Caribbean RoundUp

Prime Minister of Bahamas Hubert Minnis addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., Sept. 27, 2019.
REUTERS / Lucas Jackson, File

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda will welcome its first international flight on June 4 since the island shut its borders as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Minister for Tourism, Charles Fernandez speaking during a virtual meeting on “Reopening Antigua and Barbuda for Tourism” recently said an American Airlines flight from Miami is due to land on June 4, bringing the first set of passengers in 10 weeks.

He said it will mark the start of a slow, phased recovery for the sector and is set to be followed by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL) in mid-June and British Airways in July.

Fernandez said the island would be seeking to ensure international confidence in the country’s ability to keep people safe, and that starving off a second wave of infections will prove critical.

He noted that tourism officials had been hard at work for weeks so they can” hit the ground running.”

The authorities have not yet announced the date for the reopening of VC Bird International Airport, but visitors may have to undergo a Covid-19 test at least 48 hours before boarding the flight, among other proposed measures.

Barbados

The Barbados Ambassador to the United Nations, Liz Thompson, has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to an official statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

It said the diplomat had returned to Barbados recently from New York, which is the epic center of the Covid outbreak in the United States.

“Ms. Thompson arrived on a private jet and was tested at Paragon immediately after her arrival. We received information that her test was positive. There was one other passenger on the plane on which the ambassador traveled. That passenger was also tested, that test is negative,” the statement said.

It said Thompson had come to Barbados to be at the bedside of her 95-year-old mother, who became gravely ill with a heart condition, a non-covid-related condition.

“The Ministry of Health will continue to deal with the situation, as it has all other cases in Barbados, Ambassador Thompson and her family are cooperating fully with the ministry,” it said.

Bahamas

The Bahamas government said it was looking at the possibility of allowing commercial travel on or before July 1, but said the date was not final and that would depend on the current state of COVID-19 in the country.

The Bahamas has recorded 96 positive cases, with 11 deaths.

In a radio broadcast recently, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said that as the country continues to make progress in its efforts to curb the spread of the virus, it would act on the advice of health officials “on the phased and gradual reopening of various islands and certain areas of our economy for daily life that will be with us for some time.”

“We must abide by regional and global health protocols as we reopen our economy and society if advised by heath officials, we will return to certain phases to re-impose certain restrictions in order to limit community spread. We have to balance the health, economic and social needs of citizens and residents,” the prime minister said.

Guyana

The United States based organization the Carter Center has expressed its deep disappointment over Guyana Government’s decision not to approve its recent requests to allow two observers to return to the country to observe the ongoing vote count.

In a statement, the Carter Center said the Elections Commission has consistently confirmed that the accreditation for the Carter Center and other international observers remains valid as the electoral process is still ongoing.

The Carter Center said it acknowledges the important role being played during the recount by the three-person CARICOM team, as well as that of Guyanese national observers, political party scrutineers, the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth’s technical advisor.

The Center said it fully respects Guyana’s national sovereignty and its efforts to strictly implement its COVID-19 emergency measures as a matter of utmost urgency.

It noted that in its formal requests, it has indicated that it would abide by all of the government’s COVID-19 protocols including those that were applied to the CARICOM team.

Jamaica

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a US$520 million disbursement to Jamaica under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to aid with COVID-19 relief.

This is 100 percent of the allotted amount that Jamaica can access.

In a statement the IMF, said these funds will help meet “the urgent balance of payment needs stemming from the covid19 pandemic, while catalyzing additional support from development partners.”

The COVID-19 shock Jamaica only a few months after the successful completion of it precautionary stand-by arrangement with the IMF, which was underpinned by strong ownership and civil oversight, the fund noted.

“Jamaica’s established track record of economic reforms has created buffers that are invaluable today in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, despite the authorities’ proactive mitigation strategies the pandemic is significantly impacting Jamaica’s economy,” the statement said.

Jamaica is the hardest hit English-speaking Caribbean country with 530 confirmed cases as of May 17.

The Jamaica government has declared the entire island as a disaster area and has established a special task force to coordinate the country’s COVID-19 response.

St. Vincent

Police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have launched an investigation into an explosion at a gas station in Union Island, which claimed the lives of three people recently.

Fire officers say it took them five hours to extinguish the fire and that steam continued to be emitted from the ground up to 10 hours after the blaze had destroyed the gas station and several other buildings.

Those who died were Freddy Naert, 72, owner of Freddy’s Gas Station, and 14-year-old Lindani Neverson, who died at the Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown.

Graniqua “Zara” Alexander, 17, a secondary school student who was seriously injured in the fire was flown to Trinidad for medical treatment, but she later died from severe burns about the body.

The St. Vincent government has accepted an offer by Grenada to help with the supply of fuel to Union Island after the fire destroyed the sole petrol station.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government has defended its decision to seek a four-month extension of the state of emergency (SoE), saying it allows for the authorities to move swiftly between phases, especially as the coronavirus evolves.

He said that having examined the actions of countries in the Caribbean and internationally, it is clear that an SoE is the best mechanism in securing timely and seamless execution of protocols and guidelines.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said an SoE “is no small matter” and comes as a result of a declaration by the government in response to an extraordinary situation posing a fundamental threat to the country.

He likened the virus to a hurricane “like no other that we have faced in this region.”

“It has the potential to wipe our entire nations and cripple economies if not managed properly. A state of emergency for the next four months will allow us to continue to implement and adequately monitor the effectiveness of the measures we have put in place and to make quick adjustments as required,” he said.

Chastanet said the government has confidence in the five-phase approach to reopening the society.

Trinidad

Global rating agency, Moody’s has changed the outlook on the government of Trinidad and Tobago to negative from stable. At the same time, the government’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings have been affirmed at Ba1.

The negative outlook reflects increased downside risks to Trinidad and Tobago’s economic and fiscal strength from medium-term challenges that have now been exacerbated by the severe shock to global oil and gas demand and prices, triggered by the coronavirus.

The negative outlook is also informed by the uncertainty regarding the degree to which the Government will be able to offset revenue losses over time and sustain robust economic growth and budgetary outcomes conducive to a stabilization or gradual reduction in its debt burden.

In Moody’s view fiscal and debt dynamics are highly sensitive to a recovery in the energy sector and risks to government debt ratios remaining at higher levels have materially risen.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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