Caribbean RoundUp

University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor, Hilary Beckles.
Photo by George Alleyne

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda health authorities have confirmed that several toddlers have been placed in quarantine after a four-year-old was tested positive for the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Rhonda Sealey-Thomas said one of the individuals who tested positive, a four-year-old, had been in contact with that school and the Ministry of Education.

She said the children in that school have been quarantined.

Antigua and Barbuda has recorded 124 cases of the virus, with 18 cases being active as of last week (Oct. 26). There has been three deaths so far.

The CMO said she is satisfied the relevant measures have been taken at the school to minimize the spread of the virus among the children.

The testing of pupils and their parents have begun.

Barbados

The first in a series of marches to protest against plans to legalize same-sex unions in Barbados was held a week ago.

More than 200 church members marched through the parish of St. James to send a message to the government that the church is not in agreement with making same-sex unions legal.

According to Dr. Veronica Evelyn, executive director of the Family-Faith-Freedom, the registered charity which organized the march, the gathering consisted of worshipers and leaders from different denominations.

And chairperson pastor Paul Leacock said the series of marches would demonstrate the church’s disagreement and request for government to consider and rescind its decisions to institutionalize same-sex unions in the country.

Last month in delivering the Throne Speech, Governor General Dame Sandra Mason said a public referendum on allowing same-sex marriage will be held.

She said the government would accept the result of the public vote.

A week ago Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions saying that homosexual people have the right to be in a family, noting they are children of God.

Caribbean

The University of the West Indies (UWI) is calling for a US$600 million multi-donor trust fund to prevent systemic decline in the region’s higher education and research centers.

The call was made by Vice-Chancellor of UWI, Sir Hilary Beckles during a landmark meeting on Oct. 14.

According to a press release, the first-ever virtual Development Partner Forum focused on “Investing in higher education to build more diversified and resilient post-covid economies” and was jointly organized with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC).

As part of the emergency investment in the Caribbean region is a proposal by Sir Hilary to establish a US$600 million trust fund, which will make it possible to undertake urgent regional projects that would provide widespread access to higher education and advance path-breaking research, the press release said.

He emphasized that the Caribbean region has been woefully underfunded for education and developmental projects since independence, in spite of centuries of wealth extraction by developed countries. As a result, he said, the contemporary higher education sector is unfit for purpose with systemic challenges that need to be addressed at all education levels.

Sir Hilary called on the private sector to invest in research, development and innovation projects that could help boost economic diversification and international competitiveness.

Guyana

Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) has resumed flights between Guyana and New York from last week.

In a statement, CAL said it will roll out the flight schedule later this week. CAL Chief Executive Officer, Garvin Medera said: “The year 2020 has been an unprecedented year for aviation. Our customers in Guyana and North Americas can count on Caribbean Airlines to reconnect them with their family and friends. We attach tremendous importance to our valued Guyanese customers and their loyalty to the airline.”

St. Lucia

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has told St. Lucians that is “no secret” that the island has exhausted all of the efforts aimed at providing financial assistance to citizens in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He has appealed to nationals during a television broadcast recently to follow the various protocols and measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus that so far has infected 54 people.

In the broadcast, in which Chastanent was flanked by Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sharon Belmar George and Police Commissioner, Severin Moncherry, the prime minister acknowledged that it had become difficult to raise funds both locally and overseas to finance the program.

“It is no secret the government has exhausted all of the efforts, all of the resources with the NIC (National Insurance Corporation) and donor agencies to provide a social stabilization program for the public and for those persons who have lost their jobs,” he said.

Chastanet warned that if “St. Lucians lost its status as a low-risk destination and the confidence the rest of the world has with us, it is going to significantly impact the arrivals that we are having into our country.”

He said St. Lucians have to act as if everyone has the virus, noting also that the public transport drivers were also guilty of not following the protocols and allowing more passengers than required into the bus.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the government is looking at removing the exemption requirement to allow Trinidad and Tobago nationals to return home freely.

Hundreds of Trinidad and Tobago citizens have been stranded in other countries, including the USA with no word when they will be able to come home.

Under the current system, nationals abroad have to apply to the Ministry of National Security for an exemption since the country’s borders have been closed since March.

But Rowley said a new system whereby returning nationals can be tagged and monitored many soon be introduced.

He noted many returning citizens are coming from countries that have a high level of COVID-19 infection and some 10 percent of T&T’s positive COVID-19 cases are people who return from abroad.

Dr. Rowley said the government is looking at a system of “targeting” and monitoring returning nationals and a committee has been established in this regard.

He said the committee comprises the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Health and the attorney general to work on trying to remove the exemption system and to allow persons to come home as flights are available.

The prime minister said that was a “cautious reopening” of the borders.

Rowley added that discussions have also been held with regional governments to allow for more movement between the islands.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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