(St Lucia News Online) – Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, has said that there will be no shut down of schools in Dominica neither will the island’s borders be closed in light of the dreaded coronavirus which is now spreading across the globe including the Caribbean.
Dominica is one of a few countries in the region which has not reported a positive case of the virus and those countries with positive cases have closed schools, limit social gatherings or closed borders to infected countries.
At an emergency meeting of heads of government of the OECS, which was attended by Skerrit, earlier this week it was agreed on the necessity of closing schools in member states until after Easter in an effort to safeguard children from contamination.
But speaking at a press conference on Thursday, he said schools on the island will remain open, at least for the time being because there are many things to be considered while making such a step.
“So we have decided to hold back the closure of schools and to use the opportunity of students attending the schools to educate them,” he stated. “To go through drills of washing their hands and sanitary practices, so that if we have the students going back home and educating their grandparents and their parents and their brothers and sisters, then certainly we can overcome a huge challenge.”
He pointed out that if the need arises, then the decision will be taken to close schools.
“But we are mindful of the implications of closing the schools, on the society, on families, on parents,” Skerrit noted. “We don’t want to have a situation where a lady with five children, all of them are less than ten years old, she has a little job that takes care of the family, then she may have to leave the job and she has no income. So there are merits to both sides of the argument but at the end of the day we have to take a decision that we believe that is better suited for the time being.”
He pointed out that a school is not only a place where learning takes place but the attendance of many students is a guarantee for a sure meal.
Skerrit also questioned whether many families in Dominica have the requirements to provide home care for children.
“So you send them home and then they go home but there is a playing field in the community and the same 40 students from that primary school that we sent home are now playing in the playing field,” he stated. “What do you do with this issue?”
Skerrit also dismissed the idea of shutting down the island’s ports or airports, saying that if the proper protocols established by the World Health Organization (WHO) are implemented then the island will be better able to manage who is coming in and be able to monitor them and follow them.
“Now when you shut down the ports, you have Dominicans who went to Guadeloupe for medical reasons or for shopping and who are now stranded in Guadeloupe or Martinique. Any Dominican who is stranded in Guadeloupe or Martinique will take any fishing boat and come to Dominica,” he remarked. “And so they will come to Dominica on a fishing boat … all the ports will be closed so they will be coming in the illegal ports and so in one community we may have 20 Dominicans who came back from Guadeloupe who we do not know, the health system does not know. But if we are able to put in the proper protocols established by the WHO, PAHO to our ports of entry, then you are better able to manage and know who is coming in…”
Skerrit did say that if the need arises the ports will be closed.