While anxiety grows outside of China because of the spread of COVID-19, nervousness increases in the Caribbean region. As of March 3, 2020, three cases had been confirmed in St. Martin and St. Barthélémy, and another in the Dominican Republic, small nations that remain alert while authorities refine their response measures.
However, it is worrying that some island territories are poorly equipped to combat an outbreak at the level of COVID-19. At the beginning of March 2020, there were 95 075 cases globally, with 51 432 recoveries and 3249 deaths, but the numbers are constantly changing.
On Twitter, journalist Jacqueline Charles, who reports for the Miami Herald, wonders if Haiti could face the repercussions of the spread of the virus if it crosses the borders of the Dominican Republic:
The arrival of the #coronavirus in the #DominicanRepublic – a Caribbean nation of 11 million that shares a border with #Haiti – opens up a new front in the fight to contain the virus. https://t.co/mp5MTDTxth
– Jacqueline Charles (@Jacquiecharles) March 1, 2020
Confirm case of coronavirus in Dominican Republic.
The first cases of coronavirus in the Caribbean were confirmed, after the Dominican Republic authorities confirmed on Sunday March 1 that an Italian citizen was admitted to a hospital in Santo Domingo.
Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article240781521.html#storylink=cpy
The arrival of the coronavirus in the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean country of 11 million that borders Haiti, opens a new front in the fight to contain the virus.
The effects of the pandemic COVID-19 are not limited to the health sector. Despite the massive cessation of carbon emissions in China after the outbreak, there have also been negative repercussions for international trade, travel and the global economy.
On February 28, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) raised the risk of the coronavirus for the Caribbean from moderate to high, and called for a change in preparedness of its member states to one of rapid disposition and response, and continue to do everything necessary to strengthen their capacity to respond to the importation of cases. Member states were advised to increase surveillance capacity and adapt to the national pandemic preparedness plan to combat COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which represents 15 member states and five partners, had planned a meeting in Barbados to discuss the strategy of the region, but upon confirmation of the three cases of COVID-19, it was held a virtual conference During the session, broadcast live on Facebook on March 1, the president of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, announced the regional protocol to manage the virus, following the advice of health officials at the two previous meetings .
The Caribbean cruise industry experienced a boom year in 2019. In Jamaica, cruise passengers accounted for more than 1.5 million of the 4.3 million visitors to the island, but now the sector is beginning to struggle with the consequences of COVID- 19. According to reports, the Ministry of Tourism of Jamaica has lowered its projected earnings.
Several cruise ships have had delays in the ports or have been rejected due to the concern of passengers with symptoms that could be associated with the virus. In other cases, passengers from “high risk” countries were not allowed to disembark.
On March 4, a cruise ship with hundreds of passengers who boarded in St Martin (where at least one case has been confirmed) was allowed to anchor in Port Royal, a port near Kingston, which in January received its first cruise with much racket The news points to a certain tension between the country's Ministries of Health and Tourism regarding the issue, and Health Minister Christopher Tufton emphasized in a radio interview that the Government “will not take unnecessary risks.”
There is so much at stake for the cruise line sector that the representatives attended the CARICOM meeting on March 1 to help ensure that the agreed protocols comply with safety and health measures, with suitable infrastructure to facilitate adequate communication between Regional governments and cruise operators.
However, some cruise lines begin to reject the provisional regulations imposed by the Caribbean Governments. MSC Cruises, who was rejected by a ship in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, finally anchored in Mexico, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador commented: “We cannot act with discrimination.” The passengers turned out to have only one flu.
Jamaica's tough stance with cruises has also troubled to operators like Carnival Cruises, which withdrew its stops in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands at the end of February.
However, many social media users agree that restrictions are justified in the current circumstances, since public health comes first:
And when they bring the virus to the island who is going to help when it spreads. The healthcare system cannot manage an outbreak and deaths. Tourism money is good but not if its going to be a health devastation to the citizens.
– FASHION SIZZLE (@ fashionsizzle1) March 3, 2020
Jamaica is at risk of losing three ship stops this week with the intensification last night of the protocols between the Ministry of Health and Welfare and (the company) Carnival Cruise Limited…
And when they bring the virus to the island, who will help when it spreads? The health system cannot handle the outbreak or deaths. Money for tourism is good but not if there is going to be a devastation in the health of citizens.
The nerves continue. Another Jamaican tweeted:
The coronavirus has the world at a standstill. Jamaica cannot handle it. It’s not if it will breach our borders, it’s when. Our people and economy will get hard hits. It's so terrifying. 😔
– Kingsley Morgan (@kingsleymorgan_) March 2, 2020
The coronavirus has the world paralyzed. Jamaica can't handle it. It is not about “if” it will cross our borders, but when. Our people and economy will have hard blows. It is very scary.
Given the situation, Caribbean Airlines, the main regional airline, is also reviewing its health and safety measures. In Trinidad and Tobago, for example, passengers on flights originating in countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported that they had to go through an infrared review before they could enter the country.
Impact on everyday life
Quite reluctantly, Caribbean citizens have begun to limit social contact and avoid the usual hugs or kisses of greeting between friends and family, and handshakes between colleagues and business partners. The well-known Jamaican presenter Fae Ellington stated:
Listen nuh, please don't insist on shaking my hand, hugging me or kissing me. Putting all those greetings on hold ‘until such time’.
This isn't a joke. #Preventionbetterthancure
– Fae A. Ellington (@FaeEllington) March 1, 2020
Please do not insist on shaking hands, hugging or kissing me. I put these greetings on hold “for the moment.”
It is not a joke.
Meanwhile, the economic impact on the small islands remains uncertain. Despite claims by Jamaican Finance Minister Nigel Clarke that no US tourist reservations (representing approximately 75% of its visitors) were canceled, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett did not seem optimistic in a radio interview at the end of February. The representatives of the private sector, who expect price increases, do not seem to have confidence either. Small businesses and attractions dependent on the cruise business are anxious, and one notes that the main losers “are the people of Jamaica, taxi drivers, vendors.”
A Jamaican Twitter user expressed concern about the potential impact of COVID-19 on tourism, an important currency generator for the island:
Those who consistently criticize & demonize the tourism industry are going to get a rude lesson in reality. Only a matter of time before this COVID-19 puts a damper on things and Americans drastically reduce their overseas travel. Then the naysayers will see the industry’s value.
– Jack Mandora⚖ (@ Zemi66) March 1, 2020
The United States increases travel restrictions while Trump says it is “likely” that there will be more cases.
The United States prohibits travel to Iran in response to the outbreak of the new coronavirus and raises travel warning to regions of Italy and South Korea.
Those who criticize and demonize the tourism industry will have a hard lesson of reality. It is only a matter of time before COVID-19 puts a stop to things and Americans dramatically reduce their trips abroad. Detractors will see the value of the sector.
So the government and @themohwgovjm should be commended for their work RE: C19 so far. But what steps are being taken regarding insulation from any economic fallout that may affect us?
– Duane Patten (@ docpat10) March 3, 2020
The Government and the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Jamaica should be commended for their work. But what measures are being taken in relation to isolation and the economic repercussions that could affect us?
However, while the Caribbean prepares for additional cases of COVID-19, economic impacts are not the priority. The region does not risk the disease, which so far has already claimed thousands of lives worldwide.
Check out the Global Voices special coverage of global impact of COVID-19.