The court-appointed administrator for cash-strapped regional airline LIAT, Cleveland Seaford, has said talks were still ongoing with Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, after two former shareholder governments banned the airline from landing at the airports, in the two countries over valid flight approvals.
“The latest is that we continue to have discussions with Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said, adding in addition to the situation, an issue has arisen with Kingstown surrounding the ground handling operations for the airline.
Last week, LIAT said it was forced to suspend services to the two Caribbean destinations while it awaited the approval from the relevant authorities there.
LIAT said prior to its suspension of services in March, it had been operating to Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines “on valid flight approvals, which have not expired.”
Seaforth said in the case of Barbados “it came as a surprise to us” by the decision to have a valid permit to fly into Barbados until July 2024.
He said Barbados authorities had informed them that “we would have to make other arrangements before we could fly into Barbados.”
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, has criticized the decision of the former two shareholder governments of the airline to operate schedule flights into their countries.
The Barbados government has postponed the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 15 to October next year.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley said due to the second wave of the COVID-19 virus sweeping across North American and Europe, the event will be put off for a second time.
UNCTAD 15 was originally scheduled for Barbados in April, but when COVID-29 hit the island in March, it was rescheduled for Oct. 18-21.
But, she said, those dates will not be sustainable.
The conference, expected to attract delegates from more than 40 countries, has now been tentatively put for Oct. 3-8, 2021, with pre-events set for Oct. 1.
Mottley, speaking via Zoom along with UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi, said it would have been impossible to stage the event this year as an in-person conference, due to logistical issues, which have risen from trying to get a high volume of participants into Barbados and properly into a conference location while still adhering to the country’s public health protocols.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has indicated that the next two years for the Caribbean would be economically difficult.
Speaking at a virtual event held by the Central Bank in Barbados, director for the Western Hemisphere at the IMF Alejandro Werner said the Caribbean is one of the hardest of the hardest-hit regions by the deepest crisis in a century, and it is going to be a significant challenging economic environment for the economies in the Caribbean in 2021 and 2022.
CARICOM chairman and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who also spoke at the event said the entire Caribbean has suffered a significant shock due to COVID-19, with tourism-dependent economies feeling a bit more of the brunt.
He said although the Caribbean is projected to record increased growth in 2021, it would not be enough to recover from COVID-19’s devastating impact in 2020.
Dr. Gonsalves said that the Caribbean needs to think about special circumstances to make the 2021 economic recovery more significant, alongside trying to assist families and firms.
He said the region would only offset losses when the COVID-19 vaccine has an impact and when travel and tourism begins to recover.
The Premier of the British overseas territory, Alden Mc Laughlin, said a mass vaccination campaign to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be begin across the island in January 2021.
In making the announcement in Parliament, McLaughlin said that he will be among the first to take the vaccine.
He said that based on how well the vaccination campaign goes, his administration could open local borders by March.
In unveiling the plan, the premier said that the plan which has been approved by Cabinet will initially focus on persons over 60 years old and those who have certain defined conditions and diseases that make them more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.
He added that the vaccine will greatly reduce the chances of getting COVID-19 and “the potential severity of the illness if we should contract it, but nothing is guaranteed.”
The premier said the vaccines will be provided by the United Kingdom and will be free.
He stressed that the inoculation will be voluntary but he encouraged the public to do due diligence, and to keep their minds open to the benefits that participation will offer.
More than 6,000 counterfeit masks which were destined for Jamaica, from Hong Kong, were intercepted by United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati, US.
It was reported by CBP that on Dec. 6, an incoming shipment of 38 boxes containing 6,080 masks labeled as 3M Disposable Respirators Model 8210 was inspected by officers.
The discrepancies were discovered as the shipment did not match the requirements for the ”3M Safe Guard product authenticated process,” CBP stated.
Additionally, CBP said the boxes were reportedly labeled as “Made in the US” even though they were imported through a freight forwarder in Hong Kong.
Following the inspections, it was determined by officers that the masks were counterfeit.
Cincinnati Port Director, Richard Gillespie said counterfeit masks like these are not tested using the same quality control standards as the genuine product and it is unlikely they will perform in the same manner as the genuine product was designed to do.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded its 100th COVID-19 case with the addition of two new cases, one from the US and the other from the UK last week.
Earlier this month, local health officials had warned the risk of travelers testing positive for COVID-19 is expected to continue to increase, along with the number of persons arriving from high-risk countries such as the US and the UK for Christmas and the traditional winter tourist season.
Four of the persons who have tested positive for the virus contracted it locally.
The island reached the 100-case mark when a non-national arrived with a negative PCR test result from the US on Dec. 7 and tested negative on both entry screenings and day-five testing, but tested positive on day eight of quarantine.
The other traveler arrived from the UK on Dec. 12 with a negative PCR result and tested positive for COVID-19 on entry screening.
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) said in a press statement the adult travelers were in mandatory quarantine and will be isolated until cleared by two negative tests.
The statement said contact tracing and testing have commenced.
Of the 100 cases of COVID-19 cases confirmed, 82 have recovered, meaning that there are now 18 active cases, all imported from countries categorized as high risk.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley will soon be assuming the chairmanship of CARICOM, according to Attorney General Faris-al-Rawi.
He said Dr. Rowley is expected to assume chairmanship of CARICOM at the next intersessional meeting on February 23-24, 2021.
In November, CARICOM had announced that Trinidad and Tobag would host the intersessional meeting.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, the last CARICOM summit in July was held virtually. It is expected any other upcoming events will also be held virtually.
The current CARICOM chairman is St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Next year, 2021, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the signing and coming into effect of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which, among other things, established the legal and institutional framework for the roll-out of CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
— Compiled by Azad Ali