Caribbean RoundUp

Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, at the United Nations headquarters. Recently the prime minister instituted a tighter curfew to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Associated Press/Frank Franklin II, file

Barbados

Barbados public health nurses have declared their readiness to undertake the largest mass vaccination program in the island’s history, to fight the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

Last week Barbados was expected to receive 100,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Public health nurse and senior health sister at Winston Scott Polyclinic, Rosette Cooke, told a news conference last week that preparations ahead of the roll-out of the vaccination recommended recently to examine all eventualities, including allergic reactions in some patients after receiving the vaccine.

Cooke, who is in charge of the vaccination program, said after the vaccine is administered individuals will be monitored for 15 minutes before being discharged.

Co-coordinator of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand said the vaccine would be given to 50,000 people, as it is administered in two doses.

She also stressed the importance of people over the age of 65 years taking the vaccine. She said they needed to be targeted as it had shown the majority of people who got the virus, with it progressing to be serious, were the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

 

Caribbean

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is calling for a global summit in the context of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ACT-Facilitation Council to discuss equitable access and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A release from the organization said, “As the world grapples with the challenge of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is deeply concerned at the current prospect of inequitable access to vaccines to address the pandemic, especially for front line workers, and vulnerable populations.

“The reality is that small states will find it difficult to compete in the market place to ensure equitable access for vaccines. Given the transmissibility of the virus, all countries are vulnerable and should world together,” it said.

The release said the inextricable link economically, socially, and by virtue of travel with our neighbors and the wider international community, it makes it imperative for CARICOM Member States to be afforded access to vaccines as a matter of urgent priority.

 

Guyana

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control Amendment) Bill 2021, which removed the penalty of jail for anyone convicted of having 15 grams or less of cannabis, was recently tabled in Parliament.

Under the legislation, the offence would be punishable by mandatory counseling “for a period to be determined by the counselor.”

Currently, possession of 15 grams or less attract a trafficking charge with a prison sentence between three to five years and a fine of no less than Guy$300,000 (US$144).

The Bill makes having up to 15 grams of cannabis an offence of simple possession. An amount over 15 grams, but no more than 30 grams, will attract community service,

This includes employment in a public work under the Extra-Mural Work Act for a maximum of six months.

The Bill also increases the quantity of cannabis that would automatically attract a trafficking charge from 15 grams to more than 30 grams.

It also removes the fine and prison for smoking, inhaling, sniffing, or otherwise using cannabis or being found in a place used for that purpose or being the owner, occupier, or concerned management of any place used for preparation of cannabis for that purpose.

The Bill also caters for those instances where an offender may refuse to consent or breach an order of mandatory counseling or community service.

The amended Act would grant the court discretion to order the offender to pay a fine of Guy$250,000 (US$1,200) where it sees fit.

 

Grenada

The new US Joe Biden administration recently congratulated Grenada on its 47th anniversary of political independence from Great Britain, saying it “appreciates” the Caribbean island’s “ regional leadership and partnership as we work together greater security, prosperity and democracy.”

US Secretary of State, Anthony J Bilken said in a statement, this past year the US government contributed more than US$6 million to construct emergency operations centers in Grenada and Carriacou “to boost their preparedness and disaster response capabilities.”

“We have stood together to fight COVID-19 as the United States donated masks, gloves, hazmat suits and other personnel protection equipment to help keep the Grenadian people safe,” he said.

“We also partnered with the Royal Grenada Police Force Coast Guard to upgrade its nearshore interceptor vessels as part of our work together to improve security for citizens of Grenada and the region,” Blinken said.

“The United States values the strong relationship between our two countries and wishes the citizens of Grenada a happy Independence Day,” he added.

 

Jamaica

A tighter curfew took into effect in Jamaica last week and will remain in place until Feb. 24, as one of the measures announced by Prime Minister, Andrew Holness to contain the spread of the COVID-19.

Jamaica recorded 403 new COVID-19 cases a week ago pushing the total number of confirmed cases across the island to 17,701.

The country death toll also climbed to 360 after an 84-year-old man from Kingston and St. Andrew succumbed to the virus.

Holness told the House of Representatives that the island-wide curfew will commence at 8 pm. Instead of 10 pm and end at 5 am.

He said the country is seeing increased hospitalizations and an island-wide hospital census has pointed to significant occupancy levels across Jamaica’s health regions.

The prime minister also addressed questions about whether the spread of COVID-19 in Jamaica was related to new variants of the virus.

He said the Ministry of Health and Wellness has advised that as part of their surveillance activities on new variants, they have sent off for genome sequencing, 14 positive samples from travelers from the United Kingdom and would also send another 101 samples randomly selected by parish, adding that the results from genome sequencing “will give us better insights into how prevalent the new variants, if they exist, may be in Jamaica.”

 

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago is making significant strides in combating corruption despite the country’s low ranking on the 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), according to Attorney General Faris-al-Rawi.

T&T placed 86th out of 180 countries with a low-average score of 40 out of 100 and was deemed to the third most corrupt country in the Caribbean region.

Al-Rawi said on the level of corruption in the society, the CPI is based on opinions and perceptions and not an actual assessment of the country’s performance.

He noted that one of the assessment factors that shows that T&T has gone in the right direction is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has assessed T&T by an onsite assessment.

Al Rawi said the FATF exercise is built around certain resolutions of the United Nations, including the fight against corruption, money laundering and terrorism.’

“As a result of that assessment, Trinidad and Tobago was removed from the FATF negative listing,” he noted.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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