Saturday, April 04, 2020

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Cayman Islands to extend curfew measures

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CMC) — Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin says curfew measures across the territory will be “extended and toughened up” following the confirmation of five new Covid-19 cases.

Alden, in an announcement on Thursday, said that starting next week, the alphabet system will be used to restrict the days people can shop at supermarkets, will be expanded to all activity in the Cayman Islands, with the possible exception of daily exercise.

Residents whose surnames begin with the letters A-K will be allowed out of their homes only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and those whose surnames start with L-Z Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

He said that under the 'soft curfew' conditions, people will only be allowed to go out for essential services on their allotted days and they will be under full lockdown for the other days of the week, while Sunday will be a 'hard curfew' day for everyone.

The premier said those measures would be passed in the coming days to coordinate with the extension of the overnight hard curfew.

They will start Monday and last at least two weeks.

The premier said the 'shelter in place' regulations were still being refined and it was possible that people may still be allowed exceptions to exercise every day.

“We try to get that balance right because we know cooping people up is tough for everybody … We can suffer a little now or suffer a lot for a long time if we get this wrong.”

He said the goal was to avoid a lockdown lasting several months and the prospect of having to watch family funerals on live stream.

“This is a national cause, it is about saving our own lives,” he said.

The premier said the curfews were part of a multipronged strategy to suppress the virus.

Concerning the next part of the strategy, he said this includes widespread testing, adding that the Government has successfully procured 200,000 test kits from South Korea. Once those arrive on island he said Cayman will be able to begin mass testing.

Governor Martyn Roper said the next key element was testing, testing, testing.

“It is very exciting that we have placed that order with South Korea for 200,000 tests and that will allow us to test people on the frontline and eventually to test everyone on the island…Suppression and testing is the way out of this,” he said.

Both the premier and governor emphasised that everyone must still do their part by staying home and social distancing when they go out.

Public health officials reported another rise in novel coronavirus cases in the Cayman Islands with five more people testing positive. An additional case, which was previously described as inconclusive, was confirmed as 'positive' by the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

The results, announced Thursday, take the total number of cases on the island to 28.

Bahamas says cannot accept ships with Covid-19 infected passengers

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — The Government of The Bahamas has signaled that it will not be accepting people infected with Covid-19, from ships that have been stranded in Bahamian waters despite a US Coast Guard bulletin that foreign-flagged vessels should seek help from countries in which they are registered.

In a statement issued on Thursday, in response to the US Coast Guard, Transport Minister Renward Wells said The Bahamas would help people sheltering in place aboard cruise ships in its waters.

On Wednesday, Rear Admiral EC Jones, commander of the Seventh Coast of the US Coast Guard, singled out The Bahamas as he urged foreign-flagged ships lingering beyond US territorial seas to seek flag State support because of the limited hospital capacity of US medical facilities. The rules apply to vessels carrying more than 50 people.

The transport minister, while not expressing outright refusal to disembark sick passengers, said that both the US and The Bahamas face a unique challenge caused by the global pandemic and are “first and foremost” responsible for protecting their respective populations while doing its best to support people sheltering in place on-board ships.

We continue to work closely with the cruise industry,” he said, noting that this country's flag represents more ships than any other registry in the world.

“Our maritime authority works with our cruise ship owners in relation to the safe operation of these ships and the health and well-being of their passengers and seafarers,” he said.

“Our nation has been responsive in enabling safe and responsible solutions – within parametres – for cruise ships in the course of this pandemic.

“The cruise industry is facing an unprecedented crisis and we in The Bahamas, facing the same global crisis, are doing what we can to provide support. We have made intergovernmental contact where we could be helpful.

We have devised safe methods of resupply of our flag cruise vessels that were running critically low on provisions, medical supplies, and medical personnel. We have provided places of shelter, under carefully controlled conditions, for a number of vessels seeking to shelter in our waters. We have also given access to these sheltering vessels irrespective of country of registry, in the process accommodating ships of a number of flags in addition to our own.”

World Bank approves million-dollar grant to support coronavirus response in Haiti

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — The World Bank's board of executive directors has approved a US$20 million grant for the Haiti COVID-19 Response Project.

The Washington-based financial institution on Thursday said that this project aims to respond to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic through testing and improved treatment in Haiti.

“The rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic requires urgent action to prevent outbreak and save lives in Haiti,” said Anabela Abreu, World Bank country director for Haiti.

“The World Bank is working in partnership with the Haitian Government and donor community to respond effectively to the threat posed by COVID-19 by preparing the country's medical system to diagnose and treat this infection,” she added.

The World Bank said that Haiti faces significant risks from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the first cases have been officially confirmed, it said the risk of local transmission has increased, stating that a state of emergency was declared on March 20.

“Vigorous response measures will be essential to reduce the spread of the virus,” the bank said. “Otherwise, there is a high potential for the number of COVID-19 cases in Haiti to rise significantly.”

The World Bank said the new Haiti COVID-19 response project aims to limit the transmission of COVID-19 in Haiti through detection, infection control in health facilities, and access the best care possible for people who become ill.

This includes enhancing testing, minimising spread through contact tracing of confirmed cases, and providing needed laboratory and protective equipment for health care staff to ensure quality of care as pressure on the medical system increases, the bank said.

It said the project will also support communications activities to help community members understand what they can do to prevent spread and counter misinformation. The project supports the COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan developed by the Ministry of Health.

Trinidad records another Covid-19 death – confirmed cases now 97

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Another person has died of COVID-19 in the two-island republic, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus so far, to six.

A release from the Ministry of Health late Thursday said that further epidemiological investigation into the case is required, as information was not available from the patient due to their need for immediate emergency care.

In addition to this, three COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Thursday, brining the number of confirmed cases to 97.

Two of the newly confirmed cases had a recent history of travel, while the third is still pending epidemiological investigation.

The Ministry of Health said as of late Thursday, 688 samples have been submitted to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for testing for COVID-19.

It said of the total number of positive cases, 49 of these positive cases came from the group of nationals who recently returned from a cruise.

Guyana orders closure of bars, places of entertainment from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – President David Granger has announced the daily closure of entertainment venues and other spots from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am daily, startting yesterday. He said it is an effort to strengthen containment measures in the fight against COVID-19.

In a statement on Thursday, Granger said the new measure will result in the closure of places of entertainment, including bars, gymnasiums, nightclubs, restaurants and swimming pools at the announced times.

According to the president, this measure is being taken because people have been ignoring calls for social distancing for several weeks.

He also said that additional restrictions are expected to be rolled out by this weekend.

In his statement, Granger said Guyana is not alone in its fight against the coronavirus.

He noted a meeting was held with partners from international and non-governmental organisations to coordinate the planning of mitigative and preventative actions against the short- and long-term impacts of the virus on all sectors of the country.

The president said with the rising number of cases in Guyana, it is now clear that several other measures must be put in place to keep the public safe.

He reminded the public that international airports will remain closed and the Civil Aviation Authority has also suspended the operation of flights to and from the border regions.

Schools will remain closed and visits to homes of the elderly have been suspended.

The president said “fighting the pandemic requires the continuous, collective action of all citizens and the entire country”.

Guyana has recorded 19 cases of the coronavirus.

Of the 19 cases, four have succumbed to the disease, with two of those deaths being recorded on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, while there have been calls for a total lockdown of Georgetown by some citizens, the mayor of Georgetown has indicated that all necessary measures have to be put in place before such a lockdown could be instituted.

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