Caribbean RoundUp

Worshipers attend Mass at the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince, marking the reopening of places of worship since the beginning in March of the COVID-19 lockdown, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, July 12, 2020. By order of President Jovenel Moise and the recommendation of Haiti's health authorities, churches reopened after having been closed for months due to social distancing rules to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Associated Press / Dieu Nalio Chery, File

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne is moving to form a new entity to replace the beleaguered, regional airline, LIAT.

He recently announced plans to liquidate the regional carrier saying a meeting with shareholders will be held shortly.

Browne said COVID-19 would have actually increased the losses exponentially, whereas in all of 2019 LIAT made a loss of about EC$12 million that was within the means of the shareholder governments to subsidize.

He noted that since COVID-19 the planes have been grounded, and they have to pay the lease payments and they are not getting any revenue.

Browne told a local radio station in St. John, Antigua that the region cannot move forward without a form of connectivity and “you cannot have an integration movement of people cannot connect.”

He said LIAT only owns three planes and those planes are charged to the Caribbean Development Bank.

According to the prime minister, the new carrier will be much leaner that the current LIAT, which employs hundreds throughout the region and there will be significant job losses.

He also said the new entity will retain the name LIAT.

Leeward Island Air Transport was established in 1956 in Montserrat.

In 1971 Court Line Aviation of the UK acquired control and renamed the airline LIAT and in 1974, ownership of the airline was acquired by 11 Caribbean governments and it was then renamed LIAT 1974 Limited.

Guyana

The Organization of American States (OAS) says Guyana must respect the recount of the national elections which is the “only democratic solution.”

The Washington-based body noted that “the chief elections officer of Guyana, in direct opposition to the instructions of the chair of the Guyana Elections Commission has submitted a final report which includes data compiled prior to the national recount, data which had already been deemed to be questionable.

It said there can be no justification for this action.

“As intimated in our statement of July 10, this confirms that the chief elections officer is acting in bad faith and contrary to the interest of democracy in Guyana,” the OAS said.

“It is past time that the current leaders of Guyana comply with their democratic responsibilities and allow the newly electoral government to take pace,” the organization said.

The OAS said in a statement that the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice on July 8, 2020 confirmed that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has the final authority to declare these elections and that the chief elections officer is required is required to comply with the Government’s directives in this regard.

But Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams said the GECOM chairman cannot direct Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield what to include in his report to the commission regarding the disputed March 2 regional and general election.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government has spent J$3.8 billion on measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton told the House of Representatives during the 2020/20121 sectoral debate that a total of just under J$6 billion has to date being budgeted for the Ministry of Health and Wellness for its response efforts.

He said this included the provision of some J$777 million in financial support to the health authorities to help meet the needs associated with the response efforts.

Dr Tufton told legislators J$89 million has been spent on infrastructural upgrades, including equipping hospitals with an additional 63 intensive care and high-dependency units.

In addition, an estimated J$1.7 billion has been spent on the provision of medical equipment such as personal protective gear and COVID-19 test kits.

Jamaica has so far recorded 745 cases of the virus and ten deaths since the pandemic was first detected.

Haiti

COVID-19 positive cases continue to rise in the impoverished Caribbean country, Haiti.

The Ministry of Public Health said up to a week ago, Haiti had reached more than 7,000 cases with 146 deaths so far.

The ministry said the deaths occurred in the south-east of the country, bringing the total there to 120 since the first cases of the virus was detected on March 19.

It said the number of imported cases is 106, noting that the number of community cases stood at 389 while the number of active cases is 4,335.

The Public Health Ministry said the number of suspected cases investigated since March 19 is just over 14,000 cases.

St. Lucia

A COVID-19 pre-screening tent is being set up at the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort as St. Lucia prepares to activate its new and updated travel protocols.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet made the disclosure via his official Facebook page recently.

He said the objective for adding this facility is to assist airport security and health officials with improving the management and enforcement of the new protocols for visitors coming into the country.

The government said in a July 2 release that travelers will be required to obtain a negative polymerized chain reaction test within seven days of travel unless they are arriving from countries in the “Travel Bubble” designated by the government of St. Lucia.

Visitors traveling only from destinations that have zero or a low instance of COVID-19 cases will be exempt from the seven-day pre-testing requirement.

Visitors from several Caribbean countries with a travel history from these areas in the last 14 days will also be exempt from quarantine.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia recently received the first international flight since the border re-opened on June 4, 2020. A total of 131 passengers comprising nationals and visitors traveled into St. Lucia.

As guided by the established protocols all arriving passengers were screened by the health team at the Hewannora International Airport Public Health Facility before entering the airport terminal.

None of the passengers displayed respiratory symptoms or had a fever, according to the Ministry of Health.

Many processes were put in place to ensure the efficient processing of the arriving travelers at the airport health facility.

The processing of the 131 passengers on July 9 lasted for an hour and a half in total.

The Ministry of Health said as of July 10, 2020, St Lucia has recorded a total of 22 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 19 of these cases have fully recovered with three currently in care and progressing well.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said the Trinidad and Tobago government will not step in to save the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, by reversing the country’s past surrender of most of its shareholding.

The COVID-19 pandemic financially hurt LIAT which now reportedly now has a debt of EC$35 million, far beyond the usual support given by shareholders, the governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica. LIAT is based in Antigua and Barbuda.

CARICOM chairman, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves recently said that LIAT’s Board under Owen Arthur, former Barbados prime minister, had said the airline cannot pay the debts and should be wound up.

Dr. Rowley said T&T was once a major shareholder in LIAT but overtime the government of T&T took a decision to get out of LIAT’s operations.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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