. This is being corrected as these two vital groups are key to the island’s food security and “food supply chain.”

  Banks spoke at length of the ongoing efforts to create a comprehensive economic support package to address the financial hardships to both the island’s working public as well as its businesses. Included in this package are the implementation of temporary unemployment benefits for qualified persons; a list of sanitary goods/equipment as well as food items eligible for duty free concessions for three months; and a maximum price list of retail items to prohibit price gouging.

 Additional economic stimulation initiatives being crafted for governmental approval include a compensation plan for self-employees hinged on their registration/participation in the Anguilla Social Security programme; waivering interest and penalties for three months on fees and taxes not to include arrears; increasing the property tax discount from 5% to 10% with the discount period being extended from June to October 2020; duty deferrals for maximum of six weeks to allow retailers to stockpile needed food and sanitary items to pre-empt a possible supply chain disruption; waiver consideration of social security payments of up to three months to companies that continue to pay workers required to stay home; establishing a fund through the Anguilla Development Board to grant low interest loans to assist businesses get back on track; and continuing to work with the electric and water companies to ensure consideration to customers unable to pay their bills due to loss of employment.

  Banks thanked the island’s private sector companies and establishments for their continued support to their customers, as well as the support of the United Kingdom Government, and regional agencies such as the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. He ensured the public that he will continue to provide information updates.