Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Gov't of Antigua and Barbuda

ANTIGUA

The Antigua Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP)  is moving to fight any attempt by the government to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory.
The party’s spokesman on legal matters, Leon Symister, alo called on residents to resist any such move by the Gaston Browne-led administration.
His comments came after the Prime Minister Gaston Browne said recently that while the government was trying to avoid mandatory vaccination, it would not be ruled out if enough people did not come forward to get inoculated for the country’ to reach herd community.
Although saying that the UPP was not against Covid-19 vaccination, Symister said the party did not support it becoming compulsory and would stage legal challenges and protests if that happened.
The UPP spokesman, who is an attorney, contented that the mandating residents to take the jab would be in contravention of Article 7 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which Antigua and Barbuda acceded to the July 2019 four months before it came into effect.
Recently, Browne warned residents failure to reach herd community within the next few weeks could have dire consequences for the twin-island nation.
BAHAMAS
The World Bank has approved a US $100 million loan to help the Caribbean country’s recovery.
The World Bank board of directors confirmed their approval of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Development Policy Loan in a recent release.
The loan will support the country’s efforts to provide Covid-19 relief and lay the foundation for a resilient economy recovery.
Tasheen Sayed, World Bank director for the Caribbean, noted the Bahamas had suffered tragedy not long before the pandemic.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic came on the heels of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.
The Bahamas has suffered  one of the most severe economic contractions in the Caribbean.
Sayed said the World Bank assistance will contribute to the country efforts to reduce vulnerabilities of citizens most most impacted by the crisis and support policy and institutional measures for a resilient recovery.
The World Bank noted the Bahamas had faced socio-economic impacts due to the pandemic, which led to a sudden stop in tourism and an estimated economic contraction of 16.2  percent over the past year.
The release added “unemployment already on the rise after Hurricane Dorian increased further and poverty is estimated to have increased in 2020.”
The loan will also includes measures to enhance unemployment benefits and provide food assistance to those workers and households most affected by the Covid-19 crisis and measures to develop an inclusive vaccination policy.
CARIBBEAN
The University of the West Indies (UWI) has welcomed the appointment of Belizean  economist Dr. Carla Barnett as the new Secretary-General of the CARICOM grouping, acknowledging “the two-time UWI graduate has made history as the first woman to be appointed to the post.”
Regional leaders recently named Barnett as the new CARICOM secretary-general during a special meeting to discuss the recommendations of the Community Council of Ministers.
Barnett, the eighth person to be appointed to the top regional public service post, will take up office in August, replacing Dominica diplomat, Irwin La Roche, who has been in the post since 2011.
Dr. Barnett is the third  UWI Alum to assume the role of CARICOM Secretary-General, following Ambassador Edwin Carrington and Ambassador Roderick Rainford, UWI said in a statement.
Barnett who previously served as deputy secretary-general of CARICOM, was formally vice-president of the Senate in her country and also served in various ministerial capacities.
She also served as deputy governor of the Central Bank of Belize as well as vice-president of the Caribbean Development Bank.
GUYANA
The Guyana government said last week that all schools, except for those that have already been reopened, will remain closed until the month of September.
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand said the government has taken a decision based on the advice of the Ministry of Health to remain closed for the rest of the school year or academic year which ends around the June or the first week in July.
Schools have been closed since March last year, due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In November 2020, however, grades 10, 11 and 12 were reopened to allow pupils to prepare for the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations.
“We will remain closed  for the month of June except for those classes that have already returned to the classrooms. We will remain closed for the remaining days in May and the months of June, July and August, ” Manickchand said.
JAMAICA
Jamaica has established a 24-hour help line to assist children and teenagers experiencing challenges or who may be feeling overwhelmed with adapting to changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The facility, the Safe Spot National Child and Teen Helpline, is a multi-sectorial initiative involving the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica office and the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) which will manage it.
The authorities said that the Helpline is intended to provide prompt responses to youngsters’ concerns by eliminating delays and increasing access to trained professionals who can assist them when they need it most.
ST. VINCENT
The St. Vincent and Grenadines government says farmers, as well as other people, employed in the Volcano Red Zone will get income support of either EC$500 or EC $400 per month for the rest of the year to help cope with the lost of income as a result of the eruption of La Soufriere volcano.
Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves said  manly of those individuals faced lengthy periods of reduced income before they can restore their earning  capacity, or their ability to independently support their families.
He said a banana farmer could take a year before reaping his first bunch, while root crop farmers might have to wait six to seven months.
“So their are people who are deeply affected for months to come, the minister of finance said as he presented an EC$117.9 million supplementary budget.
The fiscal package  contains EC$18.8 million in income support for more than 14,000 Vincentians across the country.

TRINIDAD

Some three months after Trinidad and Tobago was commended by the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, T&T is now one of five countries with the highest numbers of Covid-19 infections.
Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and the Bahamas are now three countries in the Caribbean with the highest numbers of infections.
Speaking at a press conference, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr. Carissa Etienne said these three nations have seen Covid-19 deaths double.
Trinidad and Tobago recorded the highest death toll alone for the month of May (306) pushing the death toll to over 470 more than 23,000 positive cases of Covid-19.
For the first 19 days of May, a total of 162 people died from the virus.
The deaths for the month of May have already surpassed the number of Covid-19 deaths recorded in all of 2020 —  127.
It was only as of May 12 Dr. Etienne said PAHO was worried, as the infections and deaths had soared in Americas and the Caribbean.
She had also singled out Trinidad and Tobago, saying, “Cuba continues to drive most of the infections in the Caribbean, although smaller countries like T&T are experiencing significant jumps.”
— Compiled by Azad Ali

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