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COVID-19: REGIONAL ROUNDUP/ OF NEWS: 3 April 2020

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A ROUNDUP OF REGIONAL CORONAVIRUS HEADLINES

 

ANTIGUA & BARBUDA

 

INMATES WITH SIX MONTHS OR LESS TO SERVE COULD BE RELEASED EARLY (antiguaobserver.com) Discussions were underway, Thursday, that could see the release of prisoners with six months or less to serve. Prisoners have complained about the suspension of food deliveries by relatives and their health and safety in confined conditions. The minister responsible for prisons, Stedroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin, said that this was an ongoing discussion in the region not just in Antigua & Barbuda. A 20% discount on the cost of fuel to fishermen has also been announced to support food security. Two more cases – a woman who had flown in from New York and a female yacht worker -were confirmed on Thursday bringing the total of active cases to nine.

 

ARUBA

ACT OF KINDNESS IN TIMES OF CRISIS (arubatoday.com). To recognise the work of the Aruba Police Department, several businesses got together to make donations: Compra NV donated a selection of fruit, Taco Bell delivered food to the night shift, others donated drinks and other products as a show of gratitude. Aruba has reported 61 active cases of COVID-19.

 

BAHAMAS

TWO COVID-19 PATIENTS DIE IN HOSPITAL(thenassauguardian.com). Two patients suffering from COVID-19 have died in hospital, it was announced on Thursday, 3 April. Earlier, the sister of the Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson died on the way from Bimini Island to hospital in Nassau. It was reported, but no confirmation is available, that she had not been tested for the virus. A total of 132 people have been charged with breaking the curfew which has been in place since 24 March. There are 22 reported active cases of the virus.

 

 

BARBADOS

24-HOUR CURFEW ANNOUNCEMENT STIMULATES PANIC BUYING (loopnewsbarbados.com). Barbadians rushed to the supermarkets, minimarts and gas stations to stock up on food supplies and essential items before government’s mandated 24-hour curfew came into force on 3 April. Shoppers complained that they were not given enough notice about the curfew. Barbados has reported 51 active cases of Covid-19.

 

BONAIRE, STATIA, SABA

NOT THE TIME FOR NAME-CALLING, DIVISION OR BLAME GAME’ (bes-reporter.com). St. Eustatius PLP leader, Clyde van Putten, says he is deeply concerned about the arrival of the COVID-19 virus on the island, but that it is not the time for division, name-calling or what he calls ‘the blame game’. He also said that he was concerned with some of the comments and postings on social media which, in his opinion, were not contributing in a positive way to the present situation. Statia has reported its first two cases of COVID-19.

 

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

GOV’T FORCED TO ALLOW ENTRY OF LOCALS (bvinews.com/news) Premier Andrew Fahie has said that the BVI was forced to allow for the return of nationals after the closure of borders. Legal arguments about the rights of nationals to return home prompted the move, which was agreed so long as those concerned were quarantined. ‘If I had my way, they wouldn’t have reached back at all. I ain’t afraid to tell them,’ said Fahie. There are three active cases reported on the BVI.

 

CUBA

OVER 25,000 PEOPLE ARE UNDER PRIMARY HEALTHCARE SURVEILLANCE IN THEIR HOMES (oncubanews.com). The number of active cases continues to climb with the total now at 248. The island’s Ministry of Public Health reports that of recent positive cases, age varies from a three-year-old to an elderly woman of 79, while the prevailing age range is between 30 and 60 years. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Cuba complained that the restrictions of the US embargo had thwarted the donation of masks, ventilators and tests to detect the coronavirus that was sent to the island by the Chinese electronic giant Alibaba.

 

CURACAO

MILITARY PROVIDES CORONA TEST TEAM (curacaochronicle.com). A recently trained team consisting of a general military doctor and two general military nurses will support Department of Health testing teams. In order to ensure that language is not a barrier to taking tests, a military nurse has also been trained who speaks Papiamento. Curacao has reported seven active cases of COVID-19.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

DOMINICAN GOVERNMENT EXTENDS SOCIAL DISTANCING PERIOD (dominicantoday.com). The curfew has been extended for a further 15 days from 5pm to 6am. Additional social distancing measures require the population to remain in their homes, and only allows businesses offering priority services to open their doors (supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stations, fuels, and some from the agricultural sector). The Dominican Republic has reported 1,404 active cases.

 

GRENADA

MORE THAN 100 CHARGED WITHIN FIRST THREE DAYS OF MANDATORY 24-HOUR CURFEW (nowgrenada.com). The greatest number of charges were laid between 6am on Thursday to 6am on Friday when 44 people were charged with breaking the curfew. The total number charged since Monday is 115, with most arrests in the parish of St George. ‘This increase was largely due to the employment of drone technology which now allows us wider capabilities to enforce these regulations,’ said Vannie Curwen, Head of the Community Relations Department. Grenada has reported 10 active cases of COVID-19.

GUADELOUPE

THREE FRENCH INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALLERS PLEDGE DONATION TO TEACHING HOSPITAL. (20minutes.fr/sport) Three international French footballers have pledged an unknown donation to the main teaching hospital in Pointe-a-Pitre. The three, Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid) and Anthony Martial (Manchester United) are all of Guadeloupean origin. Guadeloupe has reported 99 active cases of COVID-19.

 

HAITI

HAITI DOCTORS FLEE STATE-RUN HOSPITAL TO AVOID CORONAVIRUS (voanews.com). The rooms of the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince are largely empty this week due to many doctors and nurses refusing to work for fear of becoming infected with the coronavirus. ‘We are already working under conditions that are not normal for most hospitals, and now it’s gotten worse,”’ said nurse Marie Catherine, referring to the lack of protective equipment available to frontline health workers. Haiti has 17 active cases of COVID-19, with more than 200 people in quarantine awaiting test results.

 

JAMAICA
VIRUS TERROR – HUNT ON FOR VOLUNTEERS AS HEALTHCARE WORKERS SHY AWAY FROM TESTING PERSONS (jamaica-gleaner.com) The Ministry of Health and Wellness is seeking volunteers to caring out testing for COVID-10 as some healthcare workers have expressed fear about conducting the tests. The Ministry of Health has said that Jamaica has the capacity to conduct 1,260 tests weekly but that only 153 tests had been carried out this week. National epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr said that training of health staff to carry out the tests were continuing. ‘We understand the fear but we must overcome it,’ she said. The widely used testing method was from a swab from the back of the nostril or throat. Meanwhile, a post-COVID-19 virus plan was being put in place by the Ministry of Tourism in the form of a Recovery Task Force. Jamaica has reported 42 active cases.

 

MARTINIQUE

AIR FRANCE FLIGHTS THIS WEEK (martinique.franceantilles.fr) A minimal air service to and from Guadeloupe, Martinique, Cayenne(French Guyana) and Paris is in place. Permission to board the flights is restricted to tourists needing to return home, those who have urgent personal or professional reasons for repatriation. Martinique has 108 active cases of COVID-19.

 

PUERTO RICO

LAWMAKERS CALL ON TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO ADDRESS PUERTO RICO’S VULNERABILITY TO COVID-19 (thehill.com). Democratic lawmakers are calling on Vice President Pence, who leads the administration’s coronavirus task force, to provide information on how he plans to address unique obstacles Puerto Rico faces throughout the pandemic. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said in a letter to Pence that the administration was slow to provide the U.S. territory adequate aid after hurricanes Irma and Maria. ‘As the COVID-19 pandemic hits Puerto Rico, these economic and public health risks will grow and risk exacerbating the crisis,’ the lawmakers said, adding, ‘the Trump administration’s actions to delay and impede the island’s economic and health care disaster recovery will result in further grave harm to the island’s residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.’ Puerto Rico has reported 301 active cases of the virus.

 

ST-KITTS-NEVIS

HON VINCE AMORY DENOUNCES MISINFORMATION (facebook.com/sknismedia) Vince Amory, the Minister with Responsibility for Labour and Social Affairs, has denounced what he called “destructive fake news” circulating on social media in which it was claimed that cheques for income assistance up to EC$1000 per month would be available on Friday 3 April,  at the Social Security Board.  Minister Vance Amory said that the cheques were not yet ready and that the ‘fake news’ was being spread to cause confusion. St Kitts-Nevis has reported nine active cases.

 

ST LUCIA

WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT IF WE KEEP FIGHTING EACH OTHER’ (stlucianewsonline.com)  ‘I am appealing to everyone to please put our differences aside. Let us work together and support one another. Let us be disciplined, practice self-isolation especially when we go out in public. It is for our own safety and that of our families,” PM Alan Chastanet said. The island has recorded 12 active cases and the country is currently under a 24-hour curfew for seven days.

 

ST VINCENT

ONLY NINE PASSENGERS ALLOWED ON BUSES (news784.com) As SVG records two new active cases of COVID-19, measures have been outlined by the Government regarding public transportation. Minister of Health Luke Browe stated that the maximum capacity for public buses has now been reduced from 13 to nine passengers.

 

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

COVID-19 CASES REPORT 6 DEATHS (newsday.co.tt). The recorded number of deaths from the COVID-19 cases now totals six. If the population did not heed the warnings to stay at home, said Minister of Health Terrence Delalsingh, it would hurt the ability of frontline health workers to confront the pandemic. A map of COVID-19 cases on Trinidad & Tobago has been published to show the distribution of confirmed cases. Trinidad & Tobago now has 90 active cases.

 

US VIRGIN ISLANDS

USVI ELIGIBLE FOR US$2.9M COVID-19 FUNDING FROM US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (vi.gov/news) The US Virgin Islands are eligible for US$2.9m in immediate funding for protective equipment for first responders. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has granted a Major Disaster Declaration which will trigger the release of federal funds. Governor Albert Bryan Jr welcomed the move but said that “declaration is not as expansive as we have hoped”. He said that federal aid is needed for individuals and households affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The US Territory has a reported 37 active cases.

 

Click here for the latest coronavirus numbers from around the world.





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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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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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