Dili – President Francisco Guterres Lu Olo swore in eight new cabinet members on Friday. For the first time a woman has become deputy prime minister in Timor-Leste. After the ceremony the president held a speech focussing on the struggle against the corona-virus.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide is close to six million, while almost four hundred thousand people died, the president stated in a speech he held in the Nicolau Lobato Presidential Palace. Compared to other countries Timor-Leste is doing relatively well. The president pointed out that the prevention and mitigation measures taken by the government, the Integrated Crisis Management Office and other institutions, and the participation of the citizens, have allowed 'to control the situation of calamity' caused by the pandemic. 'With the help of all Timorese people, we have so far managed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community and avoid fatalities within our territory,' the president said.
Now, 60 days after the implementation of the state of emergency, Timor-Leste sees 'positive results' in the prevention, containment and treatment of the infection. Although 'fewer restrictions than before' are necessary, the president warned that 'greater vigilance and the adoption of behaviours that avoid the disease' are still needed, such as washing hands frequently, wearing a mask, and social distancing.
'We have reached a situation where we are confident that the fight against this natural calamity is in our hands, and that, together with the international community, we will be able to overcome the tragedy of the coronavirus,' the president said.
President Guterres thanked the prime minister, members of parliament, the workers in the front line of the fight against the pandemic, the religious denominations and their leaders, and civil society as a whole. 'We have been able to, conscientiously and responsibly, stop the spread of the coronavirus by taking a joint, united, coordinated, vigorous and effective action.'
However, due to the pandemic many countries are now in recession. 'All around the world, companies went bankrupt and mass lay-offs occurred,' he said. Timor-Leste is no exception. 'Our gross domestic product has dropped significantly. Families and individuals have less money in their pockets and, therefore, the purchasing power of families and individuals is at risk,' he said. It is expected that more families will experience food shortages, malnutrition, rickets, anaemia, and other diseases.
The president explained that the government stood before a 'difficult choice' because the state of emergency has negative consequences, but not declaring the state of emergency 'would have paved the way for an uncontrollable situation that would cause the collapse of our already fragile national health system and an unpredictable number of human lives would be lost.'
He explained that the government devised an economic response plan for post-pandemic recovery which is focussed on citizens and rebuilding the economic fabric of the country. It includes the allocation of 142 million dollars 'to help alleviate the burden on many households, individuals, workers and entrepreneurs,' the president said. He added: 'It is now urgent that the wisdom in the decision making, be accompanied by swiftness and effectiveness in its implementation.'