Economic impact of coronavirus on region comes under spotlight

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By Machela Osagboro

The impact of the coronavirus on the Caribbean’s workforce and productivity was the focus of a recent forum hosted by the University of the West Indies.

In the last 10 days, 14 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America have reported cases of the COVID-19 virus, according to a press release from the Ministry of Health in Antigua and Barbuda.

“Based on this, the Caribbean Public Health Agency has upgraded the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to the Caribbean region to very high,” it warned.

There are still no confirmed cases of the illness in Antigua and Barbuda.

Dr Don Marshall, director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute in Jamaica, said that the region will now have to develop new risk metrics to ascertain how the virus will affect the economies of the Caribbean as an outbreak would impact international business trade along with jobs.

Senator Lisa Cummins, of Barbados, said there has been a 40 percent decrease of production in China and the non-productivity of workers had already affected trade to the United States.

“When we talk about importing from the United States, we have a direct correlation to those non-productive workers in China,” Cummins said. Local companies that depend on imports via cargo ships will also suffer if items cannot be produced in China and shipped to the US and onto the Caribbean.

Days lost from work “will be a new norm” too, Marshall warned.

 “We have so many tourism-dependent economies which employ millions of people and contribute significantly to GDP, if there is any impact on the global travel industry, that’s going to have a significant impact on us here,” he continued.

Marshall further opined that with more travel bans on countries with high numbers of infections and ships being denied entry into ports, this means workers will be laid off and the capital that is to be made from tourist expenditure will lessen significantly.

He added that agricultural and transport sectors could also take a hit.

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