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Fellow citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda.

Following the announcement by the Prime Minister on March 13 that Antigua and Barbuda had recorded its first Covid-19 patient, I thought it fit to convey a message to the nation, which was read on my behalf in the Parliamentary Session called on March 17 to determine the nation’s response to this new and infectious disease. 

My message gave support to the protocols issued by government and other health authorities including the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

History will record that on March 25 the nature of this infectious disease and our nation’s vulnerability led me to sign a proclamation declaring a State of Public Emergency. The proclamation sought to encourage our people to follow the guidelines given by the established authorities in order to control the spread of Covid-19. 

We have repeatedly been hearing the phrase, ‘We are living in extra-ordinary times’, and indeed we are. Never before has the entire world come to such a grinding halt – stifling powerful economies and snuffing out even the simple social interactions between individuals and communities across the world. 

As a medical doctor I answered many questions from persons who were gripped with fear, not knowing whether they had acquired the disease. Some persons developed high blood pressure, others suffered from depression and some who are diabetic saw their blood sugar spiral out of control. These responses were likely fueled by the stresses brought on by the pandemic and the isolation experienced by some with the requirement for physical distancing. 

I express my appreciation to the entire nation for the spirit of cooperation, collaboration and cohesion that has served to minimise the ill effects of the coronavirus on Antigua and Barbuda. I also wish to thank the many persons who raised their voices to inform and educate the public regarding the dangers associated with this viral infection and the best ways to avoid contracting the disease.

We are all particularly grateful to those who work on the frontlines and in the essential services, putting their own lives at risk for the good of us all. I extend special thanks to the countries, organisations and individuals who have given and continue to give to ensure that the basic needs of our people are met. We each have and continue to have our part to play in dealing with the challenges brought on by this pandemic.

One of the many responsibilities of the Governor General is to recognise excellence among our citizens and residents by publicly acknowledging outstanding service and conferring honours upon those persons who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in areas of human endeavour in times like these. 

We know that there are deserving persons who have been facelessly and namelessly contributing behind the scenes. We look forward to receiving submissions of nominations of persons who meet the criteria for the Governor General’s Faithful and Meritorious Service Award and other honours as it relates to the fight against the Covid-19 disease. 

Even as our government extends the State of Public Emergency with a further relaxation of the restrictions, I encourage all to realise that we should not shirk our duty to adhere to the newly established protocols.

As one German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, opined, knowing is not enough, we must apply that knowledge; willing is not enough we must do.

Take action, yes but we must proceed with caution. Take action yes, but we should never use our present state of affairs as an excuse to engage in less than noble practices or criminal activities.

Indeed, there is a delicate balance between saving lives and saving the economy and providing for our livelihood. We must therefore exercise patience and tolerance as our leaders strive to achieve the best combination of policies and programmes for our survival and success.

Our nation’s successful emergence from these challenging times requires that all of us think more creatively and develop solutions that will enable us to not only survive but thrive in the new normal after Covid-19! God bless us all! God bless Antigua and Barbuda!

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