Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne has written to US President, requesting that CARICOM countries be included in the provision of AstraZeneca vaccines to Canada and Mexico.
Pointing out that the Caribbean is the third border of the United States, Browne argued that as the safety of the US would be imperiled if Mexico and Canada are not inoculated to achieve herd community, similarly the US would remain at high risk if CARICOM countries are neglected.
Browne explained to Biden that the Caribbean region “is among the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by the COVID pandemic.”
Consequently, he said, “our economies have experienced shrinkage of up to over 50 percent in some cases; poverty has expanded everywhere; our revenues have declined precipitously, forcing us to increase debt which we have had to incur at higher rates of interest.”
Describing the economic impact of the pandemic as overwhelming, Browne said: “Many Caribbean countries are in danger of collapsing from a massive economic sclerosis.”
Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) has provided funding to provide much-needed financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across 15 countries from the region.
Support was provided to SMEs engaged in vital sectors such as agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing and creative industries and the program is in collaboration with the European Union.
More specifically, it has awarded some US$1.1 million in grant funding to SMEs in the Caribbean via its Direct Support Grant Program ( DSGP) to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative is driven by the results of a survey conducted in partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to assess the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on firms’ operations ascertain the level and areas of support required to assist SMEs during the crisis and better position businesses to cope with the economic fallout.
Initially, a total of US$607,000 was made available to the DSGP through the European Union as part of the 11th European Union Development Fund.
India High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Arun Kumar Sahu said India has donated a total of 495,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to 10 Caribbean countries through its Vaccine Maitri program.
His comments came after T&T Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley’s denial of knowledge of any such gift from India to the region.
However, delivering a speech during “Memories of India” event hosted last week at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation, in Mt. Hope, Trinidad, Sahu said India had in fact gifted 495,000 vaccines to the region, in keeping with the age-old tradition of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The whole world is one family).
He noted that many countries, including T&T, also benefitted from gifts of medication last year.
Sahu said of great satisfaction that only vaccines that have come to the region, however, small, are from India.
From the gift, Barbados received 100,000 doses of vaccines, Dominica, 70,000 doses, St. Lucia, 25,000 doses, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 40,000, Antigua and Barbuda, 50,000 doses, Suriname, 50,000 doses and Jamaica, 50,000 doses.
Barbados donated 2,000 of its vaccines to T&T.
Parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud, whose vote toppled the then-ruling A Partnership for Alliance for Change (APNU+ AFC) administration in Guyana in 2018, has been accredited as the country’s new High Commissioner to India.
A government statement said Persaud, who had supported the then-opposition People’s Progressive Party (Civic) motion of no confidence in the David Granger government, presented his credentials to India’s President, Ram Nath Kovind.
The statement said the ceremony was held at India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Persaud, a then-government backbencher, voted with the opposition PPP legislators to win the no-confidence motion in the 65-seat National Assembly after several hours of debate.
The APNU had won the 2015 general election by a one-seat majority and despite repeated urges by fellow parliamentarians to change his vote, Persaud declined.
He fled the country for Canada soon after and returned last October, a few months after the PPP/C was declared the winner in a controversial election, the results of which are being challenged by the APNU-AFC in the courts.
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett has announced that due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers of carnival in Jamaica will forgo the annual road march and related activities for April 2021, until further notice.
He said after several consultations with the relevant stakeholders, “we can now announce that Jamaica will not be hosting carnival in April this year. We strongly believe it is in the best interest of our people and will aid in the government’s fight to preserve lives and livelihoods, as we continue to see a rise in cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Minister Bartlett said the governement was mindful of the significant economic loss the carnival cancellation will have on the country, as the event generates billions annually, with many small and medium-sized enterprises benefitting from the celebrations.
The road parade was initially postponed in 2020, due to the threat of the spread of the novel coronavirus with Sunday, April 11, 2021 announced as the new date.
The tourism minister said the decision to forego hosting the event in April this year was made after consultations with event organizers and government officials and is keeping with current Covid-19 containment measures.
Organizers have indicated that all bands and fetes will honor all tickets and costumes purchased in 2020 for the next staging.
Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet said government is working to procure enough vaccines to have every St. Lucian vaccinated and that the arrival of 25,000 doses of COVISHEILD AstraZeneca vaccine which recently arrived has significantly boosted the country’s ability to manage and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
Noting that access to vaccines is a tedious process, from approval by global health organizations to fighting through the crowded field of purchasing countries, PM Chastanet assured all avenues to have St. Lucians protected.
He said talks are continuing with the Government of India for the purchase of additional vaccines outside of the COVAX Facility.
The prime minister said that the AstraZeneca will not only help in reducing transmission of the virus, but it will also reduce severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death and also help in reducing pressures of treatment of care on the health care system and limit the impact of COVID-19.
He is encouraging all citizens to get vaccinated.
The St. Kitts and Nevis government has asked the United States for a donation of COVID-19 vaccines for the twin-island federation and the wider Caribbean region.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mark Brantley, who is also Nevis’ premier, said he had made the request through correspondence sent to the US Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados, Linda Taglialately, in which he implored the Joe Biden administration to make vaccines available to the small island developing states with some urgency.
“We in the Caribbean continue to make the passionate plea that vaccines be made available to us with some alacrity,” he said.
A statement issued last week by the Nevis Island Administration said the premier made the disclosure during his presentation at a virtual forum hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS) on legal challenges faced by the Caribbean in the context of the pandemic.
At the OAS forum, Brantley pointed out that St. Kitts and Nevis and the rest of the region have been experiencing some challenge accessing COVID-19 vaccines.
He urged the OAS General Secretary for assistance in this regard.
OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, who was also a participant in the forum, concurred with Brantley’s position on equitable access to the vaccine for the region.
Trinidad and Tobago’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout program will begin on April 6.
This is providing that the delivery of 33,600 vaccines from the COVAX facility arrive on schedule.
Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh said that the COVAX shipment is due to arrive on Tuesday at 6.10 pm.
The vaccines are currently en-route to Trinidad and Tobago from the AstraZeneca manufacturer in South Korea.
He said once the vaccines arrive they will be stored in two facilities.
The minister said 3,000 doses will be shipped to Tobago and the remainder distributed to 21 sites across Trinidad for distribution to the public.
Only 16,000 vaccines will be administered, as the vaccine must be given in two doses.
The other half will be reserved for recipients to receive their second their second shot within four to six weeks.
One thousand healthcare workers have already been vaccinated from the batch of 2,000 vaccines from Barbados last month.
T&T is also waiting the supply of 40,000 AstraZeneca vaccine.
— Compiled by Azad Ali