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COVID-19: Regional Roundup/1 April, 2020  

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A ROUNDUP OF REGIONAL CORONAVIRUS HEADLINES

 

ANTIGUA & BARBUDA

ANTIGUA & BARBUDA JOIN CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES IN LOCKDOWN(caribbean360.com). A one-week lockdown from 1 April has replaced the night-time curfew, which according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, “was not working”. Supermarkets would, however, remain open with a limited number of people allowed access at one time. He said that the country’s health care system could not cope with an influx of critically ill people. (antiguaobserver.com) In an attempt to stall criticism that the government has not been adequately prepared, Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph said that, ‘We are hoping that within two weeks all citizens of Antigua & Barbuda will have masks.’ The twin-island state has reported seven active cases of Covid-19.

 

ARUBA

ARUBA LAUNCHES COVID-19 COMMUNITY GUIDE AND REGISTRATION FOR VOLUUNTEERS (arubatoday.com). Centro pa Desaroyo di Aruba (CEDE Aruba) has launched a website (in Papiamento) for people to register for voluntary work during the coronavirus crisis. The community services website (org.aw) has links to an online form which aims to connect people to community needs and organisations. Aruba has reported 54 active cases of Covid-19.

 

BAHAMAS

REPEAT CURFEW VIOLATOR AMONG THOSE CHARGED TODAY(thenassauguardian.com). A man charged and fined for curfew violation last week was arrested and charged for the same offence the following day. He was ordered to pay a fine or face 12 months in prison. There are 19 reported active cases in the Bahamas.

 

BARBADOS

APRIL FOOL’S JOKES, PRANKS AROUND COVID-19 ARE MALICIOUS, PUNISHABLE (loopnewsbarbados.com). Barbadians woke on 1 April to a hoax in the form of a fake Gazette on the State of Emergency on island, which contained spoof stories about a new clampdown on activities. Barbados has recently been fighting to stem a flow of fake news. According to Press Secretary Roy Morris, ‘This kind of maliciousness really cannot continue … People are doing immense damage to others and they are setting up others to create mischief, to literally ferment unrest. I should make it known that if the person who is responsible for this can be traced, the full extent of the law will be brought to bear.’ Barbados has reported 34 active cases of Covid-19.

 

BONAIRE

STATEMENT BY ISLAND GOVERNOR RIJNA (bes-reporter.com). Governor Edison Rijna confirmed there are still no known cases of Covid-19 on the island of Aruba. Social distancing measures are in effect and the island is closed to international traffic. According to Rijna, ‘The last international passenger flight landed two weeks ago. The chance that the coronavirus is on the island is getting smaller. But that doesn’t mean it’s over. There will come a time when the first infection occurs.’

 

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

NEW 14-DAY CURFEW TO TAKE EFFECT ON THURSDAY(bvinews.com). Governor Augustus Jaspert announced that the British Overseas Territory will be placed under a new curfew from Thursday 2 April, to last 14 days. The night-time curfew would be “absolute” with a “limited” day-time curfew to allow essential activities. There has been an “overwhelming” response from farmers and fisherfolk, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, following the government’s US$2m injection of funds to help the agriculture and fishing sector. There are three active cases in the BVI.

 

CUBA

CUBA READY TO ASSIST GHANA FIGHT COVID-19 (graphic.com.gh). The Cuban government has agreed to assist Ghana with a medical brigade made up of specialist doctors, nurses and medicines to fight the coronavirus if Ghana makes a formal request. This offer follows an intervention by the African Union Commission through its deputy chairperson, Kwesi Quartey, on behalf of Ghana. Cuba has so far offered or provided support to countries such as Dominica, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis, Italy, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Grenada and Suriname. At home, Cuba has reported 194 active cases of its own.

 

CURACAO

“STAY AT HOME!” (curacaochronicle.com). Epidemiologist DIzzyGerstenbluth has emphasised the need for people to remain at home: “We detected that there are local infections, so everyone has to stay at home. It is precisely in these circumstances that things go fast. Prevention of local contamination is the most important issue at this stage, so stick to the rules. We know it’s not fun, but it is necessary for all of us,” he said. Curacao has reported seven active cases of Covid-19.

 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

HOTELIERS OFFER 1500+ ROOMS TO ATTEND VIRUS VICTIMS (dominicantoday.com). The Dominican Republic Hotel and Tourism Association has announced that its members have made available to the government more than 1,500 hotel rooms that the Public Health Ministry could use to treat patients and stop the spread of Covid-19. The Dominican Republic is struggling with accelerating numbers of active cases, which today stand at 1,218.

 

GRENADA

IMPORTED COVID-19 PATIENT SNEAKS OUT (nowgrenada.com). Health authorities have confirmed that one of Grenada’s nine Covid-19 patients has sneaked out of the country on an international flight. It is understood that the man and his family who are UK nationals, boarded an Air Canada flight before the start of the 24-hour mandatory curfew. Grenada has reported nine active cases of Covid-19.

 

HAITI

ORGANISATIONS EXPRESS THEIR CONCERNS (haitiantimes.com). The Organisation of Citizens for a New Haiti, the Combite for Peace and Development, and the Center for Peasant Animation and Community Action have expressed their concerns about the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Haiti. “Our already deleterious social system may not recover. Overcrowding in certain neighbourhoods is a major problem. Our living conditions leave something to be desired, and we fear an exponential growth in the number of contaminations,” they said in a joint statement. Haiti, a country of 11 million, has reported 15 active cases of the virus.

 

JAMAICA

HEFTY FINES, PRISON FOR FAILURE TO SELF-QUARANTINE OR SELF-IDENTIFY AFTER ARRIVAL IN JAMAICA(caribbean360.net) People who arrived in Jamaica between 18 and 30 March and failed to self-identify or quarantine face fines of up to US$7,402 or 12 months in prison, according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, on Monday 31 March. He noted that Jamaica’s curve has been relatively flat in terms of reported cases. Road deaths decreased by one third in March but officials have not confirmed a link with the onset of Covid-19 on the island. There are 39 reported active cases.

 

PUERTO RICO

POLICE STATIONS CLOSING AMID CORONAVIRUS CURFEW (thehill.com). Puerto Rico’s government has announced the closure of a fifth police station in a week amid growing concerns about officers’ exposure to the coronavirus. The closures come as police officers accuse the territory’s central government of not doing enough to protect them. It is reported that more than 150 members of the 11,000-strong police force are under quarantine. Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez has implemented one of the strictest curfews on American soil, imposing restrictions on daily schedules for a variety of businesses, automobile transit, and when and under what circumstances citizens can leave their homes. Puerto Rico has reported 275 active cases of Covid-19.

 

ST KITTS-NEVIS

ST KITTS-NEVIS LOCKDOWN(timescaribbeanoline.com) The government of St Kitts-Nevis has implemented a three-day lockdown from 31March to 3 April. There are eight reported active cases.

 

ST LUCIA

“ST LUCIA COULD HAVE UP TO 132 CONFIRMED CASES” (stlucianewsonline.com) “These are some of the projections which have resulted in our immediate 24-hour shutdown,” Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said on his Facebook page on 1 April. He also disclosed that around 100 more people have been placed in quarantine based on contact-tracing. A 24-hour curfew has come into effect and is scheduled to end on 7 April, at 5 a.m. St Lucia has reported 12 active cases of Covid-19.

 

ST VINCENT

BILLIONAIRE DAVID GEFFEN SELF-ISOLATING IN THE GRENADINES ON MEGA YACHT (theguardian.com) ‘As the claustrophobic reality of self-isolation under the coronavirus outbreak begins to bite for millions of families confined to their homes,’ reports the UK’s Guardian newspaper, ‘the billionaire record producer David Geffen (net worth US$7.7 billion) is currently self-isolating off the Grenadines aboard his mega-yacht, Rising Sun.’ St Vincent has reported no further cases of Covid-19.

 

TRINIDAD

TT REPORTS FIFTH COVID-19 DEATH(newsday.co.tt) An elderly man with pre-existing health issues has become the fifth person to die from the Covid-19 virus. The number of people allowed to gather has been reduced from 10 to five. Police have indicated that they will take action against businesses who do not encourage their customers to observe social distancing. Trinidad & Tobago has 84 active cases of Covid-19.

 

TURKS & CAICOS

TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS ON LOCKDOWN(suntci.com) Emergency powers were used on Wednesday, 1 April, to declare a 14-day lockdown with only essential services permitted to operate. This is the first time a state of emergency has been declared in a British Overseas Territory due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There are six reported active cases in this British Overseas Territory.

 

US VIRGIN ISLANDS

GOVERNOR BRYAN EXTENDS STATE OF EMERGENCY(doh.vi.gov/news). The State of Emergency has been extended to 30 April, with Governor Albert Bryan ordering the closure of all beach restaurants to restrict people gathering in groups. A programme to distribute breakfast and lunch to children, “No VI Child Goes Hungry”, has been implemented. There are a reported 30 active on this US Territory.

 





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Dominica

COVID-19: Pronouncement of construction an essential service.

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BCAD Executive met by teleconference on 3rd April 2020 to deliberate on the Government’s consideration of construction as an essential service, as obtained in SRO 15 of 2020, and to review this new situation as it will impact and potentially affect the local construction sector within the circumstances of the COVID19 pandemic, and the sector’s collateral impact on the wider private sector and the public as a whole.

 

Contributions were received and made by the following Executive Members:

Mr Gregor Fortune

Mr Delbert Paris

Mr Kevin Henderson

Mr Melkezideck Toussaint,

Mr Steve Astaphan,

Mr Stewart Paris, and

Mr Anthony Le Blanc.

 

SRO 15 of 2020 – Emergency Power (Disaster) – (Curfew) Order

 SRO 15 of 2020 was Gazetted and came into effect on 1st April 2020.

  1. Section 7(1)(g) provides “Subject to paragraphs 3 and 5, every non-essential establishment, or business shall remain closed except for the following – … (g) Construction and manufacturing projects, … may open between the hours of 6:00 am and 4:00m pm Monday to Friday.
  2. Section 7(1)(g) (i) to (v) provides that work on-site are subject to compliance with increased attention to sanitation, provision of additional PPE (face mask) and maintenance of 2 m ( 6 ft 8”) social distances for workmen as far as reasonably possible.
  3. Section 12 limits passengers to one person per row with no passengers allowed at the front with the driver.

 

Support and Concerns:

The Meeting expressed support for activities and actions which are aimed at curtailing the spread of the COVID19 epidemic in Dominica.  That BCAD Executive supports the efforts of the Government of Dominica through the principal agency of the Ministry of Health and in general, supports the provisions in the SRO 15 which seek to encourage persons to stay home and save lives.

However, the Meeting had serious concerns with some of the provisions of the SRO 15 and its development, as it relates to the consideration of Construction as an essential service:

  • Public Information and Consultation.
  • Lack of Forewarning: The Meeting expressed concern, as was expressed in its reaction of 23rd March 2020, that the State has failed to publish a plan as to what is to be expected at each level of the COVID19 epidemic. Hence, both the pronouncements of 22nd March 2019 and that of the 1st April 2020 provided no forewarning or time to wind down activities, which would have enabled contractors to do a shutdown of non-essential or non-critical work properly.
    1. Absence of Consultation with the Local Sector: The meeting expressed surprised that the local construction sector was not consulted, and certainly the executive of BCAD had no input in the SRO which pronounced that construction projects are to be considered as essential services and ought to continue as normal in this COVIFD19 pandemic.
  • Overall responsibility of Limiting Spread of COVIOD19: The Meeting agreed that every contractor, and every employee in the construction sector, has a personal and collective responsibility to limit the spread of COIVID19, and therefore should not engage in work or other activity which has the potential to undermine the efforts of others, including the State. Hence, the meeting found that the present pronouncement of the SRO at section 7cannot be supported as:
    1. it is impractical to engage in construction site activities and expect that workmen will continually be able to maintain a 2 m(6 ft 8”) distance between them and work efficiently,
    2. given, that construction workers, on many existing projects, come from all over the island, it is, therefore, impractical to expect public transport to be readily available to carry workers to site if they are to comply with the requirement to operate at 25% capacity (1 per row) for the same fare,
    3. each exposure of a construction worker on a site or during the commute exposes his/her whole household to the possibility of infection with COIVID19.
  • Productivity and Cost.
    1. The Meeting found that the Contractor will likely be operating inefficiently, with less than ideal staffing, and at low productivity and increased cost for work which has already be priced under a contract, given the limitations provided under the curfew and SRO 15 Clause 7 and 12. It was cited that
      • it would be unlikely to have a full workday if key workmen have to commute from remote locations,
      • some workmen will not be available on account of either fear of contracting the disease, or having to stay home with minors, or having taken a proactive stance about limiting the spread of the disease, and
      • In addition to the new direct cost of the extra PPE required, these may not be readily available, and therefore require not only extra procurement cost but also, may require extra supervisory cost in order to ensure their utilisation.
    2. To mitigate against (a) (ii) above, the possibility of extra transportation cost, it is likely that the Contractor would have to contribute to commuting
    3. That it is an extra cost to the State and diverts resources from other more critical aspects of managing COVID19 if police officers or other State officials have to divert resources to ensure that construction sites comply with the requirements of SRO 15.
  1. Health and Safety and Legal Framework: The meeting noted that Contractors as employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees on the construction site.  Therefore, knowingly engaging them and exposing them and their families to COVID19, either on the site or during commute to or from the site, places employees in a compromised health and safety situation.   Further, that any incident of infection, or suspected infection, of an employee on-site, will likely result in the closing down of the site as all employees are likely to be quarantined.
  2. Duration and Implication of Consideration of Construction as an “Essential Service”: The Meeting expressed concern, that given that Construction was considered an essential service, the majority by volume of Government procured construction services were not made available to be undertaken by local contractors or construction workers. Further, it questioned whether this pronouncement would be permanent for all other disasters, or only this time.

 

Recommendations.

The BCAD Executive therefore strongly recommend the following:

  • That all Builders and Contractors, our employees and the general public are encouraged to stay at home and save lives, unless their construction activity can impact positively on limiting the spread or management of COVID19, or in some way essential for the proper functioning of the State.
  • That generally construction workers should stay at home, spending time with family and doing the long outstanding trade work at home with the help of family members.
  • That, in the circumstances of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19, construction projects are to be generally and rightly considered as non-essential economic activities. Hence BCAD Executive requests that, until at least the conclusion of the emergency period dictated under SRO 15,
    1. local Builders and Contractors should not be engaged in, or continue, construction works as normal, neither should they endanger their employees by requiring that they attend to site work,
    2. the Public Sector shuts down its construction projects and encourages consultants to work from home, and construction workers to stay at home and save lives
    3. That where restrictions are to be imposed, some forewarning be given in order that non-essential project works are brought to a close safely and with all critical elements concluded.
  • That more private sector business organisations be brought into discussions about finding more creative ways of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19.





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Dominica

IN PICTURES: Dominica parliament holds first meeting since COVID-19 declared pandemic

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The Dominica parliament convened this morning for the Second Meeting of The First Session of The Tenth Parliament where two COVID-19-related bills were introduced for debate.

Dominica News Online (DNO) got some photographs of parliamentarians, most of them wearing masks, as they arrived at the Parliament building. Photos by Cecil Clarke.





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Dominica

COVID-19: Pronouncement of construction an essential service.

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BCAD Executive met by teleconference on 3rd April 2020 to deliberate on the Government’s consideration of construction as an essential service, as obtained in SRO 15 of 2020, and to review this new situation as it will impact and potentially affect the local construction sector within the circumstances of the COVID19 pandemic, and the sector’s collateral impact on the wider private sector and the public as a whole.

 

Contributions were received and made by the following Executive Members:

Mr Gregor Fortune

Mr Delbert Paris

Mr Kevin Henderson

Mr Melkezideck Toussaint,

Mr Steve Astaphan,

Mr Stewart Paris, and

Mr Anthony Le Blanc.

 

SRO 15 of 2020 – Emergency Power (Disaster) – (Curfew) Order

 SRO 15 of 2020 was Gazetted and came into effect on 1st April 2020.

  1. Section 7(1)(g) provides “Subject to paragraphs 3 and 5, every non-essential establishment, or business shall remain closed except for the following – … (g) Construction and manufacturing projects, … may open between the hours of 6:00 am and 4:00m pm Monday to Friday.
  2. Section 7(1)(g) (i) to (v) provides that work on-site are subject to compliance with increased attention to sanitation, provision of additional PPE (face mask) and maintenance of 2 m ( 6 ft 8”) social distances for workmen as far as reasonably possible.
  3. Section 12 limits passengers to one person per row with no passengers allowed at the front with the driver.

 

Support and Concerns:

The Meeting expressed support for activities and actions which are aimed at curtailing the spread of the COVID19 epidemic in Dominica.  That BCAD Executive supports the efforts of the Government of Dominica through the principal agency of the Ministry of Health and in general, supports the provisions in the SRO 15 which seek to encourage persons to stay home and save lives.

However, the Meeting had serious concerns with some of the provisions of the SRO 15 and its development, as it relates to the consideration of Construction as an essential service:

  • Public Information and Consultation.
  • Lack of Forewarning: The Meeting expressed concern, as was expressed in its reaction of 23rd March 2020, that the State has failed to publish a plan as to what is to be expected at each level of the COVID19 epidemic. Hence, both the pronouncements of 22nd March 2019 and that of the 1st April 2020 provided no forewarning or time to wind down activities, which would have enabled contractors to do a shutdown of non-essential or non-critical work properly.
    1. Absence of Consultation with the Local Sector: The meeting expressed surprised that the local construction sector was not consulted, and certainly the executive of BCAD had no input in the SRO which pronounced that construction projects are to be considered as essential services and ought to continue as normal in this COVIFD19 pandemic.
  • Overall responsibility of Limiting Spread of COVIOD19: The Meeting agreed that every contractor, and every employee in the construction sector, has a personal and collective responsibility to limit the spread of COIVID19, and therefore should not engage in work or other activity which has the potential to undermine the efforts of others, including the State. Hence, the meeting found that the present pronouncement of the SRO at section 7cannot be supported as:
    1. it is impractical to engage in construction site activities and expect that workmen will continually be able to maintain a 2 m(6 ft 8”) distance between them and work efficiently,
    2. given, that construction workers, on many existing projects, come from all over the island, it is, therefore, impractical to expect public transport to be readily available to carry workers to site if they are to comply with the requirement to operate at 25% capacity (1 per row) for the same fare,
    3. each exposure of a construction worker on a site or during the commute exposes his/her whole household to the possibility of infection with COIVID19.
  • Productivity and Cost.
    1. The Meeting found that the Contractor will likely be operating inefficiently, with less than ideal staffing, and at low productivity and increased cost for work which has already be priced under a contract, given the limitations provided under the curfew and SRO 15 Clause 7 and 12. It was cited that
      • it would be unlikely to have a full workday if key workmen have to commute from remote locations,
      • some workmen will not be available on account of either fear of contracting the disease, or having to stay home with minors, or having taken a proactive stance about limiting the spread of the disease, and
      • In addition to the new direct cost of the extra PPE required, these may not be readily available, and therefore require not only extra procurement cost but also, may require extra supervisory cost in order to ensure their utilisation.
    2. To mitigate against (a) (ii) above, the possibility of extra transportation cost, it is likely that the Contractor would have to contribute to commuting
    3. That it is an extra cost to the State and diverts resources from other more critical aspects of managing COVID19 if police officers or other State officials have to divert resources to ensure that construction sites comply with the requirements of SRO 15.
  1. Health and Safety and Legal Framework: The meeting noted that Contractors as employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees on the construction site.  Therefore, knowingly engaging them and exposing them and their families to COVID19, either on the site or during commute to or from the site, places employees in a compromised health and safety situation.   Further, that any incident of infection, or suspected infection, of an employee on-site, will likely result in the closing down of the site as all employees are likely to be quarantined.
  2. Duration and Implication of Consideration of Construction as an “Essential Service”: The Meeting expressed concern, that given that Construction was considered an essential service, the majority by volume of Government procured construction services were not made available to be undertaken by local contractors or construction workers. Further, it questioned whether this pronouncement would be permanent for all other disasters, or only this time.

 

Recommendations.

The BCAD Executive therefore strongly recommend the following:

  • That all Builders and Contractors, our employees and the general public are encouraged to stay at home and save lives, unless their construction activity can impact positively on limiting the spread or management of COVID19, or in some way essential for the proper functioning of the State.
  • That generally construction workers should stay at home, spending time with family and doing the long outstanding trade work at home with the help of family members.
  • That, in the circumstances of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19, construction projects are to be generally and rightly considered as non-essential economic activities. Hence BCAD Executive requests that, until at least the conclusion of the emergency period dictated under SRO 15,
    1. local Builders and Contractors should not be engaged in, or continue, construction works as normal, neither should they endanger their employees by requiring that they attend to site work,
    2. the Public Sector shuts down its construction projects and encourages consultants to work from home, and construction workers to stay at home and save lives
    3. That where restrictions are to be imposed, some forewarning be given in order that non-essential project works are brought to a close safely and with all critical elements concluded.
  • That more private sector business organisations be brought into discussions about finding more creative ways of limiting the spread and enhancing the management of COVID19.





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