Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is slated to deliver an address to the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic at 8 p.m. today (Wednesday), the Office of the Prime Minister has announced.
The address will be delivered from the conference room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — in Kingstown — and will detail “further plans of the government to address the COVID-19 situation in the country, and the plans of the government in this regard,” a statement said.
The National Broadcasting Corporation will air and live stream the address and will make the feed available to other media outlet.
The address comes two days after opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock said that the prime minister was yet to address the nation on the crisis that has gripped the world, resulting in some 17,000 deaths.
“… up to now, our prime minister has not addressed this matter as a prime minister — commingling it with the matters at the Obelisk (Heroes Day address), commingling it with other matters within a press conference,” Leacock, who is MP for Central Kingstown, said on Boom FM.
Parliament is slated to meet on Thursday, the first meeting since the approval of the historic EC$1.2 billion Budget in February and since SVG recorded its sole confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 11.
Last week, the prime minister told the media that his government would ask lawmakers to approve supplementary estimates to provide monies to respond to the impact of COVID-19.
“With all the new things on which we have to spend money and some stimulus, which we have to put in, and some costing for the food plan, it is likely, almost inevitable that we have to go to Parliament,” Gonsalves told a press conference in Kingstown.
The prime minister said his government was trying to complete the supplementary estimates for Thursday’s meeting of the national assembly. However, it is not included in the order paper circulated to the media on Tuesday.
The order paper however includes a question by Leacock about COVID-19.
Leacock is expected to ask:
“Against the background of the International and Regional Spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the required risk management to contain or mitigate the spread of the virus Could the Honourable Prime Minister please provide the approximate estimates of Vincentians residing in the following Jurisdictions: (a) USA and by geography the Eastern Seaboard of (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Long Island, Boston) other; (b) United Kingdom, (London, High Wycombe,) other (c) Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, other) (d) Trinidad and Tobago; Barbados; BVI; Antigua & Barbuda; St. Kitts & Nevis; (Other Caribbean), (e) Europe”
Lawmakers generally have to submit question 10 clear days ahead of the meeting of Parliament.
Meanwhile, in his statement on radio on Monday, Leacock said that the prime minister, in his comments on COVID-19, is “always politicking [claiming that] the opposition will do this, the opposition will do that.
“This is not a time for NDP (New Democratic Party), ULP (Unity Labour Party) or any P. This is a time for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and we (politicians) must take a backseat. We must take a backseat and put the science and the medicine first.”
Leacock was commenting on a statement he made on NICE Radio last week, in which he said he had been advised by a medical professional that between 30,000 and 50,000 persons in SVG will be affected by COVID-19 and “not less than 2,000 Vincentians will lose their lives”.
He said on Monday:
“If I’m wrong, I’m prepared to come out and say I erred. Because I could have taken a decision to say, ‘Look, you see that, you go and tell he people so yourself. I ain’t touching that.
“Now, suppose I took that decision and it eventually happened, how do I live with myself and say I was in a position to share with the nation information of a kind that had been given to me because someone had the confidence in me to put it over and I declined.
“If people discovered subsequently that I knew that and I never said anything, what would people think of me? Irresponsible and reckless.”