DR1 Daily News - Wednesday, 8 April 2020


May 3, 2000
Dominican Republic –Covid-19: Bulletin #19 / 40 test positive in Boca Chica
Coronavirus transmission in La Victoria jail
Will the Chamber of Deputies vote to extend the Emergency State through 8 May?
More on the RD$1.5 billion medical supplies contract to Tools Resources Enterprises Toreen SRL
Ministry of Public Health: Ask the Doctor App is helping
Forget Easter; these are times to stay at home
Jose Manuel Torres: DR should seek donations from local medical device manufacturers
Government says free zone companies have been manufacturing to reduce spread of the coronavirus
Frank Rainieri optimistic that travel will trickle back starting in late summer
DR gets 26,000 diagnostic kits through SICA
Ministry of Public Health receives donation from Alibaba Foundation in China
US government and IAEA donate 2,000 Covid-19 nuclear-derived testing kits
Casa Brugal donates 150,000 liters of alcohol
Central Bank volunteers organization donates RD$3.4 million to San Francisco de Macoris
Government accepts Abinader’s offer to build temporary hospitals
Fundación Perelló donates RD$30 million to help

Dominican Republic –Covid-19: Bulletin #19 / 40 test positive in Boca Chica
Coronavirus Bulletin #19 shows the Dominican Republic with 1,956 confirmed cases and 98 deaths. Some 5,768 PCR diagnostic tests are accounted for in the official statistical bulletin.

During the press conference on 7 April 2020, the Public Health Minister, Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, said the National District, Santo Domingo Province, Santiago, Duarte and La Vega continue to concentrate the most cases.

The largest cluster of cases was reported in Santo Domingo province / Boca Chica with 40 new cases. Next in number of new cases are Santiago (28), the National District (27), Monseñor Nouel (8), María Trinidad Sánchez / Nagua (7), Peravia / Baní (3), Hermanas Mirabal / Salcedo (3), Espaillat/ Moca (2), La Romana (2), San Cristóbal (2), San Pedro de Macorís (2), San Juan de la Maguana (1), El Seibo (1), Valverde (1) and Azua (1). Only Elías Piña and San José de Ocoa have yet to reported confirmed cases.

The Minister of Public Health pointed out that in the case of the 40 detected in Boca Chica, those who tested positive but did not have symptoms were taken to the isolation center at the Navy base in Andrés, Boca Chica. The Navy base is also being used for those who do not have conditions to isolate themselves at home. He said those that were seriously ill were hospitalized at different medical centers in Santo Domingo.

The Bulletin #19 total reveals there have been 128 new cases. 12 deaths are included in the 98 accumulated death toll. Bulletin #19 carries the official tally through 6pm on 6 April 2020.

According to Bulletin #19 of the Ministry’s Epidemiology Directorate-General, the evolution of the health crisis nationwide is:

National District: 723 cases, 27 new cases, 15 deaths, including 2 new deaths
Santo Domingo province: 314 cases, 40 new cases, 14 deaths
Santiago: 245 cases, 28 new cases, 8 deaths
Duarte (San Francisco de Macorís): 141 cases, 7 new cases, 33 deaths
La Vega: 109 cases, 6 deaths, including 1 new death
La Altagracia (Higuey, Veron, Punta Cana): 44 cases, 1 death
Espaillat (Moca): 46 cases, 2 new cases, 1 death
Monseñor Nouel (Bonao): 39 cases, 8 new cases, 2 deaths
Puerto Plata: 38 cases
La Romana: 35 cases, 2 new cases, 1 death
San Cristóbal: 34 cases, 2 new cases
Sánchez Ramírez (Cotuí): 29 cases, 3 deaths
San Pedro de Macorís: 26 cases, 2 new cases
Hermanas Mirabal: 23 cases, 3 new cases
María Trinidad Sánchez (Salcedo): 19 cases, 7 new cases, 1 death
Samaná: 15 cases, 1 death
San Juan de la Maguana: 13 cases, 1 new cases, 3 deaths
Barahona: 12 cases
Valverde:11 cases, 1 new case
Peravia: 10 cases, 3 new cases, 1 new death
Azua: 8 cases, 1 new case
Santiago Rodríguez: 5 cases
Hato Mayor: 4 cases
Monte Plata: 4 cases, 1 death
Montecristi: 3 cases
Dajabón: 1 case
Independencia: 1 case
Pedernales: 1 case
El Seibo: 2 new cases, 1 new case
Baoruco: 1 case

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

Haiti reports 24 confirmed cases and its first death.

The first case of Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic 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 that expired on 13 April 2020. The country is under curfew from 5pm to 6am.


Coronavirus transmission in La Victoria jail
Public Health Minister Sánchez Cárdenas says that hundreds of inmates in the Alaska pavilion are being relocated. As reported, 1,000 inmates in the privileged jail area at La Victoria jail were administered a rapid response blood test.

El Dia describes Alaska as an area in the jail where drug traffickers and others who can pay for the privileges are kept. The cells lodge 17 persons, compared to other areas where there are 50 men to a cell. The La Victoria jail was built for 1,200 inmates and lodges over 9,000 men.

During the press conference on 7 April 2020, Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas asked the Armed Forces, Police, Attorney General Office and Prison Agency to assist in the immediate separation of the prisoners in the affected areas according to the Epidemiology classification. He said this is a task that needs to be carried out “today” (7 April 2020). The press has been reporting on the situation for the past 48 hours.

The inmates are separated into groups of those who have tested positive and have symptoms, those who tested positive without symptoms and those who have tested negative.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas said the jail authorities had violated the norms for visits and this resulted in the spread of the disease by one of the visitors. So far, the Ministry of Public Health has said that two inmates have died of the virus.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas estimated at under 60 the number of inmates who had tested positive during the rapid test operation that reached out to around 1,000 inmates.


Will the Chamber of Deputies vote to extend the Emergency State through 8 May?
The Chamber of Deputies announced that it will meet on Thursday, 9 April 2020 to pass the resolution approved on Monday, 6 April in the Senate that would extend the present State of Emergency through 8 May 2020. The emergency state removes control red tape so that the government can make expedited purchases and build infrastructure to respond to the present Covid-19 health crisis.

The emergency state resolution needs 50% + 1 of the vote of the present legislators.

The session had been scheduled to convene on Tuesday, 7 April 2020 but was postponed to Thursday, after the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Radhames Camacho [Dominican Liberation Party (PLD)-National District], tested positive for the disease.

Several other deputies have been affected. PLD Deputy Luis Henriquez, who represents Santo Domingo province, is the latest to reveal that he tested positive for the coronavirus. The list of legislators afflicted with the virus has been increasing.

Others that have tested positive are the spokesman for the PLD in the Chamber of Deputies, Gustavo Sánchez, and Manuel Diaz, who is a deputy for the PLD for San Cristóbal. Sánchez is hospitalized.

There is speculation that Angela Pozo, the vice president of the Chamber, is also affected. Earlier she had announced that her daughter had tested positive. Nevertheless, it was Pozo who convened the meeting for Thursday.

Senator Jose Hazim has tested positive and was hospitalized.

Diario Libre reports that the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) has 80 deputies. Of these four legislators are sick. The opposition, including the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) and the People’s Force of former President Leonel Fernández together have 70 votes. The Reformist Social Christian Party (PRSC) has 6 and the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), a strong ally to the PLD, has 11.

The opposition party PRM has conditioned its vote to increased controls in public bidding carried out by the government for coronavirus medical supplies. This week, the party has revealed widespread irregularities in the bidding to combat the disease. These lead the government to cancel upwards of RD$2.72 billion in what was identified as irregular contracting by the National Health Service.


More on the RD$1.5 billion medical supplies contract to Tools Resources Enterprises Toreen SRL
The Coordinator for the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus, Presidency Minister Gustavo Montalvo, has insisted that criticism of recent contracting of medical supplies and equipment by the National Health Service (SNS) is “unfounded.” The Public Health Minister, Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, has said that those criticizing the contracts are “irresponsible.”

While defending the contracting, Montalvo announced RD$2.72 billion in medical supplies and equipment under the emergency law is being revoked. This includes the RD$1.5 billion medical supplies contract awarded to Tools Resources Enterprises Toreen SRL that caused a general outrage.

Montalvo and Sánchez Cárdenas have argued the intense international competition for the same supplies explains the overpricing.

The Procurement Agency (Compras y Contrataciones) says the emergency contracting was correct.

Meanwhile, the nation loses precious time in the global rush to acquire vital medical supplies.


Ministry of Public Health: Ask the Doctor App is helping
The Ministry of Public Health is promoting its health care help platform, the app Aurora MSP Covid-19. The app can be downloaded for Apple or Android systems. In the press briefing on Tuesday, 7 April 2020, the Public Health Minister, Dr. Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, said that the platform had 104,750 interactions. He said 92 emergency cases were assisted. The platform is assisted by 230 physicians and psychologists offering free advice.

The app is especially valuable because 80% of the cases tested positive for Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic are persons authorized to remain isolated in their homes. The Public Health Minister says the app facilitates physicians keeping in touch with these patients. He says patients also are contacted by telephone for follow up care.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas says that only patients with symptoms should seek care at one of the Covid-19 designated hospitals.


Forget Easter, these are times to stay at home
The High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus in the Dominican Republic prohibited access to beaches, pools, rivers and vacation sites as part of preventive measures during the pandemic. Easter Week is traditionally the peak vacation time for domestic tourism. Not this year.

The ban on inter-provincial travel has been extended beyond the 5pm to 6am curfew. Only food and medicine suppliers are being allowed to transport goods between the provinces.

Military and police have been stationed at road points to impede the transit of unauthorized persons.


Jose Manuel Torres: DR should seek donations from local medical device manufacturers
The executive vice president of the National Association of Free Zones, Jose Manuel Torres, says the DR has important infrastructure to produce medical supplies. The DR is the third-largest source of such supplies to the United States. He responded to inquiries by Diana Lora and Patricia Solano in an interview on 7 April 2020 on the La Cuestión radio talk show.

“We do not manufacture surgical masks. Due to the situation, several companies via instructions of their corporations, have carried out changes in their structure to produce the masks. There is a production of 30,000 a week that were mainly to be used by the free zone workers themselves,” he explained.

Torres says there are legal restrictions that make it impossible to sell free zone products locally; they are produced for export. He suggested, however, that during an emergency situation such as this, the authorities can temporarily change the rules. He said the Association is contacting the companies in zones about the possibility. Several have made donations to the government. He said there is an interest among all that a part of the production increase be sold to the local market.

Torres suggested that to lift the restriction would require a modification in legislation. He said faster results would be achieved through a Customs Agency administrative rule. Torres advocated the government allow companies to supply the local market through donations during the health crisis to get around the restrictions.

Several days ago, the cluster of medical device manufacturers said several of the items needed were manufactured in the Dominican Republic. The cluster suggested the DR could supply the local market if the companies were released from restrictions that limit their sales to the local market.


Government says free zone companies have been manufacturing to reduce spread of the coronavirus
The director of the National Council of Export Free Zones, Luisa Fernández says that free zone companies were prompt to manufacture 230,000 facemasks to be used in the Dominican Republic. The companies are located in the free trade zones in Santo Domingo, Santiago, La Vega, Moca, Puerto Plata, Haina and La Romana.

The CNZFE says that they have identified 21 free zone companies with the capacity to produce the medical equipment and supplies to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Of these, she said over the past two months the companies have manufactured the around 230,000 masks, at a rate of about 30,000 per week.

"Many of these companies are already producing the required products. Others are preparing their facilities, equipment and personnel to begin production of these supplies in the coming days," said Fernandez.

However, she said much of the production will be exported. "Most of these are export companies, with foreign capital, so they have a high demand in the international market, especially in their countries of origin. However, they have all reiterated their desire and commitment to supply local institutions, in order to contribute to the fight against Covid-19 in the Dominican Republic," she explained.

She said many of the companies have already donated masks and other products to the Ministry of Public Health. She said that many of these companies had adjusted their production systems to manufacture these inputs, because they did not manufacture these products before the start of the pandemic.

As reported in Diario Libre, on 29 March, the Minister of Public Health, Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, announced that he would ask the High Level Commission for the Prevention and Control of Coronavirus to allow companies in free zones operating in the country to supply masks. Three days later, Sánchez Cárdenas said that the ministry he heads was coordinating the purchase of biosecurity supplies, such as masks, gowns and caps, from local companies operating in the Santo Domingo free zone.

Luisa Fernández said that the sales prices set for the masks are very affordable, taking into account that, in the current circumstances, the prices of these products have increased significantly, due to the great international demand over the past two months.

When asked about the standards that the products will have, the director of the CNZFE assured that the companies of free zones usually make their sales in the most demanding international markets, so the medical materials and supplies that are supplied by them must comply with all the standards of the Ministry of Public Health.


Frank Rainieri is optimistic that travel will trickle back starting in late summer
The president of the Grupo Puntacana, which owns the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), Frank Rainieri is hopeful that tourism will be back before the end of the year. The company has tentatively set the PGA Tour golf tournament at its Corales golf course for September 2020.

For the moment, though, the last 100,000 tourists left in special charters throughout the two weeks after the government ordered air and seaports closed on 20 March 2020. Rainieri explained that at one time there were 300 people sleeping at the Punta Cana International Airport, waiting for their evacuation flights. Rainieri said the airport provided food, towels and sheets for the tourists that spent the night at the terminal. The PUJ airport continues technically open to emergency flights, despite not receiving flights.

The more than 50,000 hotel rooms in the Punta Cana area were left with basic maintenance and security personnel to wait out the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with Diario Libre, Rainieri says it is not the first time the hotels shut down because of a lack of guests. He recalled the 9/11 Twin Tower crisis, and the 2008 economic crisis, caused major lows in the tourism industry.

Of course, this is the first time the entire Dominican hotel industry is shut down, as well as that of the rest of the world. This is the first time that the entire airline and cruise industry in the world has collapsed.

Rainieri is optimistic that matters could turn for the better in time for some summer travel. We are talking about a US$7.68 billion industry. The ripple effects on agriculture, construction, commerce, practically all productive sectors, is already felt.

"The tourist industry in the area is not generating a penny of income. At the moment, we are totally shut down because we are not a factory that can work eight hours. Our raw material is the tourist and there are no flights, therefore, we do not have any kind of income, and in our particular case we will not see income in April or May," he told Diario Libre.

"I believe that we have the capacity to recover and that we should not despair. This time we don't know how people will react after the crisis, but the industry per se is eager to get back to work; all levels of vertical integration, such as tour operators, airlines and hoteliers, are prepared to go into operation once this health crisis is over," he said.

He expects the hotels to barely cover costs after reopening and for another six or seven months as tourists search for travel bargains. He adds: "I am in contact with many institutions in the global travel industry and there is a big part of them that believe that this winter, after such a long quarantine, people in places like the United States, France, Italy and Spain will want to go out and travel.

The Grupo Puntacana and the Rainieri family were among the first to announce donations to help people get over the health crisis. A first donation amounted to RD$100 million. At a time when around 700,000 employees have been suspended, the Grupo Puntacana responded to the crisis by announcing that its employees would get paid on time and their full wages.


DR gets 26,000 diagnostic kits through SICA
Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado announced the arrival of a shipment of 26,000 Covid-19 diagnostic tests donated by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) as part of a cooperation package agreed during meetings of the region's presidents and foreign ministers last month via videoconference.

The materials were purchased from South Korea. They arrived on 7 April 2020 from Honduras. The shipment is the Dominican’s share of the purchase made by the countries member of the Central American Integration System (SICA), according to the Regional Contingency Plan ratified by the presidents and foreign ministers, with the coordination being carried out by the General Secretariat of SICA.

The Ministry says that in March the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) granted US$8 million in non-reimbursable financial cooperation to Central America, Belize and the Dominican Republic to attend to the health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic," explained Vargas.

The Ministry says that it is following up on the US$25 million fund created by the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, which will be disbursed in agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO), in order to determine how the Dominican Republic could access it.


Ministry of Public Health receives donation from Alibaba Foundation in China
The Ministry of Foreign Relations reports on a shipment of 50,000 masks, 15,000 nucleic acid detection reagents and four fans donated by Jack Ma on behalf of the Alibaba Foundation of China. The shipment has already been donated to the Ministry of Public Health (MSP).

A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Relations indicates that so far, this and other Chinese companies have donated 100,000 medical masks, 16,000 nucleic acid reagents, four ventilator machines and an artificial intelligence (AI) tomography equipment, to help in actions against Covid-19.


US government and IAEA donate 2,000 Covid-19 nuclear-derived testing kits
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced the donation of 2,000 Covid-19 diagnostic kits that use a nuclear-derived testing technique that can produce results in hours instead of days. The US government is funding the donation. The DR is included in the first batch of countries to receive these kits supplied by the US government. The Ministry of Energy and Mines had requested the donation. Energy and Mines Minister Antonio Isa Conde expressed gratefulness in the name of the country for the donation of the 2,000 RT-PCR detection kits.

The testing technique is based on Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), which makes it possible to identify the Covid-19 virus within hours. The testing kits include an RT-PCR diagnostic system (which detects the presence of genetic material from the virus to confirm whether a patient has been infected). In addition to the diagnostic machines and kits, reagents and laboratory consumables to speed up national testing is included. Likewise, biosafety supplies, such as personal protection equipment and laboratory cabinets for the safe analysis of collected samples.

The US Embassy explained in a press release that the United States government has mobilized US$6 million for the IAEA project to provide training and purchase diagnostic and biosafety equipment for the Covid-19 to member states requesting support. The Dominican Republic is part of the IAEA.

"We are pleased that our assistance can support the Dominican Republic during this pandemic," said the Embassy's Chargé d'Affaires, Shane Myers, who said the country is a strong partner for the United States, especially in the area of health. "The US Embassy in Santo Domingo, through agencies such as USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has invested over the years in building capacity, materials and training for the health sector in order to be better prepared to fight pandemics," she added.


Casa Brugal donates 150,000 liters of alcohol
To protect patients and health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, Casa Brugal Distillery announced the donation of 150,000 liters of alcohol denatured at 70 degrees. The alcohol is to be used for disinfecting and was received by the National Health Service (SNS) for distribution to hospitals and public health centers nationwide.

"We reiterate our conviction that together we will continue to build the country of development and well-being that we Dominicans deserve, even in such challenging times as these," Casa Brugal said in a statement when announcing the donation.

The company stressed that to be consistent with its commitment to the Dominican Republic and its people's welfare, it recognizes and assumes the priorities that the country has at this time, which is to overcome the pandemic.

Casa Brugal thanked Vinícola del Norte, Plastidel and Nesplas for packaging the alcohol and for the donation of gallons and boxes, so that the donation could be delivered quickly and safely.


Central Bank volunteers organization donates RD$3.4 million to San Francisco de Macoris
The Voluntariado Bancentraliano (VB), the social and solidarity arm of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic (BCRD), announced it has made a financial donation of RD$3.4 million Dominican pesos to the San Vicente de Paul Regional Hospital in San Francisco de Macorís, Duarte province. Of the total, RD$2.4 million will be used to purchase two ventilators and another RD$1 million will be used to purchase approximately 1,500 oxygen cylinders. Duarte province was the first province to experience community transmission of the Covid-19 disease.

The funds for both acquisitions were received by Dr. Francisco Javier Ureña, Director of the San Vicente de Paul Regional Hospital. They were delivered by Central Bank vice president for communications Luis Martin Gomez and deputy director for Institutional Social Responsibility, Denisse Comarazamy.


Government accepts Abinader’s offer to build temporary hospitals
The presidential candidate of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), Luis Abinader, informed on 7 April 2020 that the Medina administration had authorized him to install a temporary hospital in the city of La Vega. The hospital in La Vega would service inhabitants of La Vega, Monseñor Nouel, Sánchez Ramírez and Salcedo provinces.

Abinader says he is in a position to build a similar hospital in Santo Domingo East, another in Santo Domingo West, one in the southern region and another in San Pedro de Macoris, or five tent hospitals in total.

The provisional hospitals will each have 120 beds, a power plant and other support facilities under a tent.

These hospitals are mobile, self-contained and self-sufficient health-care infrastructures that can be rapidly deployed, installed and expanded, or otherwise dismantled, to meet immediate health-care needs for a given period of time. The Ministry of Public Health must provide the health care workers.

Abinader said that Dr. Samuel (Chanel) Rosa Chupani, executive director of the National Health System, had welcomed the official gesture. "In saluting this gesture by the authorities, I reiterate my invocation for national unity against Covid-19, because this is not the time to put differences and political interests before unity of will and action against a pandemic that is harming not only the health of our people but also jobs, production, and everything that has been our daily life," he said in a statement provided by his communications team.

Rosa Chupani instructed Abinader to contact the director for the Cibao region, Dr. Freddy Abad (809-875-5911 / fabad@sns.gob.do)".

Abinader says the coordinator of the effort will be the PRM vice presidential candidate Raquel Peña, with the support of the party’s health team and qualified engineers.

La Vega is in fourth place of most cases of the disease in the Dominican Republic.

Abinader had originally proposed to the government to build the hospital in the city of San Francisco de Macorís, where the most deaths have occurred, but proposed La Vega after Administrative Minister of the Presidency, José Ramón Peralta, informed him in a phone call that a similar center was already being built in that city.


Fundación Perelló donates RD$30 million to help
The producers of Café Santo Domingo announced the Perelló Foundation will donate RD$30 million to the war on the coronavirus. The donation will be channeled through the Roman Catholic Church Baní Diocese and the Santo Domingo Archdiocese. The resources will be used to purchase medical supplies and protection equipment for the health care workers in the province of Peravia. It will also be purchased to purchase food for the people of the province. Monsignor Victor Masalles is entrusted to coordinate the distribution of the donation.

As of statistics included in Bulletin #19, the province of Peravia had 10 confirmed cases, including three new cases and its firth death.