COVID-19: Regional Roundup (16 May)

3D illustration of Coronavirus, virus which causes SARS and MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
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By Dominica News Online


FIFTH FORMERS TO RETURN TO SCHOOL ( Fifth formers, who are sitting CXC exams in July, will return to school on Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Education. All other grade students will continue to use e-learning platforms. Provision for school return includes ensuring adequate water supply, extra hand-washing stations and inspection by health officials. Relaxation of anti-Covid-19 rules are in place for next week and include the re-opening of churches for services with no more than 25 people. The state of emergency has been extended until 31 July. Antigua & Barbuda has a total of three active cases.


LOCKDOWN ( In what was described as a “surprise move”, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced that the small island of Bimini, with a population of just over 2,000, is to be put under a two-week lockdown, from Monday 18 May, as two further residents tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, bringing the total on the island to 13. There are currently 44 active cases in the Bahamas. Meanwhile, all of the Family Islands (except Bimini) are looking to resume economic activity next week, and it is understood that Sandals Resort, in Exuma, is set to re-open on 1 July (


MOTTLEY DROPS MORE RESTRICTIONS ( Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced a loosening of shopping and business rules that will take effect from 18 May, but the system of restricted shopping by surname on two designated weekdays will remain in place. In-house restaurant dining will still not be permitted. Barbados has reported a total of 85 cases, of which 13 are active, and there have been seven deaths attributed to Covid-19.


CUBA BEGINS MASS TESTING ( Cuba has begun mass testing for coronavirus as it appears to have contained infections, amid a partial shutdown that has exacerbated a shortage of basic goods. Cuba’s top epidemiologist, Francisco Durán, said on Monday that mass testing would help better define the prevalence of the coronavirus as many people found to be infected showed no symptoms. “The objective is to find new cases and then intervene, isolate, seek contacts, and take all possible measures to ensure that Cuba continues as it is now,” he said during his daily virus update broadcast to the nation. Cuba has recorded 1,840 cases, with 336 currently active, and there have been 79 deaths attributed to the coronavirus.


OPENING BORDERS TO TOURISM “NOT A REAL OPTION”( Opening the borders to tourism, as it was prior to the pandemic, is now “not a real option,” said Professor Jaap van Dissel, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control, as it may lead to a politically and socially unacceptable risk, as well as a real risk to the local population. Measures to allow tourism on the islands again and to prevent the import of new case histories at the same time seem difficult to implement, he said. ”In order to survive economically, the tourist industry will have to be restarted sooner or later. However, the world post-Covid-19 will no longer be the same as before… If no structural measures are taken, the burden that tourists could impose on this limited care capacity, also in view of the long treatment path, could be too high to keep sufficient capacity available for the local care need.” Curacao has reported a total of 16 cases, of which one is active, and there has been one death attributed to Covid-19.


LET US OPEN, OR ELSE ( Dominican Merchants Federation (FDC) presidentIván Garcíahas demanded that the Government allow micro, small and medium-sized companies to open during the state of emergency. He said businesses can no longer endure another unopened day. “We have already reached a limit,” said García, in a virtual meeting with more than 200 members of the Federation. At the meeting it was agreed that if President Danilo Medina does not issue a decree in the coming days to allow such businesses to open, they will hold a press conference next Monday, dressed in black, in which they will announce their own measures, such as re-opening businesses as a message of protest. The Dominican Republic has reported a total of 11,739 cases, of which 7,758 are active, and there have been 424 deaths attributed to Covid-19.


GRENADA MAKES BOND PAYMENT ( Grenada has made a semi-annual debt payment to private creditors that was due on 12 May, putting aside for now its request for a moratorium on bond payments because of the coronavirus pandemic. Grenada’s tourism-led economy has been hit particularly hard by Covid-19. Keith Mitchell, who serves as both Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, asked that the payments of principal and interest totalling $15.4 million be suspended. Grenada has reported a total of 22 cases, of which eight are active; there have been no deaths attributed to Covid-19.


HAITIAN MUSICIANS UNITE IN CONCERT ( A Haitian-American Alliance Covid-19 Concert will be live streamed from 7pm to 10pm on Sunday 17 May, the day before Haiti Flag Day, on the Facebook and Instagram pages of the Haitian Times, and on its YouTube channel. Artists will be performing from their home base, which includes South Florida, New Jersey and Port-au-Prince. The line-up stars Grammy winner Wyclef Jean, along with konpa bands, Klass, NuLook and Harmonik. There’s also Belo, Darline Desca, Ram, Paul Beaubrun, Vayb and Buyu Ambroise Jazz ensemble. They represent racine, jazz, twoubadou, folk and other music genres. Haiti has reported a total of 273 cases, of which 235 are active; 20 deaths have been attributed to Covid-19.


‘WORSE THAN PRISON’ ( The government has been forced to apologise following complaints by returning Jamaicans about the quarantine conditions in two Jamaican hotels. The problems overshadowed the announcement that there had been no more Covid-19 cases over a 24-hour period. A total of 465 people are in the two hotels. Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton issued separate apologies for the administrative failures and inability to provide food for the 465 people who are in quarantine in the hotels. ‘Dancehall Queen Carlene’, whose god-daughter is in quarantine in the Bahia Principe Hotel, said, “This is worse than a prison system because in a prison system you have time scheduled for breakfast, lunch, dinner.” There are 382 active cases of Covid-19 in Jamaica.


CONCERNS GROW AS PUERTO RICO TO SPEND $2 BILLION TO FIGHT COVID-19 ( Puerto Rico’s governor has revealed how the US territory will spend more than US$2.2 billion in federal aid to fight the coronavirus amid concerns that the money will not reach those in need soon enough. The bulk of the money, US$300 million, will be used in part to increase testing, expand contact tracing and help the unemployed affected by a lockdown imposed in mid-March. Another US$100 million will be given to the island’s 78 municipalities for coronavirus-related costs and US$100 million to government agencies to clean work areas and implement social distancing measures so that public employees can return to the office. In addition, US$486 million will be placed in reserve. In a nod to concerns about potential mismanagement given the large amount of money to be distributed, Governor Wanda Vázquez said she will create a team charged with overseeing and auditing the funds. “There can’t be any opportunities for corruption,” she said. “Fraud and theft will not be allowed … don’t even try it.” Puerto Rico has has reported a total of 2,542 cases, of which 1,674 are active, and there have been 122 deaths attributed to Covid-19.


BUCCAMENT RESORT USED AS QUARANTINE FACILITY ( The former Buccament Bay Resort, which has been closed since December 2016 andis in receivership, is being used to quarantine those who are suspected of being exposed to Covid-19. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had previously asked that the media not disclose the location of the quarantine facilities because of possible stigmatisation. Since the resort, which is the subject of several international legal battles,  closed, the Government is said to have made several attempts to attract an investor. SVG has reported a total of 17 cases of Covid-19, of which three are active; there have been no deaths attributed to the virus.


$8,000 IN FINES FOR PEOPLE FOUND SEA BATHING ( Six people found sea bathing in the Gulf of Paris have each been fined TT$1,000 (about EC$400) in a virtual magistrates court; a seventh defendant was fined TT$2,000. The seven were charged under a Public Health Ordnance designed to contain the spread of Covid-19. Trinidad & Tobago has one active case.

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