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,

As children of God, let us wish each other a Merry Christmas and a Bright and Prosperous New Year as 2020 draws to a close.

And what a difficult and challenging year it has been for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic emerged at the beginning of 2020 and drastically changed all our lives.

This Holiday Season, as the Christian community here on island, in the region and indeed worldwide, prepares for the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Prince of Peace, we are being admonished by the public health authorities to do so by continuing to observe all aspects of the COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols, and to exercise great restraint and caution to help curb the spread of this exponentially surging coronavirus disease. This means celebrating Christmas differently with physical distancing as COVID-19 makes it unsafe to engage in the traditional Christmas activities even with friends and family.

We will all admit that it is not a nice feeling knowing that we will not be able to fill our churches for the traditional Christmas Mass nor attend Christmas parties and other festive activities whether in public or within the confines of our homes with our friends and extended family. Limiting gatherings to our household is, however, something that we all must do for our own safety and that of our friends and loved ones. So there is no need to feel downhearted, restless and frustrated but rather to thank God that we have a place to call home where we can celebrate with our household and feel safe and protected. Three (3) years ago many of us were without shelter, as our roofs, and in many cases our entire homes, had been destroyed by the winds of Hurricane Maria and/or by the floods and landslides triggered by the rains of Tropical Storm Erika two years earlier. Today, many of us have resilient homes and though we will be physical distanced this Christmas, we are united by the gift of digital technology which allows us to see and speak with our friends and loved ones from a distance.

We should also take solace in knowing that this is not the first time that God's people are asked to self-isolate or felt the need to do so when their safety and protection is being threatened by terrible things happening outdoors. I wish to make reference to two (2) occasions recorded in scripture when God's people were called upon to exercise restraint and caution.

The first instance refers to the Passover when God said to the Prophet Isaiah and His people, the Israelites, who were oppressed by Pharaoh while in Egypt:

"Come, my people, enter your chambers,

and shut your doors behind you;

hide yourselves for a little while

until the fury has passed by."

Isaiah 26:20 – English Standard Version (ESV)

And the second instance was when the Apostle John, on the day of Jesus' resurrection reported that:

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, Peace be with you."

John 20:19 (ESV)

In both references we see that in times of trial, God's people are commanded to go inside and shut the doors behind them while God remained outdoors fighting on their behalf to keep them safe and protected. Another lesson to be learnt from these two (2) scripture readings is that a home is a place of refuge and peace; not a place of imprisonment, but a place of safety and protection.

We too, as a result of the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, have had to self-isolate during the lock down period and shut the doors and the world behind us while the fury of the virus subsided. Now is certainly not the time to succumb to frustration, despair and rebellion but rather to thank God that He has given us a home where we can hide for a while with our household during the Holiday Season and spend some quality time in the presence of our loved ones in communion with the Messiah.

We Should Be Grateful And Thankful

During this period of solitude, we should also set aside some time to count the many reasons we have to be grateful and thankful for our many blessings.

We are grateful and thankful for our Ministry of Health and all of our first responders who never stopped showing up for work over those long and hectic months and have been isolated from their loved ones in order to keep us safe and protected from this deadly virus.

We are grateful and thankful for our educators who acted quickly to put a virtual package together to ensure the continued education of our children and for reaching out to those students who had no access to digital platforms.

We are grateful and thankful for our parents who have kept the families together while navigating through work, household chores, childcare and remote learning.

We are grateful and thankful for our farmers for consistent food production and for our business houses for keeping the grocery stores stocked with essential supplies, not forgetting the sanitary workers for keeping the surroundings clean.

We are grateful and thankful for the researchers and scientists who have been working tirelessly to understand the genetic makeup of the coronavirus with a view to finding a vaccine and therapeutics.

And yes, we are particularly grateful and thankful for the discovery of three (3) viable vaccines thus far, the Pfizer, Moderna and AsfraZeneca, one of which, the Pfizer, is already being administered in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America.

We are grateful and thankful for this scientific development and its positive impact on our future livelihood and socio-economic well-being.

We are all aware of the tremendous toll that the virus has taken on the whole world but thankfully the situation is not as chaotic in Dominica as it is in the rest of the world. To date (December 15) we have had eighty-eight (88) infected cases, eighty-three (83) recoveries and five (5) active cases. Thank God we have had no deaths as a result of COVID-19 and that we have managed the disease fairly well.

Just as God was there for His people, the Israelites, He will be there for all of us also. So let us remain hopeful and prayerful during the Christmas Season and continue to adhere to the guidelines and advisories of the Ministry of Health. With God's grace, we will get through this pandemic together.

Continuing the Recovery Through it All

We have made and continue to make significant strides in our national recovery efforts particularly in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Maria, although we have suffered some setbacks as focus and resources had to be diverted to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have been able, nevertheless, after some delay, to proceed with a series of plans and programmes that are geared at ushering our country into a new development thrust. These include:

• The development of the new International Airport; • Continued progress with our Geothermal Energy Programme • Our new Road Infrastructure Development Programme; • Our new Dominica-China Friendship Hospital and the Marigot Hospital; • Numerous Health and Wellness Centres; • Our Housing Revolution Programme; • Our International Hotel Construction Programme; • Reviving of the agricultural and fisheries sectors; and • Ushering in our new digital economy initiative, etc.

Thus, as we focus on the reason for the Season, let us allow Christ Jesus to enter our homes and our hearts and bring us His peace. 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.

As always, we must be especially mindful of those who will work during the Holiday Season so that the rest of us may enjoy the Season in a safe and protected environment including; members of the Police Force, Fire and Ambulance Services, the Prison Service, Customs and Immigration Departments and Sea Port and Airport employees. And in a special way we must remember the Doctors, Nurses and Health Care Workers who labour to improve the health and well-being of us all, particularly in this COVID-19 era.

On behalf of the Government and people of Dominica, and on behalf of my wife and myself, I extend to every citizen at home and abroad and to all residents of Dominica, very best wishes for a Joyous Christmas Season and a Better and Brighter New Year.

I thank you.