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The Covid19 epidemic has ravaged countries world-wide. Only a handful of countries have not reported any cases to the World Health Organization. More than two and a half million people across the globe have been identified as infected with this disease with almost two-hundred thousand deaths reported. These numbers do not take into account the many who had the disease prior to it being discovered or the even more who do not have access to adequate healthcare to be identified as infected. The numbers as we have seen each day do not provide an accurate picture of the totality of the epidemic, but it does give a snap shot of what is known.

On 22nd April, 2020 I attended a virtual town hall sponsored by the Authentic Caribbean Foundation. The intent of the call was to update the attendees on the Covid19 status in the Caribbean, to include Diaspora members who live abroad.

The Authentic Caribbean Foundation is a Non-Profit organization established in 2012, located in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The mission of this organization is centered around “..transforming the lives of Caribbean children impacted by disabilities, HIV/AIDS and their caregivers through health and educational support.”

There were eight presentations from official Island representatives. Each representative had seven minutes to provide an update on the status of their island while also sharing suggestions and goals moving forward in a post Covid19 world. There was a great deal of information to share and only a couple of the representatives were able to stay within the allotted seven minute time frame.

 

ARUBA

Total Population (2018) 105,845

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.09% of population

Minster Joselyn Croes

Aruba has been locked down since the middle of March. As an island that is 90% dependent on tourism, the shutdown has devastated their economy. Currently, there is a One Billion dollar (US) ( £812,580,000 UK) budget deficit. 25,000 Arubans or ¼ of their population are unemployed. Although the island wishes to open up by June, that date is contingent upon what the United States has decided to do at that time.

Food security is also a serious problem due to the number of imports the island receives. The government is currently reviewing ways in which Aruba can be more independent and how the Caribbean at large can share expertise and trade with each other in the future.

Current Status:

Total Shutdown 9PM-6AM – Residents must shelter in place

Total Covid19 cases: 97

Total Active Cases: 50

Deaths: 2

 

Bahamas

Total Population (2018) 385,640

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.016% of population

Ambassador Sidney Collie

There are three major concerns for Bahamas right now:

  • Dorian aftermath
  • Covid19
  • Onset of 2020 hurricane season

Hurricane Dorian was arguably the most devastating hurricane in Bahamian history with an estimated four billion dollars (US) (£3,250,320,000) in damages. There is a three to five year projection on recovery.

Recently there was a shipment of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) scheduled for delivery from Miami, USA, that was incorrectly intercepted by US Customs agents. The situation was resolved diplomatically and the shipment proceeded to its final destination.

Current Status:

Total shutdown Dusk until Dawn – Residents must shelter in place

Total in Isolation: 651

Total Covid19 cases: 64

Total Recovered: 11

Deaths: 9

Emergency Powers Order in effect.

State of Emergency.

Borders originally closed until 20th April, 2020 has been extended an additional 14 days.

Suspension of Non-essential business.

All schools closed

 

Barbados

Total Population (2018) 286,641

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.025% of population

Ambassador Noel Lynch

As of 20th, April, 2020 Barbados was happy to report no new cases for five days. They have conducted 1063 tests and thanks to the hard work of the Public Health Officials, they have 27,000 tests on hand. The Ambassador has also reported that the citizens of Barbados have been doing their part by complying with the orders from the government. The Ambassador does not believe in a trade off of

healthcare in favor of economy, but is interested in how the Caribbean can work together to be both psychologically and physically prepared. Ambassador Lynch asks two looming questions: How do we restart the economy after this crisis as a tourist based country? How can we safely reopen our borders?

There are also three major concerns in Barbados at this time:

  • Food security
  • The creation of new industries for development
  • How to expand the Caribbean economy with economic diversity. Technology is the future!

The focus in Barbados is also centered on the unemployed. How will the citizens be retrained?

The Bajan government is actively seeking solutions to this issues on behalf of their citizens.

Current Status:

As of March 15, Shelter in place from 6PM-6AM

Citizens are permitted to shop based on an alphabetical order system determined by your surname.

Total in Isolation: 43

Total Covid19 cases: 73

Total Recovered: 23

Deaths: 5

 

Grenada

Total Population: 111,454

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.012% of population

Ambassador Yolande Smith

The Ambassador reports that stimulus packages were approved by the Grenadian government to help support the economy. There has also been additional support for their citizens from companies such as Digicel and FLOW who have contributed one Gigabyte in data for each citizen free of charge.

Current Status:

Shelter in place from 7PM-5AM

Schools are closed.

Essential services only.

Total tests administered: 147

Total Covid19 cases: 14

Total Recovered: 7

Deaths: 0

 

Haiti

Total Population: (2018) 11.1 Million

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.0005% of population

Ambassador Herve Denis

The Ambassador reports that Haiti took swift action to close their borders at the onset of the crisis. He reports that the shelter in place order is being followed more in the urban areas, but is somewhat ignored in rural parts of the country. The government is also focused on the over two million Haitians that reside in the US, many of whom work in service industries and are exposed to the virus because of their profession. Ambassador Denis believes that CARICOM should come together and order supplies & equipment for all of their members.

Another issue highlighted by the Ambassador, is the return of undocumented Haitian immigrants from the US back to Haiti. Recently 63 immigrants were sent back, three were infected with Covid19. Ambassador Denis is calling for a global solution and not a local one, which will not help this situation that is affecting many Caribbean countries.

Current Status

All borders are closed

Shelter in place from 8PM-5AM

Total Covid19 cases: 60

Deaths: 3

 

St. Kitts and Nevis

Total Population: (2018) 52,441

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.02% of population

Ambassador Thelma Phillip Browne

As with other Caribbean islands, the children of St Kitts and Nevis are participating in Home Schooling. Ambassador Browne reports that 2000 laptops were distributed to include free internet access to those households that were in need, so that classes could continue throughout the country.

St. Kitts and Nevis has also received support from 34 health partners from Cuba who are on the islands to assist with the outbreak.

The farmers of the island have received 14 million in aid for seeds and water from the government to support a vital part of the economy.

Current Status

At this time there is no evidence of community spread.

Shelter in place from 7PM-9AM

Total in isolation: 71

Total Covid19 cases: 15 : 11 ST Kitts, 4 Nevis

Total released from quarantine: 632

Total in hospital related to COVID19: 0

Deaths: 0

 

St. Lucia

Total Population: (2018) 181,889

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.008% of population

Ambassador Anton Edmunds

This crisis began as St. Lucia was in the process of transitioning to a new hospital. The timing of these events was a test to their medical system. Their plans to ramp up their telemedicine capabilities had to move faster than previously anticipated. Ambassador Edmunds acknowledges that the healthcare system needs major improvement across the Caribbean going forward.

On Easter Sunday, 5,000 meals were distributed to underprivileged residents. The St. Lucian government in partnership with the hospitality industry was able to provide this tremendous gift during the holiday weekend.

The Ambassador highlighted 4 concerns:

  • Significant unemployment
  • Tax credits are being offered to companies who retain staff; however, without revenue a tax credit is worthless.
  • How will we social distance in a shelter during hurricane season?
  • How do we repatriate St. Lucians, who attend school abroad or who work on cruise ships?

Current Status

The 24 hour shelter in place order has been replaced with a 7pm-5am curfew

Total tests administered: 364

Total in isolation: 41

Total in quarantine: 27

Total Covid19 cases: 15

Total recovered: 13

Deaths: 0

 

St. Vincent & Grenadines

Total Population: (2018) 110,210

Total Covid19 cases YTD 0.01% of population

Ambassador Lou-Anne Gilchrist

On 11, March, 2020 the first case of Covid19 was discovered when a female citizen returned from the U.K.

Since that time, St Vincent has gone to work to ensure that their citizens have remained safe and that segments of their economy are supported. A Rum distillery was repurposed and utilized as a hand sanitizer manufacturer. The private transportation system was provided $700,000 in stimulus funding.

The Ambassador noted that as with other islands Food security is a problem and she hopes that increased trade within CARICOM can assist in combating this issue.

Current Status

Total in isolation: 0

Total Covid19 cases: 10

Total recovered: 3

Deaths: 0

Additional discussions took place regarding Caribbean people in the United states and what programs currently exist to assist them. The programs address food and medical deficits in addition to the much needed counseling support.

There were several consistent themes in the presentations:

  • The need for additional financial independence. As hospitality is so vital to the economic success of these islands, any disruption in this pipeline can be devastating to their solvency. All of the representatives seem to agree that expanding their services and industries can assist in preventing such wide-scale financial devastation.
  • Healthcare : A more robust healthcare system to include, relevant equipment, training and supplies can ensure the ability to treat their citizens efficiently and effectively in times of crisis.
  • Unity: A constant theme was the need for CARICOM to work together and support their member nations.

I was encouraged by much of the discussion on the call. The representatives are looking forward for their Nations, hoping to take a proactive approach on their future instead of reacting to calamities as they arise. The desire for unity across all of CARICOM and the inclusion of brothers and sisters abroad as one family is a much needed concept that I hope continues to fruition. There should be no more “small” island, “big” island discussion. There should be no more attitudes directed at those who have heritage home but may have been born abroad.

We are one people, together in one purpose.

When one succeeds, we all succeed.

The future can be bright for all of us, if we work toward it together.


 

BY SUSANNA ELATA

 

 

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