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Trinidad & Tobago shuts out international community to stem spread of COVID-19; schools closed

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mon. Mar. 16, 2020 (Caribbean360)– Trinidad and Tobago will not allow anyone other than its nationals to enter the country – except under exceptional circumstances – for the next two weeks, while bars and schools will be closed, as the country seeks to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of this morning, there were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the twin-island republic, all of which health officials say were imported cases. And the total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths outside China, where the outbreak began, has overtaken the total number of cases in that East Asian country. The World Health Organization said today there were 81,077 confirmed cases and 3,218 deaths in China and 86,434 confirmed cases and 3,388 deaths in 151 other countries.

“We have to isolate ourselves from the supply, the source of the virus outside of Trinidad and Tobago,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said today at a post-Cabinet press briefing where he announced the measures being taken by his government. “We are in a crisis. We are in an emergency.”

He said the Ministry of Health and Ministry of National Security would determine who would be exempt from the ban, as needed, but they would likely include health personnel and employees of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

“Other than that, we are basically disconnecting ourselves from the international community for the next 14 days,” Rowley said.

Among other measures taking effect are the closure of all public schools until the new term begins on April 20 – a measure which private schools are being asked to comply with; and the closure of bars for the next 14 days.

“Persons operating bars where people gather to drink and socialize, because our objective to deny the virus, connections from person to person, we are instructing that gatherings beyond 25 be avoided at all costs, except under unavoidable circumstances,” the Prime Minister said.

While restaurants can remain open, only takeaway service will be allowed, as no-inhouse dining is being allowed.

Meantime, the Ministry of Health has taken the official decision to institute two parallel health care systems.

One public health system will focus on addressing confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Caura Hospital and the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility will be used for this purpose and the public is encouraged to access the standard public health care services via the other existing health facilities.

Additionally, Public Health Inspectors will visit various public locations within communities where large gatherings are common to advise key representatives on the necessary health care precautions.

Members of the public are also asked to take personal hygiene measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19.

Apart from Trinidad and Tobago, countries in the Caribbean that have confirmed COVID-19 cases are: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St. Lucia, Saint Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela.

Suriname closes borders, St Lucia cancels jazz festival after confirming coronavirus; Curacao, Aruba report first cases

PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Sat. Mar. 14, 2020 (Caribbean360)– The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations of St. Lucia and Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao have been added to the list of countries that have confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

And Suriname’s borders and airports were closed to all traffic from midnight last night as a result of the virus confirmation there.

Vice President Michael Ashwin Adhin said the infected individual had travelled from the Netherlands last Wednesday. The woman reported having symptoms yesterday morning and tested positive by afternoon, and has been transferred to an isolation facility at Wanica Hospital.

After Curacao recorded its first case yesterday, all flights from Europe were banned until further notice. It was a 68-year-old tourist who arrived in the island last Thursday.

People who have been in China (including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan), Singapore, Iran, South Korea, as well as the provinces Lombardy, Veneto, Emiglia, Romagna, Peimonte, Aosta-vallei,Trentino-South Tirol, Friuli-Julisch-Venice, and Liguria in Northern Italy in the past 14 days or had been in contact with someone who has proven COVID-19, will not be allowed to board flights destined for Curacao.

Additionally, passengers and airline crew who have travelled recently to other areas with sustained transmission of COVID-19 will be evaluated and screened if they are exhibiting symptoms.

Aruba has also confirmed two cases, and all flights from Europe have been banned until at least March 31.

St. Lucia’s first confirmed case is a 63-year-old woman with a travel history from the United Kingdom where, up to yesterday, there were 594 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths.

She had arrived in the island last Saturday with her husband, and went to hospital on Wednesday, March 11.

“The patient was been placed in isolation at a medical facility as per the established protocol for management of suspect cases of COVID-19. A clinical sample was taken from the patient on the same day, March 11, 2020 and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency CARPHA for testing. The result which was received on Friday, March 13, 2020 confirmed that this is a case of COVID-19,” a statement from the Ministry of Health said.

Health Minister Mary Isaac has urged residents not to panic.

“It is understandable that this announcement will arouse the concern of everyone but please be assured that there is no need for panic. My team continues to work on all elements of our response to this first case and the possibility of further cases being diagnosed over time,” she said.

“In the meantime, we continue to focus on our capacity respond to COVID-19 across all sectors nationally.” It was also announced yesterday that the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, which was scheduled for May 7-9, has been cancelled in the interest of health and safety.

Other Caribbean countries that have reported COVID-19 cases are Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthelemy.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) figures, up to yesterday the number of global cases had reached 132,758 – 80,991 of them in China where the virus originated – and there were 4,955 deaths. Of those deaths, 3,180 were in China.

Schools in Antigua closed; classes At UWI campus suspended in response to COVID-19

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda, Mon. Mar. 16, 2020– All schools in Antigua and Barbuda closed today, while classes at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus have been suspended, in an effort to mitigate against the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

There has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the twin-island nation.

In a statement issued today, the Ministry of Education said all public and private educational institutions will close until March 27. It added that, if necessary, that may extend beyond the Easter vacation.

However, school leadership, teachers, cleaners, security, and all other staff were instructed to report to work today and tomorrow, and possible Wednesday if necessary, to implement COVID-19 protocols to work remotely and prepare schools for cleaning and environmental adjustments for eventual return.

All schools are to be equipped with additional hand-washing stations, soap, and hand sanitizers for the eventual reopening.

The Ministry of Health also advised parents to “rigorously manage the whereabouts” of their children and to avoid gatherings of more than four or five people.

Meantime, classes at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus have also been suspended until March 27.

But Prime Minister Gaston Browne says the twin-island nation has no plans to close its borders as other countries have done, as it could be economically detrimental.

He said in an interview on local radio over the weekend that the best approach would be to manage the risk.

Apart from the single case in Antigua and Barbuda, there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in several other Caribbean countries, including: Aruba, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St. Lucia, Saint Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

The total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths outside China, where the outbreak began, has now overtaken the total number of cases in that country. As of today, the World Health Organization said there were 81,077 confirmed cases and 3,218 deaths in China and 86,434 confirmed cases and 3,388 deaths in 151 other countries.

BVI bans cruise ships and closes some ports of entry in effort to keep COVID-19 out

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, Mon. Mar. 16, 2020–The British Virgin Islands (BVI) Government has closed its Tortola cruise port, allowing no cruise ships to call on the territory for a 30-day period, in an effort to keep the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) out of the British overseas territory.

The number of international ports of entry into the BVI have also been limited to facilitate the effective screening of passengers. The three ports that remain open are Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, Road Town and West End Ferry Terminals, and one cargo port of entry – Port Purcell.

The entry of passengers and crew members who have traveled to, from or through COVID-19 affected countries as specified in a list of countries of special interest within a period of 14 days or less, will not be allowed.

The entry of passengers and crew members who have traveled to, from or through COVID-19 affected countries classified as a high-risk country within a period of 14 days or less immediately preceding their arrival in the territory, will also be subject to advanced screening procedures and may be quarantined for a period of up to 14 days based on the outcome of the risk assessment.

Additionally, mass gatherings or festivals that were scheduled to take place in the BVI during the next month have been postponed until further notice. That includes the 2020 BVI Spring Regatta, scheduled for March 30-April 5, and the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival scheduled for April 11-13.

“After extensive consideration, the British Virgin Islands made the prudent decision to put stringent measures in place to temporarily enhance the protocols for entry into the Territory until April 13,” said Premier Andrew Fahie, who is also Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for Tourism.

“It is imperative that we prioritize our limited resources to safeguard our residents and our guests. Tourism is our mainstay and it is important that we take measures to ensure our long-term sustainability.”

The public has been reminded to take all necessary precautions against contracting COVID-19.

At present, there are no confirmed cases in the BVI. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, cases have been recorded in Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St. Lucia, Saint Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

Jamaica turns to Cuban nurses to help cope with coronavirus; confirmed cases increase to 10

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mon. Mar. 16, 2020– The first batch of 21 specialist nurses from Cuba will arrive in Jamaica on March 24, to boost the capacity of the health system to deal with the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We’re trying to get about 100 additional specialist nurses in the system, focusing primarily on high intensity units or ICU (intensive care unit),” said Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton.

Tufton, who said the development follows discussions with the Cuban Government, added that retired nurses are also being sought to help out at this time.

“I want to use the opportunity to encourage all professionals, who have reached retirement age but are still very skilled and experience, we’re inviting them back to work with us during this period and this is an official invitation,” he said.

In the meantime, isolation areas are being identified at hospitals island wide.

In western Jamaica, wards are being cleared out and equipped with the necessary furniture and equipment.

“We expect that in the coming weeks, we would have had a number of those wards up and running and the alternative arrangements made for persons, who would need to vacate those facilities,” Dr. Tufton said.

The Health Minister noted that with the allocation received from the Ministry of Finance and Public Service, orders have already been placed for items including Intensive Care Unit beds and ventilators to add to existing supplies.

Jamaica now has a total of 10 confirmed cases.

There are also cases of COVID-19 in several other Caribbean countries: Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, St. Lucia, Saint Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

The total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths outside China has overtaken the total number of cases in that East Asian country where the outbreak began. As of today, according to the World Health Organization, there are 81,077 confirmed cases and 3,218 deaths in China and 86,434 confirmed cases and 3,388 deaths in 151 other countries.

(All stories excerpted from Caribbean360)

Feature photo: “…We are basically disconnecting ourselves from the international community for the next 14 days,” said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

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