DR1 Daily News - Thursday, 26 March 2020


May 3, 2000
President Danilo Medina announced direct cash transfers, food distribution and more free diagnostic tests
25 March: 392 cases in the Dominican Republic, 80 more
Gustavo Montalvo: Stay at home, keep cities open to stock food and supplies
San Francisco de Macoris is militarized
Covid-19 isolation center to be housed at Navy base in Andrés, Boca Chica
Ministry of Public Health clears fast response tests, but their import is restricted
Orlando Jorge Villegas urges government to authorize import of rapid diagnostic tests
Dr. Cruz Jiminián interned for Covid-19, in delicate condition
Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother is in coma for Covid-19
Last ferry flight to repatriate Canadians in the country leaves this Thursday at 8:35 p.m.
The new city councilors for the National District

President Danilo Medina announced direct cash transfers, food distribution and more free diagnostic tests
In a speech to the nation on 25 March 2020, President Danilo Medina announced direct deposits for the 811,000 who have Solidaridad welfare cards and had been receiving RD$1,500 a month food stipends. The amount is now increased to RD$5,000 in two payments through 31 May. An additional RD$2,000 is to be added to households where elderly of 70+ years reside.

He also announced companies will receive RD$8,500 per employee in the formal sector to cover wages in April and May. He said this is to maintain a minimum level of consumption.

He explained the government is accessing RD$32 billion from ARL reserves, a Central Bank loan to the government given the State of Emergency and US$150 million in disaster mitigation financing already contracted with the World Bank.

Medina also announced the governmental Banco de Reservas was eliminating the monthly minimum payment for its credit cards, fees for arrears and has lowered the interest rate for credit card borrowing. He called for other banks to do the same.

The President said that the governmental Social Plan agency was distributing rations to families in their barrios. He said 15,000 families nationwide would benefit from the delivery of food enough for three meals a day for nine days. The distribution efforts have been criticized for resulting in agglomerations of people.

Moreover, President Danilo Medina said that INABIE public school welfare plan was distributing 1.3 million raw food rations for families to cook meals for their children at home. He said social agencies were distributing 25,000 food rations to daycare center children.

Likewise, he explained that the government cafeterias (Comedores Económicos) were also making available 100,000 cooked food rations at different centers and mobile cafeterias, said the President. “We are going to visit the barrios and rural areas to deliver food staples to all who need these,” said the President.

Medina said that as of Thursday, 26 March 2020, rapid response tests would be available in the country. He said the Roche and Berlin protocol tests will be free at the government laboratory and now at the two authorized labs – Amadita and Referencia for persons 59 years or older. The tests need to be prescribed. The President in a speech on Tuesday, 17 March 2020 had stated that the ARS would be covering the tests for those who had health insurance plans. This has not happened.

The President urged Dominicans to stay at home and practice social isolation that he says has proven to work to stem the virus. “Keep distance of two arms, wash hands every time you go out and don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose with your hands,” he said.


25 March: 392 cases in the Dominican Republic, 80 more
The Ministry of Public Health reported on Wednesday, 25 March that the total of cases had increased from 312 on Tuesday to 392 on Wednesday. There have been 10 deaths. So far, the Greater Santo Domingo has the most cases with a combined 230 (178 in National District + 52 in Santo Domingo province), followed by Santiago with 53 cases and Duarte province with 29 cases.

Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas said that there is community transmission of the virus in the National District and in San Francisco de Macorís.

Bulletin No. 6 dated 25 March reveals that there have been 392 confirmed cases and 715 persons have tested negative. The Ministry of Public Health says that the country as of 25 March had the capacity to carry out 300 tests a day.

The numbers of positives are expected to increase once the population has easier access to the fast response tests and more regular testing.

1 March: 1 case. Italian who had arrived 22 February.
5 March: 2 cases (up 100%)
7 March: 5 cases (up 150%)
13 March: 11 cases (up 120%)
16 March: 21 cases. (up 90%), 1 death
Classes called off, people ordered to stay home, telework

18 March: 34 cases (up 62%)
All flights canceled except ferry flights for tourists in the country

20 March: 72 cases (up 112%), 2 deaths
National Emergency State declared
Nationwide curfew from 8pm to 6am. Cancellation of Metro, OMSA buses and Skylift.

21 March: 112 cases, 3 deaths
22 March: 202 cases (up 116%)

23 March: 245 cases
24 March: 312 cases (up 54%), 6 deaths

25 March: 392 cases, 10 deaths
26 March: To be announced on Thursday morning.

As of Bulletin No. 6 of the Ministry of Public Health the positive cases of Covid-19 were located:
National District: 178
Santo Domingo Province: 52
Santiago: 53, 2 deaths
Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris): 29, 4 deaths
La Altagracia (Higuey, Veron, Punta Cana): 12
San Pedro de Macorís: 10, 1 death
La Vega: 8
Samaná: 7, 1 death
Sánchez Ramírez (Cotuí): 6
Espaillat (Moca): 5
La Romana: 5
Puerto Plata: 5
San Cristóbal: 4
María Trinidad Sánchez (Salcedo): 3
San Juan de la Maguana: 2, 1 death
Barahona: 2
Monte Plata: 2
Azua: 1
Independencia: 1
Valverde: 1


Gustavo Montalvo: Stay at home, keep cities open to stock food and supplies
Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo is urging the population to continue with the stay-home measures. Montalvo is the coordinator of the government High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and banks continue to be open. The Minister urges people keep distance of two meters when making queues. He said when speaking on 25 March to the nation that isolation has worked to stem the spread in other countries. He urged that people not meet for family or social events. He advised that people only go out for essential goods and services and then only one person per household. He urged Dominicans to sanitize hands, clothes and shoes when returning to the home.

Montalvo spoke up against unilateral closing of provinces where there are not yet coronavirus cases. He said the province entry roads need to be kept open to enable the transport of food, health services and emergency assistance. He explained that already circulation on roads is down to a historic minimum.

What prevents the disease is to isolate individuals at home,” he said. He called for people to avoid congregations of people that can lead to panic or chaos on city streets. “We request that the local authorities maintain the social isolation measures,” he said.


San Francisco de Macoris is militarized
The High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus in the Dominican Republic authorized the militarization of the northeastern city of San Francisco de Macoris. The province is fourth in number of cases with 29 positives and 4 deaths as of Bulletin No. 6 dated 25 March 2020.

The actions are taken to ensure the population takes the quarantine seriously. The Ministry of Public Health says the province is hurting from community spread of the virus. The spread is traced to Oraida Herrera, who returned from Italy, was treated at a private clinic in San Francisco and diagnosed with the disease. She was authorized to keep self-isolation, but violated the protocol when her case was mild. The government later picked her up and obliged her to remain at the Ramon de Lara Hospital until she tests negative. The downside is that apparently she had time to spread the disease.

The Ministry of Public Health ordered that the San Vicente de Paul Public Hospital be specialized for new coronavirus cases. Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas was in San Francisco on 24 March. He said that in the province there are 29 cases, and four deaths. The province is identified as being under a community spread situation.

Dr. Ivelisse Acosta, president of the Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery Society said this means the virus is widespread and there are many cases that have not been identified. Since the disease is asymptomatic at the start, she said anyone could have it.


Covid-19 isolation center to be housed at Navy base in Andrés, Boca Chica
An isolation center for Covid-19 patients is under installation by the government at the Boca Chica naval base. The center is going up in Los Tanquecitos sector in Andrés, Boca Chica. The area had been used for housing Navy personnel that are being relocated to Sans Souci.
As reported, the isolation center will be accessed by Las Américas Highway and the Mella Highway. Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas was on site supervising the work on Wednesday. He held meetings with community members who had opposed the installation of the center in Boca Chica. The minister said that the collective interest is above the individual interest.

He stressed that isolation has been effective in responding to the demand for care by the virus. "We have identified a large number of areas for isolation and hospitalization and are in the negotiation phase to enable them for when the demand for hospitalization overflows and responding to the need," said the minister.


Ministry of Public Health clears fast response tests, but their import is restricted
The Ministry of Public Health says it has approved the local use of fast response tests for diagnosing Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, he said that the tests are only authorized to specific health centers and need to be certified by the Ministry.

The Minister of Public Health says that these are temporary tests and need to be confirmed by another test following the Berlin protocol that is more trustworthy.

Public Health Minister has said they have received several offers for donations. Luis Abinader, presidential candidate for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), has said the party is waiting for government clearance to import 40,000 test kits to carry out the tests. He said the party is blocked from doing so because the party has not been granted an import permit from the Ministry of Public Health.

The Ministry of Public Health says that as of 25 March 2020 the country had the capacity to carry out only 300 tests a day. People in the Dominican Republic who want to be tested have to go on waiting lists, both for the government lab as well as for the two private labs that are charging for the test.

China has also offered to donate diagnostic tests.


Orlando Jorge Villegas urges government to authorize import of rapid diagnostic tests
Orlando Jorge Villegas, who is running for deputy for the National District for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), called for the government to implement the program of free testing as proposed by PRM presidential candidate Luis Abinader. Abinader has said the PRM can bringing 40,000 Covid rapid diagnostic tests and has not yet done so because a government permit is needed. These tests can show results in 45 minutes.

The government has authorized the Roche representative in the country, Oscar A. Renta Negrón, to import tests, in addition to those donated by the World Health Organization (Berlin protocol tests).

Jorge Villegas is the grandson of former President Salvador Jorge Blanco and son of Orlando Jorge Mera, PRM delegate to the Central Electoral Board (JCE). Jorge Villegas said on his Instagram account that the rapid diagnostic test was implemented in Germany, where today the percentage of deaths of lower than in many other European countries. He said this would work for the Dominicans. While Germany has had 20,705 people test positive, there are only 72 deaths. He stressed early diagnostics is one of the better ways to steam the fearful disease.

He said the test enables identifying where there are clusters of the outbreak to isolate those who could infect others.

In the Dominican Republic there is still a waiting list to get testing, even at private labs where the cost is RD$4,300. While President Danilo Medina had announced the health provider insurance companies would be covering the test, this has yet to happen. In a speech on 25 March, Medina announced that the private labs would carry out the test for free for persons 59+ or those with special conditions.


Dr. Cruz Jiminián interned for Covid-19, in delicate condition
On 10 March 2020, in an appearance on the TeleRadio America TV noontime show of Roberto Castillo on Channel 33, SuperCanal, the beloved philanthropist Dr. Felix Antonio Cruz Jiminián had downplayed the Covid-19 virus. On that day, Dr. Cruz Jiminián had taken off time from his clinic on Av. Ortega y Gasset in Cristo Rey barrio in uptown National District to educate Dominicans on the disease. He said hundreds were coming to his clinic, hysterical that they may have the disease. At the time of his appearance at the talk show, there were only five people tested in the country, most foreigners and all imported cases.

Little did the good doctor know that less than two weeks later his life would be seriously in danger after he himself caught the new coronavirus. Ada Guzmán, head of communications at the Cruz Jiminián clinic, told Diario Libre that Dr. Cruz Jiminián is in coma and on a respirator at the Plaza de la Salud General Hospital. He was admitted on 25 March for dengue and later tested positive for Covid-19. His clinic in Cristo Rey was closed and is being sanitized.

Dr. Jiminián was in touch with hundreds of people before testing positive. In the 10 March interview, he said doctors at the clinic were seeing hundreds of patients that were scared with having caught the disease.

On the talk show Cruz Jiminian explained to the audience that Covid-19 is a virus, not a bacterium. He warned that it was a “highly contagious virus,” only to then downplay the impact of the virus in the Dominican Republic. “It is difficult that it attack Dominicans,” he told TV host Roberto Castillo. “Because we are exposed to so much bacteria, we are immune,” he said. “No one is going to die of that, at least by my experience, no,” he had said. “But that doesn’t mean one should be careless,” he said. He warned that the disease only enters by eyes, mouth or nose, and urged Dominicans to keep hands clean and free of the virus so as not to catch it.

He did warn that anyone could catch the disease, not feel anything for 10 or 20 days not show a fever. “The monster is not such an ogre,” he had stated on the TV show. He highlighted that demographics is in the country’s favor. Persons 65+ make up 8.5% of the population, compared to 65.9% that is 15-64 years old.

On 16 March 2020, the first case of a death in the Dominican Republic had been taken to the Cruz Jiminián clinic by a 911 ambulance. The 47-year old Dominican had arrived recently from Spain, where she lived. She suffered from HIV and tuberculosis. The clinic said the woman was dead when she arrived.


Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother is in coma for Covid-19
Minnesota Timberwolves player Karl-Anthony Towns took to Instagram to share his mother's fight with Covid-19 in the hope it would encourage others to follow precautions to stop its spread. His mother is hospitalized in a medically-induced coma with the disease in New York City. “We can beat this, but this is serious and we need to take every precaution,” he wrote. He said he shared his story in the hopes that everyone will stay at home.

Karl-Anthony Towns has played for the Dominican Republic national basketball team.


Last ferry flight to repatriate Canadians in the country leaves this Thursday at 8:35pm
The Embassy of Canada in the Dominican Republic says there still may be stand by seating on a last flight to Canada that is scheduled to leave from the Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperón International Airport at 8:35pm on Thursday, 26 March 2020. All Dominican airports are closed for outgoing and incoming traffic, with the exception of ferry flights that have been allowed to carry mostly foreign tourists and foreign residents back to their home destinations.

Canadian Ambassador Sauna Hemingway said that those interested in making the flight should arrive at the airport three hours to chance flying stand by. She said that earlier arranged flights have left with empty seats. The ambassador said embassies in the country have been coordinating with airlines and tour operators for the return of tourists and residents after the suspension of flights decreed by the government as of Friday, 20 March 2020.


The new city councilors for the National District
The Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) obtained 23 of the 37 city councilor seats for the National District in the 15 March 2020 extraordinary municipal elections. The ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) followed with 13 positions. The Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) won 1.

The PRM councilor-elects are:
District 1: Mario Sosa, Eliazar Reynoso Medrano, Liz Mieses, José Caraballlo Gómez, Sandrá Grullón, Youany Mota Mejía, María Mazará del Rosario, Edickson Herrera Silvestre.

For District 2: Manuel Núñez, Nicolás Valdez Valdez, Ramón Hernández Almánzar, Dewar Crousett Rojas, Ada Pérez Genao, Fernando Acosta, Feliz Perdomo Figueroa.

District 3: Victor Ogando, Leonor Lantigua, Jose Gomez, Francisca Jaquez, Julio Cesar Martinez, -Javier Nina, Junior Castillo (Nuno) and Marino Morel (Marinito).

For the PLD the councilors-elect are:
District 1: Francisco Regalado, Kenia Castillo, Shelly Gómez, Robert Enmanuel Martínez
District 2: John Jones Nadal, Francis Hernandez, Euri Diaz
District 3: Franklin Ferreras, Alfredo Louis, Henssy Peña, Yasser Dominguez, Anibal Rivera, Milagros Pichardo.

For the PRSC:
District 1: Nerys Martínez Ureña.

The Central Electoral Board reported that of 7,487,040 eligible to vote in the municipal election on 15 March 2020, there was a valid vote of 3,679,081 for 49.14%.

The PRM won the city government of the National District with Carolina Mejía with 57.46% defeating Domingo Contreras with 32.27%. The PRM also won the Santo Domingo East municipality, with Manuel Jimenez with 59.83% defeating Luis Alberto Tejeda of the PLD with 34.70%.

The new government officers are scheduled to be sworn into office on 24 April 2020.