President of Dominica, His Excellency Charles Savarin
President of Dominica, His Excellency Charles Savarin

My fellow citizens at home and abroad and Residents of Dominica, A Merry Christmas to you. Notwithstanding the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is now in its second year, we remain thankful as ever to God's promise to send a Messiah into the world to bring hope, peace, joy, love and light, and to save His people. My wife Clara and family join me in this second pandemic Holiday Season, to extend to you and your household, our warmest wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a Healthier, Safer, Better and Brighter New Year.

This Christmas, like last year's, has to be celebrated differently for a second year in a row as we are experiencing an even greater presence of active COVID-19 cases than was the case in December 2020. We were all hoping that the pandemic would have vanished by now and life would have returned to normal, allowing the Christian community to prepare in the traditional way for the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour and the Prince of Peace. But as scripture tells us, God's ways are not man's ways; things do not always work out as planned or envisaged by man. However, even if things did not happen as we would have liked, we have to keep trusting God, for He is faithful and knows what is best for His people.

After another difficult and challenging year of much anxiety, loss and sacrifice due to the far-reaching impact associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are again required to celebrate Christmas by limiting gatherings to our household, by continuing to observe all aspects of the COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols, to exercise great restraint and caution, and most importantly, to take the vaccine to help curb the spread of this exponentially surging coronavirus disease. We are required to do this for our own safety and that of our friends and loved ones. Despite this health and safety requirement, we were able last year, with the aid of digital technologies, to devise creative ways to safely celebrate the birth of the Christ Child with our friends and loved ones; and we can do so even better this year.

Moreover, if we truly understand the true meaning of Christmas, our celebration of Christmas should not be dampened by COVID. The Christmas story is a heart-warming reminder of the true reason for the season – to commemorate the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last year around this time, the COVID-19 situation was not as chaotic in Dominica as it was in the rest of the world. Towards the end of the year, December 18, 2020 to be exact, we had recorded a total of ninety-two (92) confirmed COVID-19 cases with eighty-four (84) recoveries, eight (8) active cases, no COVID-19 related deaths and no community spread. We were further grateful and thankful to God for the discovery of three (3) viable vaccines thus far, the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, one of which, the Pfizer, had been FDA approved and was already being administered in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. Early in 2021, in February to be exact, we launched our vaccination campaign with seventy thousand (70,000) doses of AstraZeneca, which was donated by the Government of India. AstraZeneca had received provisional approval for emergency use.

Owing to a second wave of infections which began in August 2021, involving the very infectious and transmissible Delta variant, as of the second week in December 2021, we have recorded a total of 6,208 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,768 recoveries, 398 active cases, 32 new cases on overage per day and 42 deaths. Today, we now have three (3) types of vaccines at our disposal on island, namely the AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Pfizer with the Moderna soon to be added to the list. We are now considering the roll out of a booster shot program which has become more urgent in light of the new Omicron variant that is already triggering a new surge in global infections. It is encouraging to note that the rate of daily infection in Dominica is trending downwards. However, daily infections even in the 20's is still much too high for a small country like ours. We need to work towards reducing the daily average of new cases to single digits and preferably to zero, by ensuring that all of us get vaccinated. Currently, a total of 27,115 persons out of a target population of 53,281 persons, are fully vaccinated. We are still a long way from attaining the level of vaccination to achieve herd immunity – the only way of returning to a semblance of normality. I therefore urge all those who have not yet taken the vaccine, particularly first responders and caregivers to the elderly, to come forward and get vaccinated.

There is no denying the fact that this year has been very challenging for all of us, yet we cling to hope and have come through wiser and stronger to face the challenges of the year ahead. We are told in the Good Book that God's chosen people, the Israelites, did not believe that their salvation was at hand and that they would be delivered from slavery in the land of Egypt. But God never abandoned His people; He kept and fulfilled His promises in His time. So just as He did in delivering His people from Egypt, He will continue to work on our behalf to deliver us from the scourge of this virus.

Amidst all of the challenges, hurt, anxiety, worry and fear that the pandemic has brought, there were also moments of great achievements for which we are to be thankful. Firstly, our Government was able to put in place an effective national response to this pandemic that leaves no one behind or unprovided for. Secondly, we have managed to continue our economic thrusts that have unfolded and executed in the areas of housing, health, education, agriculture, infrastructural development and tourism, and the many windows of opportunities to be derived from such transformative initiatives as green energy which is centered on our geothermal development program. We have also commenced the construction of the international airport, and witnessed the commencement of operations on 8th December 2021 of the American Airlines direct scheduled flight from Miami, Florida, to Douglas-Charles Airport twice weekly and as of 10th January 2022, three (3) times weekly. This new direct service will have a great impact on the tourism sector and livelihoods. It will connect over 40 US cities to Dominica and make Miami, Florida, a connecting hub for travelers from Canada, Asia and Europe.

So all is not lost, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Jesus the light of the world, has always been and will always be with us. We ought, therefore, during the Christmas Season, to treasure these remembrances of God's faithfulness to us, to continue to believe in God's goodness, to remain thankful and prayerful and to look to the future with confidence and hope.

As we focus on the reason for the Season, let us also ensure that the needs of orphaned and abandoned children, the elderly, the sick and the shut-ins continue to be met this Christmas Season and beyond.

Permit me at this juncture, to take this opportunity to thank and recognize all those who are engaged daily, for the past 21 months, in the fight to combat the challenges and difficulties posed by this deadly pandemic and who will be at work during the Holiday Season so that the rest of us may enjoy the Season in a safe and protected environment. These include our Doctors, Nurses and Health Care Workers, Members of the Police Force, Fire and Ambulance Services, the Prison Service, Customs and Immigration Departments, Sea Port and Airport employees and those employed in our public utilities. Let us be especially mindful of these Heroes and act in a manner that will lighten their burden of care and service.

I further wish to take this opportunity to empathize with those who have tested positive and have since recovered or are recovering from this disease, and to sympathize with all those who have lost a family member, friend and/or loved one to this disease.

May the Baby Jesus continue to have room in our hearts and may our homes radiate God's peace this Season. With an abundance of faith, hope, love, patience and cooperation, let us embrace one another virtually and resolve that COVID shall not defeat us. That we will not only get through this crisis together, but that we will prosper in spite of any setbacks.