DR1 Daily News - Thursday, 2 April 2020


May 3, 2000
President Medina names new taskforce to combat Covid-19
Coronavirus tally in DR: 1,284 cases, 57 deaths
Cedimat prepares for more Covid-19 patients
DR may be able to resolve its medical devices needs by buying from local export free zones
DR presides the UN Security Council; virtual sessions to take place
The Central Bank donates for COE and Plaza de la Salud supplies
Several legislators test positive for the coronavirus
Dr. Antonio Cruz Jiminián is out of intensive care
René Rodríguez Soriano dies of Covid-19
PRM presidential candidate calls for unity and drastic measures now
Leonel Fernández warns of Covid-19 recession; suggests virtual world assembly
Fernández to use the quarantine to learn how to fry an egg
Watch Easter religious activities on TV
Air pollution down to a minimum in the city
Cybercrime up in times of Covid-19
Covid-19 patient No. 2 tests negative
Asonahores members offer hotels for temporary isolation shelters
First Lady Cándida Montilla speaks up for children with autism

President Medina names new taskforce to combat Covid-19
President Danilo Medina appointed an Emergency and Health Management Committee for the Fight against Coronavirus (Covid-19), through decree 141-20. He named his new health advisor, Dr. Amado Báez as its executive director.

The decision was announced on 1 April 2020 by government spokesman Roberto Rodríguez Marchena through his Twitter account @RodrigMarchena. Rodríguez Marchena said the committee will allow for the effective coordination of the various institutions that oversee public health to optimize the effectiveness of the measures taken by the Dominican government to address the pandemic.

The Emergency and Health Management Committee is composed of:
-Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, Minister of Public Health, who will coordinate it.
-Chanel Rosa Chupani, Director of the National Health Service (SNS).
-Brigadier General Juan Manuel Méndez García, Director of the Emergency Operations Center (COE).
-Dr. Jorge Marte Báez, medical advisor to the Executive Branch
-Dr. José R. Yunén, certified doctor in internal medicine, infectious disease, critical and neuro-intensive medicine.
-Patricia León, executive director of Laboratorio Clínico Referencia.
-Dr. Amado Alejandro Báez, advisor to the Executive Branch on public health and disaster systems, mass emergencies and critical care, who is serving as the Committee's executive director.

The Committee's duties include advising the President on public policies to combat Covid-19, contributing to mitigating and reversing the progress of the pandemic in the country and increasing the response capacity of health sector institutions to this situation.

Likewise, the Committee is tasked to develop strategies to respond to emergency or mass critical care situations, promote public-private partnerships to increase the health system's capacity, and monitor the implementation of the adopted measures.

Earlier this month, the Presidency had created the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus.


Coronavirus tally in DR: 1,284 cases, 57 deaths
The Ministry of Public Health reports there are now 1,284 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic as of 31 March 2020 at 6pm, according to Coronavirus Bulletin #13. The number of cases is 175 more than the previous 1,109. Of these, 147 persons are hospitalized and another 1,071 are monitored while in self-isolation or in isolation shelters. There are 57 deaths now, up from 51 the previous day.

The concentration of cases by place of residence is 40% in the National District, 13% in the province of Santo Domingo, 11% in Santiago, and 8% in Duarte province.

Provinces with the most new cases are: National District (58), Santo Domingo province (23), La Vega (19), Santiago (16), Monseñor Nouel / Bonao (8), Duarte / San Francisco de Macorís (7), San Cristóbal (6), and Espaillat / Moca (6). Public Health Minister Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas says that in most of these cases epidemiologists have verified that the congregation of people led to the spread of the disease.

The Ministry of Public Health reports the results of 3,702 tests as compiled by the National Epidemiology Surveillance System (SINAVE). Of the tests given, 2,418 were negative. Testing is still very limited in the country, with long waiting lists even in the cases of persons with apparent symptoms.

According to Bulletin #13 of the Ministry’s Epidemiology Directorate-General, the evolution of the health crisis nationwide is:

National District: 520 cases, 58 new cases, 11 deaths, including 2 new deaths
Santo Domingo province: 168 cases, 23 new cases, 6 deaths, including 1 new death
Santiago: 1138 cases, 16 new cases, 2 deaths
Duarte (San Francisco de Macorís): 101 cases, 7 new cases, 23 deaths
La Vega: 84 cases, 19 new cases, 2 deaths
La Altagracia (Higuey, Veron, Punta Cana): 32 cases, 3 new cases
Puerto Plata: 28 cases
Espaillat (Moca): 28 cases, 6 new cases
Monseñor Nouel (Bonao): 27 cases, 8 new cases, 1 death
La Romana: 24 cases, 3 new cases
San Cristóbal: 21 cases, 8 new cases
San Pedro de Macorís: 20 cases, 2 new cases
Hermanas Mirabal: 15 cases, 4 new case
Samaná: 13 cases, 1 death, 1 new case
Sánchez Ramírez (Cotuí): 13 cases, 3 new cases, 2 deaths
Azua: 7 cases
Valverde: 8 cases, 4 new cases
San Juan de la Maguana: 7 cases, 2 new cases, 2 deaths
Barahona: 7 cases, 4 new cases
María Trinidad Sánchez (Salcedo): 6 cases, 1 death
Hato Mayor: 3 cases
Monte Plata: 2 cases
Dajabón: 1 new case
Independencia: 1 case
Pedernales: 1 case
El Seibo: 1 new case

Provinces with no reported cases of Covid-19 as of 31 March 2020 at 6pm:
Bahoruco, Elías Piña, and San José de Ocoa.

The first case of Covid-19 was detected on 1 March 2020, just two weeks before a municipal election was scheduled and after a month of intense carnival partying. On 20 March the government declared a State of Emergency until 3 April 2020. The country is under a curfew and land crossings, seaports and airports are closed through 13 April. That same day is the expiration on the order of suspension of all educational activities.

Dr. Jorge Marte, the physician on the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus says that the country has not yet experienced the peak in cases, thus the special conditions and restriction measures are likely to be renewed.

Public Health Minister Sánchez Cárdenas says he backs continuing the State of Emergency and curfew measures to control the disease. "We recommend the continuation of the stay at home and curfew. These are essential to ensure the maintenance of social isolation,” said the minister.

31 May is the expiration date for the two-month assistance programs announced for Dominicans for food relief and welfare assistance.

The Ministry of Public Health continues to urge people to stay at home, keep social distance, exercise maximum hygiene, to not touch faces, and exercise self-isolation when having symptoms or having been in contact with persons who have tested positive or have symptoms. Supermarkets, pharmacies and banks are requiring that persons use facial masks to enter.

Public Health Minister, Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas has explained that people who present Covid-19 symptoms (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) should contact their physician. He says in most cases these patients are stable and don’t need testing or treatment, and are recommended to stay at home until their fever resolves, they stop coughing, and are asymptomatic. Most importantly, he stresses these people need to self-isolate to not spread the disease to family and friends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUrdfhI_mlU -- MSP briefing Bulletin No. 13

Cedimat prepares for more Covid-19 patients
The Diagnostic Center for Advanced Medicine, Medical Conferences and Telemedicine (Cedimat) reported the enabling one of their two buildings and an emergency room for the reception and treatment of patients with Covid-19. The center sent photos of the cardiovascular center at Cedimat.

In a statement to the press, Cedimat general director Milagros Ureña said the Corripio Foundation, Dominican families and entities have contributed to the fitting of the new spaces with the necessary protection of the medical and technical staff.

Cedimat has readapted and conditioned part of its infrastructure with equipment and supplies to care for Covid-19 positive patients, as far as its space allows. This is an attempt to contribute to the present health challenge. The center also has arranged for more biosecurity supplies and equipment for its medical, nursing, laboratory and imaging staff.

Ureña stated that it is a commitment of all Dominicans as citizens to responsibly face the levels of the spread of the virus in our country: "All of us from our different positions can contribute to the improvement of the situation. From Cedimat, we urge Dominicans to communicate by phone with their doctors in case they have Covid-19 symptoms, going to the emergency room only if the symptoms are severe.


DR may be able to resolve its medical devices needs by buying from local export free zones
The Dominican Republic manufactures thousands of surgical masks, medical gowns and ventilators in its export free zones. A report in El Dia reveals that the country has the capacity to produce the medical devices the country needs to overcome the coronavirus health crisis.

The Dominican Republic is already among the top five suppliers to the United States of medical devices. For example, the leading companies Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson have been operating for over 10 years in the free zone regime of the Dominican Republic. More than 30 other companies have operation in medical and pharmaceutical products manufacturing, with exports of US$1.65 billion in 2019.

As reported in El Dia, Omar Jimenez, coordinator of the Cluster of Medical Devices, explains that there is a wide range of products manufactured here that could contribute to mitigating the health crisis. He explained export companies are restricted from selling locally. He said at present the cluster is collaborating with the National Council of Export Free Zones (CNZFE) and the Dominican Association of Free Zones (Adozona) to find a way around the red tape and make a contribution to the Dominican Republic’s medical needs.

Jose Manuel Torres, executive vice president for Adozona, says that five local free zone manufacturers that produce medical devices have already delivered donations of surgical masks for the local market. He said these are able to increase their production to supply local needs.

During the 1 April 2020 press briefing, in a response to question by El Día director José Monegro, Public Health Minister Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas said the Ministry has been in contact with Luisa Fernández, director of the CNZFE and is studying the proposal for sourcing the needed medical products locally.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUrdfhI_mlU -- MSP briefing Bulletin No. 13

DR presides the UN Security Council; virtual sessions to take place
Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas reported that the Dominican Republic will use its presidency of the United Nations Security Council, which began on Wednesday, 1 April 2020 and runs through May, to promote a broad dialogue and discussion on the threat represented by the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Vargas is recovering from the disease himself.

This is the second and last time, during its non-permanent membership, that the country heads the Security Council.

Vargas explained a new milestone is set as for the first time the Security Council will hold complete virtual sessions via videoconference. Dominican Ambassador José Singer, the Dominican representative to the Security Council, will preside the sessions.

"In these moments of world crisis, multilateralism acquires greater relevance, and it is our purpose to contribute to the search for global formulas to confront the Covid-19, probably the greatest challenge humanity has faced since World War II," said the Foreign Minister.

The Dominican Republic is in its second year of a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. The term ends on 31 December 2020.


The Central Bank donates for COE and Plaza de la Salud supplies
The Central Bank donated RD$4.3 million to the Center for Emergency Operations (COE) and the Plaza de la Salud General Hospital. This includes RD$2 million to the COE for acquiring equipment and devices to protect its personnel and RD$2.3 million donated to Plaza de la Salud to be used to purchase ventilators and rapid response diagnostic kits.


Several legislators test positive for the coronavirus
The media is reporting on the increasing number of legislators and their relatives that have tested positive for Covid-19. Gustavo Sánchez, spokesman for the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) in the Chamber of Deputies is now interned at the the National Police General Teaching Hospital. At the same hospital, San Pedro de Macoris senator Jose Hazim is interned with the same disease. San Cristobal deputy Manuel Diaz is also infected. Others are a daughter of the vice president of the chamber of deputies, Angela Pozo, and the husband of deputy Ginette Bournigal who have also tested positive.

There are several legislators that are waiting for results.

The last session in which the legislators had been present was when they declared the State of Emergency on Thursday, 19 March 2020.


Dr. Antonio Cruz Jiminián is out of intensive care
Public Health Minister Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cruz was pleased to report during the 1 April 2020 Coronavirus press briefing that beloved philanthropist physician Dr. Antonio Cruz Jiminián is no longer in the intensive care unit at the Plaza de la Salud Hospital.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUrdfhI_mlU -- MSP briefing Bulletin No. 13

René Rodríguez Soriano dies of Covid-19
Award-winning writer, 69-year old René Rodríguez Soriano died on 31 March 2020 in Houston, Texas. He had tested positive for Covid-19 after returning to Texas. Rodríguez had visited to promote a new edition of his novel, “No les guardo rancor, papa” on the hardships suffered during the Trujillo dictatorship. The book is in its 5th edition.

He migrated to the United States in 1998 and there became a promoter of Latin American literature. He had a prolific career in journalism, advertising and producing content for radio, TV and the film industry. He was a recipient of the Talent Seekers International Award 2009-2010, the UCE Poetry Award 2008, UCE Novel Award 2007, National Jose Ramón López Story Award 1997 and the Casa de Teatro Award 1996. He has several books for sale on Amazon.


PRM presidential candidate calls for unity and drastic measures now
Luis Abinader, the presidential candidate for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), called for all Dominicans to put aside politics and focus on the present health challenges. “Today we have to be just Dominicans,” he said when interviewed for the “Show del Mediodia” noontime TV variety show on Channel 9.

He said the PRM is waiting for the government to approve the protocol for the donation of 40,000 diagnostic test kits the party is importing and that are expected to arrive in groups of 10,000 starting this week. The lack of diagnostic tests has been a major obstacle in the war against the coronavirus. Public Health Minister Rafael Sanchez Cardenas has admitted the Ministry has not secured suppliers to meet the demand for PCR tests in the country.

Abinader says the Medina administration has rejected the proposal for a united front that would include opposition party members. He says the government had not responded to their offers to help fight the disease. “We are going to continue helping as we can,” he said. “It is a problem that we all have to attack and we have not wanted to politicize it as the government has done,” he said.

He said for the PRM the health of the Dominican people is priority No. 1. He says the government needs to spend what is needed in diagnostic tests and equipment. “The more we dig into this, the quicker we will get out of it,” he said. Abinader said he would back more drastic measures, keeping open pharmacies, supermarkets, colmados, and farms to operate to ensure food supply.

“First is health, the rest we can resolve later,” he said. He said it is better to take drastic measures to stop the spread of the virus now.


Leonel Fernández warns of Covid-19 recession; suggests virtual world assembly
The presidential candidate for the Fuerza del Pueblo (FP), Leonel Fernández, expressed his concern about the increase of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide, and suggested to address the issue of economic impact the convening of virtual sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, of the Group of 77 (G-77) plus China, representing 135 developing countries; and of the Group of 20 (G-20), which incorporates the twenty most developed economies in the world.

At the regional level of Latin America and the Caribbean, he said that it is time for Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to gather its 34 Member States and chart the course for its future.

He noted that in the United States, President Donald Trump announced that social isolation measures will be extended until 30 April, modifying an earlier forecast that established it until only 3 April.

"But in addition to those infected, Covid-19 has become a lethal weapon for the world's economies. The projections are that a recession is on the horizon," he warned in a video posted on his various social networks.

In a statement sent by the party's communications department, Fernandez focused his concern on the contraction of economic growth, company closures, massive worker layoffs, the collapse of financial markets, the decline in international trade, the fall in raw material prices and much uncertainty and volatility.

"As the Dominican Republic is integrated into the global economy, we will not be able to escape this storm. Given this reality, it is imperative, as happened with the global financial crisis of 2008, that the international community, through its main institutions, draw up guidelines to avoid the shipwreck and, on the contrary, achieve a rapid recovery of what feeds the life of the people: their economies," said Fernandez.

"A global health and economic pandemic demands a unified response from all the peoples of the world", warned the president of FP.


Fernández to use quarantine to learn how to fry an egg
After former President Leonel Fernández went online telling about his own quarantine and observing he had to make himself a sandwich and wanted to learn how to fry an egg, the commentary went viral on social media. One Dembow singer turned it into a song, and El Dia dedicated its cartoon on Wednesday to the legendary politician giving considerable thought and research to the frying of an egg.

A former president of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Fernández is running for the presidency again, this time for the Fuerza del Pueblo. He is also married to Vice President Margarita Cedeño, who after backing her husband in the 6 October party primary quest for the PLD presidential candidacy, distanced herself from him to instead back PLD presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo. Castillo has the strong backing of President Danilo Medina.

Cedeño is a two-time Vice President under Medina.

Congressman Ito Bisonó of the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) uploaded a tutorial on how to fry an egg.

Life is simpler for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) presidential candidate Luis Abinader. Abinader said on a Show del Medio Dia show that he is quarantined in his apartment with his wife and three daughters. He said he has not had to cook.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMCyCULEG-s --

Watch Easter religious activities on TV
Looks like Televida will be the link for Catholics to follow traditional Easter activities. The Roman Catholic Church has announced the cancellation of activities that require gatherings of people. Some ceremonies and masses may be live-streamed.

Easter this year starts on Sunday, 12 April 2020. Because of the risk of the virus spreading as a result of physical proximity, the Roman Catholic Church announced that the traditional Palm Sunday activity that opens the Easter Week would not be held, nor other subsequent activities.

The Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Monsignor Francisco Ozoria, called for all persons to stay at home to avoid the spreading of the disease and follow the measures adopted by the government to reduce the risk of transmission. The Roman Catholic Church will be holding mass and other activities that are being transmitted by the Televida TV channel 42. TheArchbishop said the activities would be held by the priests without the attendance of the faithful.

Earlier, prior to the local outbreak of the disease, the church had advised congregants not to give the traditional physical salutes during mass, or to share communion cups or to dip wafers in wine. Masses and religious congregating was soon after suspended.

Holy Week is traditionally the peak season for domestic travel. The government is expected to extend the State of Emergency and curfew after the initial first phase that ends on Friday, 14 April.


Air pollution down to a minimum in the city
In the short term, those living in Santo Domingo can already observe how the lockdown and travel restrictions are bringing blue skies and improved air quality to the capital city. Air pollution definitely has dissipated in the National District, the busy center of Greater Santo Domingo. With only essential businesses in operation and a 5pm to 6am curfew, contamination by traffic fumes and power plants is down to a record low. Air quality has experienced record highs as nitrogen dioxide levels plummeted. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is produced by vehicles, industrial sites and power stations.

This is a plus to thousands that are quarantined at home having to do the cleaning themselves.

Likewise, at a global level, David Utley, consumer analyst at GlobalData, remarks that the environmental impact of the coronavirus crisis is a positive one. “This reaction to such a serious issue, such as regional lockdowns and limited consumer movement, has done more for the environment than years of environmental campaigning,” he tells in a feature on the GlobalData website.

Nationwide city cleanliness operations and campaigns and the generalized hand washing and hygiene habits being developed are sure to have their effect on the general health of the population.

Listin Diario is spearheading a clean up the city campaign, especially to take advantage of the open spaces that make it easier to sanitize large areas.


Cybercrime up in times of Covid-19
Complaints of credit card charges using popular delivery services, WhatsApp group blog enabling people to request a government Solidaridad welfare card, and more new schemes are part of a generalized bid to take advantage of anxious people to cause fraud.

Gustavo Montalvo, coordinator of the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus, alerted the population that there has been an increase in cybercrimes and the dissemination of fake news. He spoke of coordinated campaigns for the theft of passwords and personal and financial information, sometimes usurping the identity of state institutions or health agencies. The said the National Cyber Security Center is constantly monitoring the situation, but urged citizens to remain alert.

"Let's keep our devices updated, not download files from dubious places and always verify the origin of a source before providing personal and financial data, or disseminating viral news," Montalvo recommended.

As soon as individuals are identified as committing this crime, they will be subject to prosecution by the Public Prosecutor's Office and the National Police, as dictated by law.


Covid-19 patient No. 2 tests negative
The 72-year old Canadian woman who was the second to test positive for Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic has had her first negative test. She had arrived on 22 February via La Romana International Airport for a vacation at a resort in Dominicus on a flight from Toronto, Canada. Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas gleefully made the announcement of her expected recovery in the 1 April 2020 press briefing on Wednesday. A second negative is needed for the woman to be released from the Ramon de Lara Hospital at the San Isidro Air Base.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUrdfhI_mlU -- MSP briefing Bulletin No. 13

Asonahores members offer hotels for temporary isolation shelters
Joel de los Santos says members of the National Hotel & Tourism Association (Asonahores) are in touch with public health authorities to rent around 1,500 rooms located in closed hotels. De los Santos, who is a former president of Asonahores, says the offer is to use hotels in different areas of the country. He said the proposal is for these to be used for the isolation of persons as they wait to be tested and/or for the results of the tests, and also for those with mild conditions that need to be in isolation. He said Asonahores has asked the Ministry of Public Health to inspect these properties.

De los Santos said that 95% of hotels in the Dominican Republic are closed. He observed those still in operation are mostly city hotels that have fixed clients. Asonahores reported that the hotels that remain open are because they have guests. These hotels will be in operation until their customers leave:
Santo Domingo: Aparta Hotel Drake, W&P (BQ Santo Domingo), El Embajador Hotel, Quality Hotel Real, Weston Suites Hotel & Casino, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Catalonia Santo Domingo, Casas del XVI
La Vega: Hotel Pegasus (La Vega city)
Santiago: Hotel La Rotonda
Puerto Plata: Tropicana, Hotel Mountain View, Hotel Victoriano, Royal Swiss and Natura Cabaña.
Punta Cana: Westin Punta Cana, Barceló Bávaro Palace
Samaná: Cosón Bay & Residences

Resorts have shut down after air and seaports were closed to impede the spreading of the virus. “The hotels don’t have customers,” said De los Santos when interviewed on La Cuestion radio talk show on 1 April 2020. “We all have expectations that the hotels will reopen when the country and the world overcome this situation,” he said.


First Lady Cándida Montilla speaks up for children with autism
On occasion of World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April 2020, First Lady Cándida Montilla called for preventing the marginalization and social exclusion of children with autism as the world is affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

She considered that the forced confinement imposed by the pandemic should not, however, make us forget our commitment to fight for a world that guarantees opportunities and the rights of people with autism.

She said that the Office of the First Lady is constantly striving to ensure that society guarantees people with autism all the opportunities to which they are entitled. "At the Center for Comprehensive Care for Disability (CAID), we focus on providing top-quality therapeutic services to children from the most vulnerable sectors with autism spectrum disorders," she highlighted.