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    Default DR1 Daily News - Wednesday, 25 March 2020

    Gustavo Montalvo: “This quarantine is not optional”
    Police director arrests thousands to stem violation of quarantine
    Virtual justice is happening
    Presidency announces President Danilo Medina will speak on Wednesday, 25 March 2020 in the evening.
    24 March 2020: 312 cases of Covid-19
    Designer Jenny Polanco is 6th victim of Covid-19
    Isa Contreras: Very difficult times ahead
    Health and economic crisis in USA, Italy and Spain to severely impact DR
    INABIE distributes food rations for public school children
    Banco de Reservas announces flexible credit measures for its customers
    BHD Leon Bank gives its customers big breaks
    Lines to shop and new shopping hours
    Dominican factory makes 20,000 masks a day to prevent spread of Covid-19
    Medics studying in Cuba evacuated
    May presidential election updates in Coronavirus times
    Historian Frank Moya Pons writes about the 1918 influenza epidemic in the Dominican Republic
    Major crash during curfew on Winston Churchill

    Gustavo Montalvo: “This quarantine is not optional”
    The general coordinator of the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus Gustavo Montalvo warned that people who violate quarantine and isolation measures could be fined in an exemplary manner, as a way of making them understand the imperative need for them to remain in their homes so that the country can succeed in defeating the present epidemic. Minister of the Presidency, speaking on the evening of 24 March 2020, said: "It is my duty to stress the seriousness of this situation and to remind all that this quarantine period is not optional. It is not only an ethical and civic obligation but also a legal one. Its violation carries fines of between one and ten minimum wages".

    He insisted that by staying in the homes, "we will manage to reduce the infection curve and thus create the best conditions for health workers to care for those who need it most.”

    He spoke of the best-case scenario of in a few weeks of applying measures of social isolation, and the new infections will be reduced to zero as has been achieved in countries such as China and South Korea. He said this is essential so that those that need medical care. If not, the health system will collapse, he said. He announced the strengthening of protocols for action against the new coronavirus, such as improving staff training, hiring more nurses and doctors, including reinstating retired doctors and improving the country’s capacity to test for the disease.

    Police director arrests thousands to stem violation of quarantine
    The National Police and the Justice Department are preparing for hearings that would levy severe fines on violators of the quarantine period. Police director Ney Aldrin Bautista has complained that upwards of 7,000 persons have been arrested for violating the curfew.

    The Police director said that the numbers of arrests were so many that they are now using multi-use facilities in towns and cities. Most of the arrests are young people who he said don’t understand the severity of what the country is facing. The Police director says they are toughening the measures, meaning keeping the people longer under arrest in adverse conditions to get the message out to the population. He said the cases of violation are being documented to ensure that those in violation be fined.

    Speaking in an interview for Esta Noche Mariasela TV show, Bautista said that the Police is also prepared to implement a “shut down the city plan” if deemed necessary by the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus. -- Esta Noche con Mariasela

    Virtual justice is happening
    The Judicial Branch announced it is continuing with scheduled hearings by using online technologies. The parties are convened to enter the online platforms for the hearings. Previously, the Justice Branch had suspended court cases from 19 March through 13 April 2020.

    The justice department has reported that since the declaration of the State of Emergency, the courts of Duarte, María Trinidad Sánchez, Samaná, La Vega, Monseñor Nouel, San Juan de la Maguana and El Seibo have conducted "a successful exercise" with the holding of hearings in which each party connects remotely to video conferences via a fixed or mobile electronic device.

    President Medina scheduled to address the nation on Wednesday, 25 March
    Presidency announces President Danilo Medina will speak on Wednesday, 25 March 2020 in the evening. To date, the Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, and Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo, together with legal advisor to the President Flavio Darío Espinal have been coordinating actions for the High Commission for the Prevention of the Coronavirus.

    The government has not said whether President Danilo Medina has tested negative for the new coronavirus. President Danilo Medina is 68 years old. Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas said in a press conference on Tuesday that President Medina does not have symptoms. Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and Deputy Minister Peggy Cabral both have tested positive.

    24 March 2020: 312 cases of Covid-19
    Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas confirmed on Tuesday, 24 March 2020, that there is now community spread of the novel coronavirus disease in the Dominican Republic. He said this is the time to insist on hygiene measures, self-isolation and social distancing, keeping at least two meters from another person. He announced there are 67 new cases. The tally is now at 312 persons who have tested positive (up from 245 on Monday, 23 March) and six deaths, including that of famous Dominican designer Jenny Polanco. He said that prevention measures are being stepped up.

    There are 12 provinces that have not yet reported cases of Covid-19. Most of the disease is concentrated in Greater Santo Domingo (National District and Santo Domingo province), Santiago and San Francisco de Macoris and San Pedro de Macoris.

    The Minister said that the community transmission phase means the population has to step up social isolation, hygiene measures and self-protection. "It's time for extreme hygiene and protection measures, but also for love and solidarity to prevail," he added. He called for efforts to keep the 12 provinces where there have not been cases free of the disease. Border provinces with Haiti are still coronavirus-free. The official border crossing point is closed, but there have been reports of Haitians traveling home after losing their work in the Dominican Republic due to the collapse of the tourism industry and the construction industry.

    Testing has been stepped up recently. Nevertheless, tests continue to be performed only after a person reports symptoms, or by private labs that charge RD$4,300 for the test and require a person to get on a waiting list. The Ministry says it has 5,000 test kits and is expecting more for tests carried out at no cost at the Dr. Defilló National Lab. The government says arrangements are being made to make available more free tests.

    In Duarte province, the Minister says that the disease was mostly spread by a woman who did not keep self-isolation in Duarte province after testing positive and due to the imprudence of the provincial medical services head who attended to the woman without the due precautions. The disease also spread due to a large wedding that took place in Punta Cana on 14 March, due to the Dominicans that caught the disease on board the Costa Favolosa cruise, and to a fund-raising party organized by the Catholic Church in San Pedro de Macoris.

    Sánchez Cárdenas said there are 68 persons in hospitals, 236 in self-isolation and two have recovered. There are six who have died, with ages 41 to 84 years.

    The Dominican government declared a State of Emergency on Thursday, 19 March 2020 through 13 April. Land borders, air and sea ports are closed to passenger traffic. There is a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am since Friday, 20 March.
    The first person to test positive was an Italian tourist on 3 March. Two weeks later, by 16 March, there were 21 cases. The numbers would continue upwards. On 18 March: 34 cases; 20 March 72 cases; 21 March 112 cases; 22 March 202 cases; 23 March 245 cases, 24 March 312 cases.

    As of 24 March, the National District and Santo Domingo province accounted for 57% of all cases. The provinces were as of 24 March there were not yet confirmed cases of the virus are: Bahoruco, Dajabón, Elías Piña, El Seibo, Independencia, Montecristi, Pedernales, Peravia, Santiago Rodríguez, Monte Plata, Hato Mayor and San José de Ocoa. The provincial count of the disease in the National District and the other provinces was as follows as of 24 March:

    National District 137
    Santiago 44
    Santo Domingo 40
    Duarte (San Francisco de Macorís) 29
    La Altagracia (Higuey, Veron and Punta Cana) 11
    San Pedro de Macoris 10
    La Vega 8
    La Romana 5
    Puerto Plata 5
    Samana 5
    Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo) 3
    Monsenor Nouel (Bonao) 3
    Espaillat (Moca) 2
    San Juan de la Maguana 2
    Azua 1
    María Trinidad Sánchez 2
    Barahona 1
    San Cristóbal 1
    Sanchez Ramirez 1
    Valverde 1

    Designer Jenny Polanco is 6th victim of Covid-19
    Fashion designer Jenny Polanco passed away from complications caused by Covid-19. She was 62 years old. She is credited with taking Dominican fashion design to new levels with her designs. She embodied the country’s fashion country brand and was a trailblazer and innovator for the design and arts and crafts worlds.

    Her free-flowing white tunics and dresses and blouses with amber bottoms have made their mark for decades. She is known to have mentored many Dominican emerging designers and arts and crafts artisans. One of her most recent endeavors was to set up a high design store for young talented designers at Agora Mall. She operated an arts and crafts store at Altos de Chavón in La Romana. Her fashion was for sale in stores in La Romana, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, París and New York.

    Polanco fell ill after returning from a trip to Spain where she caught the virus. She returned on 4 March. She tested positive, was recovering at home, and then suffered from complications that obliged her to be hospitalized at the Ramon de Lara Hospital in the San Isidro Air Base. She was recovering, when suddenly her kidneys failed her on the early morning of Tuesday. When announcing that she had tested positive, Polanco had said her case was complicated because she had also tested positive for amoeba. The Public Health Minister was the first to confirm her death.

    According to Bulletin No. 5 on the Covid-19 epidemic, as of Tuesday, 24 March there had been six deaths: four in Duarte province, one in San Juan de la Maguana and another in San Pedro de Macoris. The three reported most recent deaths are Polanco and an 80-year old and 84-year old French citizens.

    Polanco graduated from Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University (UNPHU) with a degree in interior design. She went on, nevertheless, to have one of the most successful careers in fashion design in the country. She exported her designs to the United States and Puerto Rico where they were sold to many appreciating customers. The excellent tailoring of the dresses make many of these works of art.

    Polanco was always very collectively oriented and over the years, has spearheaded or participated in many community-oriented projects. Polanco’s collective responsibility was evidenced when she came forward to announce she had tested positive and urged others to take maximum precautions. Even when ill, she went public with her disease to alert other Dominicans to the seriousness of the virus. "Don't hug, don't kiss, take care of yourself and others," she warned in the interview with Alicia Ortega after announcing she had caught the virus she also stressed the values of being honest and authentic when referring to her children.

    Radio talk show host Altagracia Salazar said that Jenny Polanco has “put a face on Covid-19,” with her death now raising the awareness among all Dominicans to take the virus very seriously. Shortly after returning from Spain, Polanco had hosted her friends at her home to share her experiences. At the time, she had no idea of the danger she had exposed herself to or her friends. Reports are that some who attended did test positive and are in self-isolation.

    National District deputy and candidate for senator for the National District Faride Raful criticized that the relatives of Jenny Polanco first heard about her death in a press conference by the Minister of Public Health. "In violation of all medical ethics, privacy and the principle of confidentiality, the Ministry of Health made Jenny Polanco's sad demise known through a press conference, before her family knew. What is happening to us," Raful wrote on her social media.

    As part of restrictions due to Covid-19, the funeral services are limited to the family. She is survived by her daughter Carla Quiñones and son Luis Carlos Quiñones.

    Isa Contreras: Very difficult times ahead
    Economist Pavel Isa Contreras says the Dominican Republic is already feeling the severe effects of what he estimates is the worst economic crisis to affect the world as we know it today.

    In an interview on AN7 TV channel, he said that the drastic restriction of travel and the closing of borders will have a major impact. “Markets are closing, exports do not find markets, there are severe difficulties for the transport of merchandise,” he remarked. He pointed to the extensive supply chain behind the stores, that of wholesalers that supply retailers, agriculture that supplies industry, and more.

    “Without doubt there will be a significant reduction in people’s income,” he said. This will be felt the most among those working in tourism, the most affected sector. He said anyone working outside of essential services and health services will suffer. He named export free zones.

    He said the impact will worsen with the community spread of the disease as the governments see it necessary to implement extreme social isolation measures and oblige people to not leave their homes.

    “Probably all the economy will be affected,” he said. He remarked it took China two months to reopen activities. He forecast many companies will close if the present shutdown of businesses lasts for two months. “Many businesses will not be able to hold out without selling,” he said.

    Isa Contreras recommends the government forget about its fiscal deficit. “These are unchartered waters and we do not know how long the suspension may last,” he said. He warned that more than half of Dominican households depend on what the breadwinners bring in with their everyday work. He said those that work in the informal sector do not have any income if they do not work, nor do they have savings.

    He called for the government to subsidize the companies so they can keep their employees. He urged the government to make deposits to the accounts of people on the “Comer es Primero” welfare plan, so that they can continue to buy essential goods. He said this measure would complement others being taken by the Tax Agency (DGII) and the Monetary Board, which primarily favor the formal sector. “The government needs to spend lots of money. There is no alternative,” he declared.

    Later on Esta Noche con Mariasela, Contreras expanded on the economic topic, urging for actions to protect the jobs of people.

    Health and economic crisis in USA, Italy and Spain to severely impact DR
    The United States and Europe are the leading trading partners of the country and are expected to experience recessions due to the effects of the Covid-19. An economic analysis in Diario Libre headlines that what at best would be a severe cold in the United States could turn into pneumonia for the Dominican Republic. The United States is the country’s leading trading partner. It also is where the most Dominican expats live and that have been sending home around US$6 billion a year in remittances for family and friends.

    INABIE distributes food rations for public school children
    Reports are that raw food rations are being distributed to public school children nationwide. The children had been studying at extended hour schools where they received breakfast and lunch at the school. The parents are now authorized to pick up ingredients to prepare the lunches for their children. Reports are that the queues at the schools are keeping to protocols that require distance between each person on the line.

    INABIE is the National Institute for School Welfare that is in charge of purchasing and distributing the school meals nationwide. For many impoverished households, the school meals are a big plus and incentive to keep their children in school.

    INABIE says that the bags of ingredients are being supplied per enrolled student, not per family.

    Banco de Reservas announces flexible credit measures for its customers
    Banco de Reservas announced that as of 1 April 2020 it will grant customers a grace period of up to three months on their loans. The deferred payments would be made in a period added to the current term of the loan. The new facilities benefit those who have a mortgage, consumer, vehicle and SME financing at the government-owned commercial bank. The bank says these are part of compensatory measures due to the economic consequences of the new coronavirus.

    The bank has also announced new measures for debit and credit card customers.

    Customers who wish to opt for this facility should write to the bank by 31 March through its the new Banreservas Customer Support Center. At ([email protected]).

    BHD Leon Bank gives its customers big breaks
    BHD León Bank announced new and improved conditions for its customers. The bank announced it is eliminating the advance fee for 30-day cash advances. Customers will now have 28 days to pay their credit card from the cut-off date. Customers have the option of paying the debt through deferred fees in up to 48 installments. Cardholders are also getting a 20% refund on delivery charges (Orders Now, All Delivery, Uber Eats, Glovo), and on charges in several pharmacies nationwide.

    Interest arrears will not apply to consumer loans and loans for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for 60 days. There will be a 60-day grace period for those taking out new loans. Commissions on ACH bank transfers and payments to third parties during the next 30 days are eliminated. This facility includes payments to the Tax Agency (DGII), Customs Agency (DGA), Social Security (TSS) and vocational education center (Infotep).

    In addition, commissions for automatic payroll payments through Internet Banking Empresarial BHD León are eliminated for the rest of the month of March.

    Lines to shop and new shopping hours
    To step up safety precautions for their customers, La Sirena and Pola stores have ordered that a distance of one meter be kept between customers that are now needing to queue to enter the shops, especially the most popular branches.

    Carrefour stores are now open from 9am to 6pm daily.

    Bravo supermarkets are open from 7am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday.

    El Nacional and Jumbo are open from 8am to 6pm, with 7 am-8 am set aside for shopping of those 65+ who can be accompanied.

    Dominican factory makes 20,000 masks a day to prevent spread of Covid-19
    The National Council of Export Free Zones (CNZFE) reports that 586 free zone export companies have closed. But those that manufacture medical devices continue in operation. Luisa Fernández, the executive director of CNZFE, says that just one company produces some 20,000 masks per day, serum drops and surgical sheets. She said other companies have sent their workers home on two weeks paid vacation to prevent the spread of the virus.

    She said one company has purchased two million of these masks to give to their customers. Others are donating masks to the Ministry of Public Health. Fernandez said another company is producing alcohol daily to be donated to the Ministry of Public Health for use in sanitizers.

    She said that 17 call centers continue to operate.

    Medics studying in Cuba evacuated
    Some 126 Dominicans living in Cuba, including dozens who were doing their masters and medical specialties in Cuba returned to the country on Tuesday in four separate flights. The medics returned on two chartered private flights. The first two to arrive were Helidosa flights. The company is owned by former Minister of Public Works, today ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) presidential candidate, Gonzalo Castillo.

    Altagracia Salazar reported that also on those flights came the daughter of the president of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Temístocles Montás and a niece of President Danilo Medina. Also several children.

    The flights were reportedly chartered by presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo. The other two flights were chartered from Air Century. The flights landed at the La Isabela International Airport in northern Santo Domingo.

    Upon arrival spokespersons for the students said that none had symptoms of Covid-19. It is not clear if and where the arrivals are quarantined.

    The first student arrivals expressed their appreciation to Castillo for coordinating their flights at a time when Cuba had announced the closing of all flights. The students explained classes were shut down in Cuba as of Monday and were in quarantine as most of the Cuban population.

    Cuba announced on Monday, 23 March that as of Tuesday, 24 March it was sealing its borders to guard against the spread of Covid-19. The measure affects all tourists and foreigners that are in Cuba. Until Monday, Cuba had skirted the regional moves to close airports to travel. As of Monday, 23 March, Cuba had 40 cases of Covid-19, including that of one aging Italian tourist.

    Cuba is now following the regional trend to gradually implement restrictive quarantines to stem the spreading of the disease. – Altagracia Salazar

    May presidential election updates in Coronavirus times
    Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas says that as of 24 March there is no reason to announce the suspending of the 17 May presidential and congressional election. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) announces on 24 March that it is closing for two days of sanitizing the entity. It announces preparations continue for the elections.

    Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) presidential candidate Luis Abinader calls for a government of unity to deal with the virus. He says the party is not looking for jobs. His party announces they are looking into ways to purchase 40,000 Covid-19 test kits. After the 15 March municipal election, polls showed Abinader was likely to win in a first round of the election, and more than doubles the voter preference compared to his closest rival, Gonzalo Castillo of the PLD.

    PLD presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo helps airlift Dominicans caught in Cuba when that country declares a national quarantine. Earlier, he had said he would be allotting RD$20 million to assist medical services, and mentions the Cruz Jiminián clinic as one of the beneficiaries. The medical director of the Cruz Jiminián clinic is interned for dengue at the Plaza de la Salud and is being tested for the new coronavirus.

    Historian Frank Moya Pons writes about the 1918 influenza epidemic in the Dominican Republic
    In a feature in Diario Libre today, Dominican historian takes the time to remind Dominicans about the influenza outbreak that killed 1,654 and infected 96,828 persons from when it started in November 2018 to when the last case was confirmed in October 1919.

    Major crash during curfew on Winston Churchill
    Media reports are of a major traffic crash at the Sarasota and Winston Churchill in the National District. One of the vehicles turned over and was totaled. The crash occurred during the 8pm to 6am curfew, when traffic in the city is down to a bare minimum.
    Last edited by Dolores; 03-25-2020 at 09:16 AM.

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