Caribbean RoundUp

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, center, director, Pan America Health Organization (PAHO) at the World Health Organization (WHO) speaks during news conference at Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) headquarters in Washington. She is accompanied by Dr. Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda, Cuba's minister of health, left, and Dr. Luiz Loures, deputy executive director, UNAIDS.
Associated Press / Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

Barbados

The Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) is appealing to lawmakers and regulators across the region to suspend the collection of regulatory fees and licenses for the next year as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 has had on “indigenous media in the region.”

The CBU, which recently held its 51st annual general meeting virtually, said the pandemic, which was first detected in China last December, had had “significant challenges” to the continued viable operations of its members across the Caribbean.

The CBU noted COVID-19 has “negatively affected” media houses in the region “by a significant reduction in business, which has affected their viability.”

As a result, the media organization members are appealing “to media policymakers and regulators across the region to suspend the charging and collection of license and regulatory fees for the next 12 months, in recognition of the significant additional pubic service being provided at no charge to the government and public health agencies.”

Caribbean

Several Caribbean countries have expressed an interest in joining the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.

This was revealed by Senior Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) , Dominican-born Dr. Carissa Etienne, who said that the move was expected to go a long way in ensuring equitable and affordable access by these states to coronavirus vaccines through a collaboration with PAHO’s Revolving Fund, when these become available.

The COVAX Facility is designed to accelerate equitable access by countries globally to appropriate, safe and efficacious vaccines.

Dr. Etienne said the immediate objective of arrangements with the COVAX Facility “is to have agreements with vaccine producers to secure around two billion doses until the end of 2021.”

She said this would allow each country to access a volume of vaccines to inoculate at least 20 percent of their population.

The PAHO official said all vaccines available through the Facility/Revolving Fund will be pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure they are safe and effective.

“They would use those vaccines to vaccinate health and social workers, adults over 65 years of age, and other adults with chronic conditions, who are the most vulnerable groups to develop the severe form of COVID-19,” she said.

Dominica

The Dominica government has launched a project aimed at preparing the population to capitalize on the opportunities in the digital economy.

The authority said that the Work Online Dominica Pilot Project, which was established with the support of IsraAid and the United Nations, Development Program (UNDP), will target persons between the ages of 18 and 40 in the first instance.

The Minister responsible for the Digital Economy, Cassimi Laville, said he is encouraged with the level of interest shown in the project by Dominicans.

He said for the past few months “we have been working quite aggressively to pursue and lay out the foundation to transform the digital economy here is Dominica. Eight months ago the digital economy was virtually an unknown term for all of us but today we are happy to be part of this buzz.”

“Basically we are going to help you to become entrepreneurs in this digital space,” he said.

Head of the Office of the UNDP, Luis Thai, says while the initiative will not guarantee persons would land a job immediately it does provide participants with the necessary tools to grow,” he said, noting that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is resulting in “new forms of employment.”

Guyana

Guyana’s chief magistrate has dismissed 19 fraud-related charges against new President Irfaan Ali over the sale of state lands in the Pradoville 2 Housing Scheme.

The charges against Ali alleged to have occurred between September 2010 and March 2015, when he was housing minister in a previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP?C) government and involved houses allocated to six former Cabinet members, including now Vice-President Bharath Jagdeo, former Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon and four former government ministers.

Ali, 40, was slapped with several charges related to conspiracy to defraud the Guyana government of more than Guy$170 million in the sale of several parcels of land.

The cases came up several times before the country’s general election on March 2 but were adjourned on various occasions.

When the matter was called recently, prosecutor Patrice Henry advised the court that the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) had taken a decision that it was not in the public interest to prosecute a sitting president and to do so would violate Article 182 (2) of the constitution.

The chief magistrate ultimately ruled in Ali’s favor, discontinuing all the charges against him.

Jamaica

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and opposition leader Dr. Peter Phillips have pledged to cooperate in the fight against crime in Jamaica and have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with members of the Committee on National Consensus on Crime.

The MoU outlined the steps that must be taken for a sustainable reduction in crime, inclusive of milestones and agreement on a monitoring and reporting mechanism.

Last year, the government, opposition, civil society and the private sector agreed to support a process of developing a national consensus on crime so as to transform the island into a safe, secure and investment friendly society.

Following the signing of the agreement, Holness said, “We agreed to a set of initiatives and actions that will be implemented as quickly and decisively as possible.”

He said the plan rests on three points — agreement on the necessary actions, widespread buy-in across multiple stakeholders with regard to the way forward, and a bi-partisan commitment to implement the plan.

Last year, 1,332 people were murdered and so far for this year, the figure has surpassed 500.

St. Kitts

The St. Kitts and Nevis government has imposed an EC$500 fine on persons who fail to wear a mask as efforts continue to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

It issued the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) No 13 Regulations, 2020, which shows a curfew remains in effect.

The government said the wearing of masks when in a public place has been expanded and that “notwithstanding the provisions of the Small Charges Act. Cap. 436 a person shall wear a mask covering their nose and mouth, once a period of emergency is declared in relation to COVID-19.”

However, the government warns that under the new regulations, a police officer may issue an EC$500 fixed-penalty notice “to any person who contravenes the provisions of Section 15 in relation of wearing face mask in a public place.”

The twin-island federation has recorded 18 positive cases of the virus and no deaths so far.

Trinidad

The European Union has announced the award of a grant of US$1.7 million co-financed by the Embassy of the Netherlands and the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society to provide support for the migrant population in the country.

The EU’s contribution is part of the EU’s Team Europe funding initiative, developed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences and is in keeping with the delegation’s human rights strategy, the EU said in a statement.

The grant, which will be implemented by the T&T Red Cross Society over 18 months, will be used to provide food, mental health and psychological support, as well as children healthcare screenings for 500 migrant families, it said.

The funds will also be used for communications — to provide critical health and security information to migrants, to boost the Red Cross’ overall humanitarian response mechanism, and as well to more effectively coordinate the organization’s activities with other stakeholders involved in assisting migrants, the statement said.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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