KINGSTON, Jamaica – In the one month it took the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to completely spread across the Caribbean, several islands have successfully managed to contain the spread of the virus, while other islands are actively struggling.
Dominican Republic Hardest Hit
As of March 28, the region surpassed the thousand-case threshold with close to 1,100 cases of the virus with approximately 40 deaths. The Dominican Republic has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 as 50% of the Caribbean’s cases have been reported on the island, roughly the size of Georgia
The Dominican Republic confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 1 and the precautionary measures which followed were slowly implemented. Over two weeks after the first confirmed case, tourists were still being allowed to travel to the island.
It wasn’t until March 19 that President Danilo Medina announced the closure of the island’s sea and air borders, but by then the virus has already began spreading throughout communities. Along with the slow government response, lawlessness of locals has contributed to the spread of the virus. The Dominican Republic has been under a national curfew since March 20, since which, more than 10,000 residents have been detained for ignoring the curfew.
Other islands including Jamaica, Haiti and Puerto Rico have so far successfully managed to keep the number of cases relatively low. Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton has been lauded by several organizations and notable figures including the Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the US Ambassador to Jamaica, Donald Tapia for the island’s response to the virus.
Jamaica, which now has some 30-odd COVID-19 cases including one death, has implemented several measures to contain the spread all while keeping residents informed with daily press conferences, COVID-19 websites, COVID-19 comic books for children, among other measures.
As for regional travel restrictions, nearly all Caribbean islands have closed their borders to incoming passenger travel and encouraged the larger Caribbean diaspora to refrain from attempting to travel to the region until further notice.
The Caribbean Turns To Cuba For Help
While Cuba now has over 100 cases of COVID-19, the Caribbean has turned to the island for answers and assistance. Since the spread of the virus, Cuba health care “brigades” have been invited to assist medical workers in Jamaica, Grenada, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica. Barbados also recently announced a medical agreement with Cuba which will see the arrival of medical doctors and usage of related drugs.
The specialized health teams which have included doctors, nurses and even therapists all adept in handling critical situations. Outside of the Caribbean, Cubans were also sent to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Suriname, and in Lombardy, Italy, one of the regions hit hardest by the coronavirus.
But while Cuba, which has one of the world’s leading medical industries, springs into action to help the world, the United States has criticized the island’s seemingly great efforts.
“Cuba offers its international medical missions to those afflicted with #COVID-19 only to make up the money it lost when countries stopped participating in the abusive program,” tweeted an account for the US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, last week. “Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVID- 19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses,” the message said.
President Moïse urges Haitians to stay home
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — President Jovenel Moïse has urged Haitians to remain indoors as the French-speaking Caribbean Community country recorded eight new cases of COVID-19 during a seven-day period.
Health authorities said that the number of positive cases as of March 31, is 16 and have called on Haitians to follow the guidelines being given in a bid to stop the virus from spreading.
In a radio and television broadcast, President Moise also urged the population to follow the principles of good hygiene.
Trinidad not following Caribbean countries and declaring SOE
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Trinidad and Tobago recorded its fifth death, the second within a 24-hour period, from COVID-19 but stopped short of announcing plans for a state of emergency (SOE) or a curfew to help curb the spread of the virus that has killed more than 43,000 people worldwide.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at the daily news conference put on by the Ministry of Health, said Trinidad and Tobago is also considering releasing prisoners in a bid to curb the spread of the virus but had no intention of following the methods being adopted by some Caribbean islands to implement the curfew and SOE.
He told reporters that if the situation “is deemed to be that we need to be more interventionist, and that intervention will put us in a better situation, then the Government has no difficulty in doing it”.
Guyana extends the closure of two international airports
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Guyana Government says the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the Eugene Correia International Airport, which were closed last month as part of the efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, will remain closed to international flights until May 1.
The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), in a letter to Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, noted that the original two-week period was “very effective and assisted tremendously with slowing the spread of COVID-19 by limiting international contacts”.
It said that the number of COVID-19 cases, both globally and regionally, have risen particularly in countries that have ports of origin for passengers to Guyana.
On March 19, the airports were officially closed to international flights, while domestic flights have proceeded.
Outgoing cargo flights, medivacs and technical stops for aircraft that require fuel have also received approvals by the GCAA.
As of March 31, Guyana has recorded 12 cases of COVID-19 with two deaths.