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Former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur passes away

Former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur passes away

Reprint – July 27, 2020

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur

(Barbados Today)

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has passed away at the age of 70,  a Government statement has confirmed.

Arthur, the island’s longest-serving Prime Minister, died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at 12:26 a.m. He was hospitalised last week with heart complications. The statement said that Minister of Labour and Social Relations and St Peter MP  Colin Jordan will be the coordinating minister for the funeral arrangements.

“The Government of Barbados extends sincerest condolences to his wife, Julie, his daughters, Leah and Sabrina and his extended family,” it added.

Posted in CARICOM, Featured, International, News, Obituaries, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Good_to_go_certificate-

Travelers to face Negative COVID-19 Test to enter Antigua

by Bennette Roach

While entering Montserrat has taken on visa-styled requirements to enter the island, leaving  Montserrat is equally involved as health certificates become necessary to enter Antigua.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services is notifying travelers from Montserrat to Antigua, of the need to have a negative COVID-19 test prior to traveling.

This became necessary as advised in a release today from the Government Information Unit (GIU) whereby, “In accordance with the Government of Antigua public health protocols, all passengers arriving in Antigua must have a negative COVID -19 test taken within seven days of their arrival. This includes passengers transiting through Antigua to other final destinations.”

To facilitate the established protocols; The Ministry of Health and Social Services will facilitate the testing of prospective travelers.  As such “Residents who are booked to travel must contact Dr. Georgette Skerritt at telephone number (664) 496-9724 to make an appointment, to be sampled for testing.

“Sampling will occur each Friday, and test results are anticipated to be available by Wednesday of the following week. At present, there is no cost associated with sampling and testing.”

The public is asked to review their travel dates and be guided accordingly to ensure a smooth transition through Antigua.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, COVID-19, Government Notices, Health, International, News, Regional0 Comments

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St. Vincent PM says recount votes in Guyana should be honoured

by staff writer

KINGSTOWN, ST. Vincent, Jun 11, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he remains satisfied that the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping “will not stand by idly and watch the recount which is properly done for the results to be set aside” in the disputed March 2 regional and general elections in Guyana.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is yet to announce officially the winner of the polls after the re-count exercise was concluded on Sunday in the presence of observers from CARICOM and other international organisations.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves appearing on radio programme (CMC Photo)

Both the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National unity (APNU) headed by President David Granger and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) headed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo have claimed victory.

The PPP/C said that the recount has shown that it won the election by more than 15,000 votes, while the APNU has claimed that a number of irregularities and anomalies took place during the voting exercise and has called on GECOM to make a statement on the matter.

Gonsalves, speaking on a programme on the state-owned NBC Radio St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said “we expect the CARICOM observer mission to deliver its report and we expect that what is the recount would be honoured and the Guyana Elections Commission would honour that recount and declare the winner in accordance with this recount”

He told radio listeners that “anybody who wants to challenge anything afterward can go to court but you have to declare the winner in accordance with the recount,” he added.

Gonsalves, who is expected to take over the chairmanship of CARICOM in July, said that there had been “no complaints” about the first two processes involved in the elections, namely “what happens before the election day, process of registration, putting the machinery in place for free and fair elections, secondly what happens on election day.

“: Nobody said it was a sham elections or irregularities were such that so as to undermine the efficacy of the poll. The third question which was outstanding is the counting of the votes.

“That’s why the first statement that (Prime Minister of Barbados) Mia Mottley made as chair of CARICOM…is that each vote must be counted, each vote has to be counted. Well, this is where you had the basis for the recount and the reason why it is an election and not a selection, you have to count the votes and you have to count them honestly”.

Gonsalves said that he is “satisfied that CARICOM will not stand by idly and watch the recount which is properly done for the results to be set aside

“St Vincent and the Grenadines stands firmly for democracy and reflecting the will of the people. That will tell you where we are. I don’t have to say anything straight and plain. CARICOM is not going to tolerate anybody stealing an election,” he said.

Gonsalves said he is aware of a number of opposition parties when they lose an election make a number of complaints.

“It is almost a boring repetition. We get the reports, follow the law and who win, win. When you take part in an election there is always a chance that you may lose and if you lose …you take your licks like a man,” Gonsalves said, telling listeners that he is a friend to both Granger and Jagdeo.

Coalition says a statement by incoming CARICOM Chair could undermine the legitimacy of the recount process

by STAFF WRITER

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 11, CMC –  The coalition –  A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)  has expressed concern with statements made the incoming Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Dr. Ralph Gonsalves; describing it as a taking a “prejudicial” stance on Guyana’s elections.

The APNU+AFC via a press statement said they were “surprised” at  Gonsalves’s statement since the national recount process of votes cast in the March 2, General and Regional Elections, is still ongoing.

Gonsalves who is the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has urged the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to declare a winner of the elections based on the figures from the first phase of the recount.

The recount is comprised of four stages.

However, the APNU+AFC in its statement highlighted that they are “concerned as the incoming Chair of CARICOM, Dr. Gonsalves has chosen to pronounce on a process that is still ongoing, and proposes to a direct constitutional body in another CARICOM Member State in the execution of its duties.”

The coalition reminded that the four-stage process which is gazetted was agreed to by all political parties and CARICOM.

The first stage of tabulating the votes recently concluded and the second stage is now in progress. That is the compilation of a matrix of the tabulated results along with a summary of the observation reports, by the Chief Elections Officer.

According to the coalition, the reports will highlight the 7,929 instances of irregularities which directly affected the validity of 257,173 votes.

Additionally, it was also pointed out that the CARICOM scrutineering team has not yet submitted a report of its findings as mandated by the gazetted order. This will then be followed by a review of the reports by the Elections Commission and finally a declaration of the results by the Chairperson of GECOM after having studied the report.

With that, the coalition further reminded that “the ongoing process is significant and important not only for democracy in Guyana but the wider CARICOM.  It is expected that CARICOM leaders would refrain from any actions or utterances that could undermine the legitimacy of the process and its credible conclusion.”

Posted in CARICOM, Court, Elections, International, Legal, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound

Reprint       News        Covid-19 is NOT a virus!

Health

Find out what Covid-19 really is and how you can protect yourself

One thing COVID-19 isn’t is a virus. There – I said it! Not that you would know from everything that’s buzzing around the media right now.

So if it’s not a virus, what is it?

COVID-19 is the disease you develop from being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Imagine it like HIV which is the virus that causes the disease AIDS.
Or the Streptococcus bacterium that causes tonsillitis.

So what does SARS-CoV stand for and how did it start?

SARS-CoV stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused by the Coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2 is the latest strain of the virus.

Scientists have been looking at the genome sequencing of this virus and have traced its origins back many tens of thousands of years. Coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that cause various diseases in various animals and, more recently, humans.

Scroll forward thousands of years. The first human Coronavirus was discovered by Tyrrell and Bynoe, back in the 1960s. They took respiratory tract swabs from human volunteers who were suffering from the common cold. They discovered a common infectious agent and the story of human Coronavirus began.

Whilst this was a fantastic discovery, it only answered a few questions about an otherwise innocent disease. Oh, and also to gain its name due to the crown-like projections emanating from the virus cell’s membrane. Coronavirus!

Forward again to the 21st Century. The first strain of SARS-CoV appeared in 2002 in a small city in the Guangdong Province of China (population of around 7.2 million) on the border with Hong Kong where a farmer became ill with a severe respiratory infection. The virus spread around the world infecting 8,000 people (as far as we know) and was attributed to 774 deaths in 17 countries.

SARS-CoV came and went without a huge global concern given the overall numbers affected.

Fast forward to 2012: Saudi Arabia. The first case of MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) was reported. This spread around many countries and even reached the UK in 2015. Its official name is MERS-CoV. Since its discovery, it has infected around 2,494 people (laboratory-confirmed cases) and 858 reported deaths over 27 countries. Again, no global crisis because of such low numbers.

Now jump forward to late 2019 and back to China. This time an outbreak in the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei Province, Wuhan (probably from a meat market). The first example of the current mutation of the virus, SARS-CoV-2. Let’s dive in and look at why this strain of Coronavirus is causing worldwide chaos when SARS and MERS did not.

Lots of people say that flu is a huge global killer, so what’s the big deal about Coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation estimates the global deaths from seasonal flu at a minimum of 290,000 annually,

This is clearly a big number. So why the panic around Coronavirus? As we will see, for various reasons, left unchecked, the science around this new disease is that it would kill far more people than the flu. Why is this?

First up, It’s not about how many people die from it. It’s about how many catch it and survive!

In the case of SARS, there were 774 deaths out of 8,000 infected. This is a mortality rate of 9.7%.

Turning to MERS, there were 858 deaths out of 2,494 deaths, a staggering mortality rate of 35%! That means that if 100 people catch it, 35 will die.

Initially, the data suggests that this new strain of Coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, has a mortality rate of between 2-4%. On the face of it, the new virus doesn’t sound like a big deal.

However, this ignores the likely number of people infected worldwide. 2% of 1,000 would be a minor public health issue. However SARS-COV-2 is incredibly infectious and without massive interventions, many millions will be infected and 2% of millions is a huge loss of human life.

The Infection Rate

In order to understand why SARS-CoV-2 is so infectious, we need to understand something called the infection rate, calculate it for this virus and then work out how many people could potentially contract the illness and thus work out how many could possibly die.

The infection rate is how many people can a single person infect if they have the illness. We call this the R0 (R nought) number or reproduction number.
For example, flu has an R0 1.3.

So for each person that has the flu, they will pass that on to another 1.3 persons. Then they, in turn, will pass that on to another 1.3 people. And on it goes.

To add some context, measles has an R0 between 12-18 depending on various factors. So measles is incredibly infectious which is why public health authorities are so concerned to ensure close to 100% of the population are vaccinated. Without mass vaccination, millions would die from measles each year.

So with this data can we predict how many will catch this new virus and how many may die?

Well, no, not quite. There is something else we have to factor in and that’s the incubation time.

Incubation Time

Incubation time determines how many people will get sick over what timeframe. The flu has an incubation period of just a few days. And you may not show any symptoms over those few days but are still passing the virus on.

In just a few days the flu can infect many people. However, you know you have it sooner and can isolate so as not to infect others. In fact, most of us are too ill to want to go out once we have the symptoms. So we often stop spreading it as widely, at that stage, because we naturally travel less through the community.

So, in the case of viruses with long incubation periods, the longer the period we can infect other people. In the case of viruses where some or a large proportion of those infected have no symptoms during the incubation period, the more people we unknowingly infect.

Putting it all Together

We can now understand why SARS-CoV-2 is posing a worldwide pandemic and an unprecedented public health emergency not seen since the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic which killed an estimated 20-50 million people globally.

This new variant of SARS-CoV has an R0 of 2-2.5, has an incubation period between 1-14 days and, particularly in young people can be completely symptomless.

So can we now see how a) it will infect more people, b) they won’t know they are infected until they have had the virus for a while.

The combination of these factors means that if societies do not take extreme measures to socially isolate citizens, the virus will spread extremely rapidly and widely. Public Health England and other reputable medical sources estimate infection rates where such measures are not taken of approximately 80%

Even if the estimated death rate for SARS-CoV-2 of 2-4% is exaggerated – let’s apply an overall death rate of 1% – this would mean around 54 million of the UK population would be infected and around 540,000 would die. Taking the lower of the 2-4% range, over a million people would perish in the UK.

The idea that SARS-CoV-2 is just like the flu is dangerously wrong. This virus is a very dangerous beast and requires the huge and urgent international response it has generated.

How does the SARS-CoV virus work?

This virus can’t walk and it most certainly can’t fly. What’s more, it can only use those little crown projections coming out of it to bond to very specific cells. It can’t just bond to any old cell in your body.

It’s a respiratory tract infection. It can only bind to those special cells.

How does the SARS-CoV virus get into our body?

Usually, you put it there! Viruses are very intelligently adaptable. They have been on this planet longer than we have. They need to reproduce and then get out to find new hosts. Not just new host cells within the first animal they find: if they infect too many cells that the animal will die taking the virus along with it. Somehow they have to find a way to get out of this host animal and into another one. It’s incredibly difficult to infect another species, so it needs to find lots of the same species of animal in one place.

With this in mind, viruses tend to infect areas where they can easily get in but also get out. It’s no coincidence that Norovirus makes you expel all your bodily contents from both orifices of your digestive system! Its evolutionary capability is to reach as far and wide as possible.

The same mechanism drives coughing and sneezing when we have the flu. This enables the virus to reach other potential hosts.

On the other hand, when the virus leaves the body, it is under threat. It can’t live for very long outside the body. So it needs to find a new host before it dies. If the environmental factors are right, some viruses can live outside a host for many days. SARS-CoV 2 mostly relies on you coughing out large droplets of water to carry it and give it some temporary accommodation. Depending on what it lands on, its survival is a matter of hours or several days.

Direct contact can allow the virus to be passed from one person to another. The closer the contact, the more likely. Kissing is a virus’ best and easiest route. But the most likely route is usually your hands. That’s where the tyres meet the tarmac, so to speak. It’s how we interact with our surroundings.

An infected person touches another person or a hard surface and the virus waits for you to touch your face to facilitate migration into its new host animal – YOU!

What happens once we become infected by SARS-CoV?

Once inside your body, the virus binds to cells that have similar receptors to itself.

This is what’s called an enveloped virus – it has a special fat layer around the outside. This helps protect it between host cells but it also looks like a protein that should not be attacked by the immune system. Initially anyway. The virus is not of human origin so our immune system doesn’t recognise it. The infected cell is then fooled into accepting the virus.

This is where the virus gets to work. It has found a new host and the new cells are healthy. So the virus starts to hijack the cell. The virus then uses the cell’s factory to start printing out millions of copies of itself. But it has to hide these new copies so they don’t get attacked. This is another vulnerable stage for the virus. It uses our cells to coat the new copies, to hide them and releases them in search of new hosts. The virus ruthlessly keeps printing copies until it kills the host cell that it’s hijacked. It hopes that the new copies have infected new cells and thus the cycle continues.

As more and more cells are destroyed in the production of new viruses, the system begins to break down. So, in the case of a respiratory tract infection, lung cells. Obviously, fewer functioning lung cells means reduced functionality of the lungs.

In the case of SARS-CoV 2, the evidence suggests that this is the most likely cause of death. Those with existing reduced lung function, like the elderly or those with lung diseases, are at the most risk. But any underlying health condition that reduces your body’s ability to fight infections, increases the risk.

But it’s not all bad. The clock is ticking for the virus. As it kills more cells, our immune system will be enlightened to that and start to react. Actively looking for and killing new viruses that are released from damaged host cells. Now it’s the battle of the fittest. This is why those who are young, fit or healthy have strong immune systems and their systems are best able to fight the virus and kill it off. Those people either have no symptoms or mild or moderate symptoms. They will not need medical treatment although drinking lots of fluid and taking paracetamol can be used to reduce headaches and aching limbs. Those who are less fit, older, with less strong immune systems will experience much more serious symptoms and may need to be hospitalised.

Symptoms of SARS-CoV-2

The reports of symptoms are far and wide. Ranging from no symptoms at all, all the way up to death.

However, the 2 most common symptoms are:

• a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
• a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

The only way to know if you really have SARS-CoV 2 is by testing.

The UK is currently only testing hospital admissions that are displaying the common symptoms. There is no test available at the moment for people who have already contracted the illness but recovered. And until we have one it’s very difficult to accurately calculate the mortality rate, infection rate and incubation period. It may be that many more have had this virus than first thought, which would significantly reduce the mortality rate. The UK Government has announced that it is very close to the release of mass self-testing to see whether individuals have had the illness because the test will detect whether they have developed antibodies (prior to last December, no human had had the virus so no-one was immune).

I think I have Covid-19 – what should I do?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service: NHS 111 Service

DO NOT go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

What can I do to prevent getting Covid-19?

At the moment, there is no vaccine or anti-viral drug for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Once you are infected and develop Covid-19 all you can do is alleviate symptoms. So if you have a fever, for example, try to reduce it.
Government advice is changing daily with daily bulletins, updates and advice.
But as with any virus, we can take certain basic precautions.

Hand Washing is Your Best Weapon

Soap and water will remove the virus. Alcohol hand sanitiser can damage the fatty shell and make the virus more vulnerable. Washing robs much of the natural oils from our skin causing it to dry out. Dry skin is incredibly difficult to clean, so moisturiser is just as important as soap! After washing, try to moisturise to keep your skin hydrated and make it easier to clean.

Should I wear a face mask?

Surgical face masks won’t stop you contracting the virus. The mask is to stop the healthcare worker coughing onto their vulnerable patients. Evidence has shown that face masks can increase the risk as they get wet (remember this virus needs those water droplets) and human behaviour. Those not accustomed to wearing them touch their face more frequently than they would normally have done. Although if you have the virus you can prevent others from contracting it by using a mask or covering your face when coughing or sneezing.

Social Distancing

I’ve already mentioned how water droplets can’t travel far. So social distancing is another great weapon to combat the increased spread of the virus.
The droplets from coughing and sneezing can reach up to 2 meters from the infected host. So maintaining at least that distance in an open space should prevent infection.

Isolate Yourself

Stay at home as much as you can. Only leave for essential items or to help someone who is vulnerable and cannot care for themselves. And remember that you can be infected and spread this virus with little or no symptoms.
Understand the R0 factor and incubation period as I discussed earlier.
If one member of your household contracts it, the chances are the rest will.

Symptoms usually last for 5-7 days. But in those where they have been complications, it can take several weeks to recover.

What About Herd Immunity?

So if most of us will be ok, then why not just go get it?

Herd immunity does work. But it works much more safely if we can vaccinate rather than take the gamble people will survive the illness. It’s estimated about 20% of those that contract this virus will require hospitalisation. With about a quarter of those which will require Intensive Care.

In number terms, it is estimated that instead of 540,000 plus dying if nothing is done, using herd immunity and then protecting the vulnerable would reduce the number of deaths by around half to 250,000.

This is why the UK Government has introduced a significant lockdown of the country. The experts have estimated that if the UK population follows the guidelines strictly, the number of overall deaths could be substantially limited, possibly as low as around 25,000.

So what is the difference between the herd immunity model and the lockdown model?

Whilst our healthcare system is currently coping, we are only in the very early stage of the epidemic in the UK at the moment.

If the growth of those catching the virus is not strongly controlled by changing the population’s exposure to each other over the cycle of the virus until there is a vaccine available (estimated at 1 year to 18 months) or effective anti-viral medication (period unknown), the health service will rapidly become overwhelmed in terms of human resources, beds, oxygen, ventilators and personal protection equipment. Many, many thousands of people will needlessly die both from the virus and also from other illnesses which the health system will not be able to treat.

Herd immunity involves allowing 80% of the population to carry on with business as usual whilst the most vulnerable are in lockdown. However, this will mean that too many people will catch the virus and get ill at the same time. Around 20% of those catching it will become seriously ill and the health service will rapidly become overwhelmed.

Hence the new model: everyone apart from essential workers are placed into periods of home lockdown. This is designed to ensure that the virus spreads in as controlled and limited way as possible so that over the medium term the health services can cope and the maximum number of lives can be saved.

If most people recover after 7 days, then our beds should clear relatively quickly and will be ready for the next wave. It would be easier to deal with many small waves than one big one. Any good sailor will tell you that.
Each country has to deal with this in a different way. Individual demographics (some cultures have more people living in a single homestead), social demographics (elderly populations are more vulnerable), transport systems (better transport the larger the infection rate). I could go on. But the variables will make timing and tactics very different from country to country.

When will this end?

The truth is, we don’t know. What we do know about viruses is that they die off either by lack of hosts (because they are dead or too far away to infect so the virus naturally dies) or by having antibodies against the virus in our immune system via vaccination or surviving the virus.

But even then this could change seasonally and our antibodies may only offer short term protection like the flu.

The better question perhaps is how will this end? Here our answer is driven by what we know about the virus as summarised above. If through lockdown, the spread can be reversed, if the reversal is maintained eventually the population will be virus-free. How does the spread reverse: the answer is the R0 becomes less than 1. We know that uncontrolled the SARS-CoV-2 has an R0 of 2.3 meaning one person will on average infect 2.3 other people. If we successfully self-isolate, the R0 will drop. In a strange hypothetical world where every person the entire world self-isolated for six weeks, the R0 would eventually hit 0 i.e. no-one is infecting anyone else!

In the real world, the likelihood of the virus dying out in the human population is highly remote because different countries are imposing different degrees of lockdown. Thailand is an example of a country which has closed its borders, internal curfews, etc. It has had 1,045 cases and 4 deaths in an overall population of around 69 million. It is of course much closer to the original epicentre of the illness, China, than the UK which has a population of around 67.7 million, 9,529 cases and 465 deaths. The UK’s policy has shifted from a more liberal herd immunity approach initially to a much greater degree of lockdown in the last week.

We must bear in mind that European countries, a group of liberal democracies, will be balancing restrictions against the constraints on these actions in free societies. Even within Europe, the UK is more permissive than, say, Italy and Spain.

Bottom line, given different approaches, the virus will not disappear anytime soon. So the virus will not be totally defeated for many years to come. The threat it poses can be substantially reduced if we all follow the UK Government’s directions and, we hope, many of these restrictions can be reduced and subsequently totally lifted once vaccines and anti-viral medications are in place within the next year to 18 months.

Wishing you all well. Stay home, stay safe.

Mark Waterfield

Infection Control Lead for Safe and Sound

Posted in CARICOM, Climate/Weather, COVID-19, Environment, Featured, Health, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

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CARICOM mounts Election Observation Mission for St. Kitts and Nevis General Elections

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)

At the invitation of the Government of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has fielded a CARICOM Election Observation Mission to monitor the General Elections which will be held in that country on Friday, June 5, 2020.

The three-member Mission will be headed by Mr. Gasper Jean Baptiste, Chief Elections Officer of Saint Lucia, who has served as a member of CARICOM Election Observation Missions to some other CARICOM Member States.   The other members of the Mission are:

  •    H.E. Mr. Arley Gill (National of Grenada); and
  •    Mr. Chester Arlington Humphrey (National of Grenada).

The CARICOM Election Observation Mission proposes to meet with the electoral officials, leaders of political parties and other stakeholders of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, and will monitor the voting process including the opening of the poll, the casting of votes, the closing of the poll and the counting of the ballots.

The members of the Observation Mission arrived in St. Kitts and Nevis on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, and will depart on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

The Election Observation Mission will issue a Preliminary Statement based on its observations and findings.  A Report on the General Elections will be subsequently prepared and submitted to the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community. For CARICOM, election observation serves as a platform to support existing democratic traditions within the Caribbean Community as part of its wider policy of supporting democracy and good governance. In this regard, at the request of the Government of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the CARICOM Secretariat conducted virtual training in election observation for a group of local election observers.

Posted in CARICOM, Elections, International, Local, News, Politics0 Comments

SKB-Labour-WhatsApp-Image-2020-05-27-at-8.32.45-PM

ZIZ St. Kitts Government Radio Station under fire from Opposition Political Party – Labour

With just over a week to go to general elections in St. Kitts, the St. Kitts-Nevis opposition Labour Party has sued the Government and the Radio Station, ZIZ.

Elections are due on June 5, 2020.

Posted in CARICOM, Elections, Featured, Labour, Local, News, OECS, Politics, Regional0 Comments

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CARICOM Observer Team for Guyana Elections Recount

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley

Statement by the Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Observer Team for the recount of Guyana’s Regional and General Elections will arrive in Guyana on Friday, May 1.

The three-member team will be led by Miss Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and includes Mr. John Jarvis, Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission and Mr. Sylvester King, Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Ms. Barrow-Giles was a member of the High-Level Team which came to Guyana last March to participate in a scheduled recount which had to be aborted. The other members of that Team are unavailable for the present mission. Both Mr. Jarvis and Mr. King participated in the CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission for the Elections held on 2 March 2020.

The Community thanks the Government of Canada for the generous support it has provided to CARICOM for this initiative.

The Community calls on all concerned to ensure a credible and transparent recount process in order to provide legitimacy to any government, which would be sworn in as a result. This process must be completed without further delay.

30 April 2020

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Elections, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

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COVID-19 hits Montserrat

Contribution, Part 104 – 4/2020

After BA Flight 2157 on Tuesday, March 10, COVID-19 is here.  How can we cope?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 22, 2020 –  On Tuesday, March 17, the Government of Montserrat called a press conference, scheduled for 5:00 pm. During the conference, Hon. Minister of Education, Mr. Charles Kirnon, announced that we have a confirmed case of COVID-19 here in Montserrat. This person had flown into Montserrat the previous Tuesday on British Airways, Flight 2157, along with the first confirmed case for Antigua and as one of the  “eighty-plus” traveling to Montserrat announced on Saturday, March 14th by Hon Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell. 

The Covid-19 virus on the attack. In an infection, the virus binds to cell surfaces, allowing penetration. The cell is then hijacked to replicate and distribute further copies of the virus (Cr: Australian Pharmacist & US CDC)

(NB: The number traveling here on BA 2157 was later revised to 104, without explanation. For a week, these exposed travelers – and likely others exposed overseas and locally – were freely circulating in our community. By St Patrick’s Day, only 88 of these had been reached by authorities trying to manage the epidemic. Officials asked the others to contact them. Where, also, if we add to March 10, 14 days for incubation we can see that March 24 on will be a key time to see if a surge of further cases will emerge here. Hopefully, not.)

Immediately, such developments underscored just how ill-advised it had been to proceed with the St Patrick’s festival “as usual,” despite warnings and pleas by Lawyer Jean Kelsick and others. To date, no clear explanation for this decision has been given.

And no, it was not simply “a matter of time” before the pandemic reached our shores.

For, by proceeding with “business as usual” for St Patrick’s, we brought here perhaps 2,500 people [a 50% jump in our population], many coming from countries where the epidemic had already broken out of containment and was spreading rapidly. Obviously, too, passenger screening measures here, in Antigua and in the UK failed.  So, now, we must prepare to try to manage a pandemic with our temporary hospital, lack of equipment and inadequate staff numbers.

Then, on Friday, March 20, His Excellency, Governor Andrew Pierce announced in the name of the UK FCO, that British Nationals were to expedite their return to the UK. This hints that the sort of travel bans and restrictions already headlined for the USA and other countries may likely impact the UK; where perhaps 7,000 volcano crisis-displaced Montserratians live.

How can we cope?

For one, we must recognise that we face a pandemic spread by a highly contagious and deadly virus that (on estimates of death rate being suggested by experts) likely will kill 1 – 3+ percent of those who catch it; it thus seems to be over ten times as deadly as the common yearly influenza. Where the aged are particularly vulnerable, the disease is highly contagious during its a-symptomatic incubation stage of up to 2 – 3+ weeks, and it seems that deaths on average happen 17 days after onset of symptoms. Those who recover – which takes longer on average – may suffer permanently diminished lung functionality.

Also, the epidemic models suggest that if it is unchecked, over the course of several months to about a year, it can infect 20 – 70+ percent of a population, with perhaps 50 – 80% of cases being mild or even asymptomatic.

Obviously, such a disease can easily overwhelm health care (and especially critical care) facilities, equipment and staff in advanced countries, much less in a country with a temporary hospital that is struggling to recover from a volcano crisis. It is vital, that we find a way to flatten out and diminish the spike of new cases if we are to prevent overloading of our health care facilities; which can trigger the much higher death rates we are seeing in Italy and saw in Wuhan, China.

That means, “social distancing” is key.

That is, we need to break the transmission cycle for the disease. A good approach has been suggested by Dr. Sanjay Gupta: assume you have the disease and now try to prevent passing it on to others. Hand washing, stopping from touching your face and surfaces others will contact, sanitising surfaces, keeping six feet away from others (so particles from our noses and mouths will settle towards the ground), avoiding groups, only going to where one must go, etc.

It may even be necessary to lock down our community for several weeks to break the spreading cycle, isolating and treating cases that emerge in the interim.

Then, after that, we will have to be far more vigilant about border protection and social distancing until the global surge in cases dies away. Unfortunately, pools of the virus will remain and its rapid mutation rate may well mean that we face further global surges. As a comparison, the 1918 “Spanish Flu” came in two to three waves, with the deadliest strain being in wave 2.

Is there any good news?

Yes. Credible initial reports suggest that a cocktail of [Hydroxy-]Chloroquine and  “Z-Pack” [ i.e. azithromycin, an antibiotic for bronchitis] has been especially effective in suppressing the viral infection, in initial studies in France, Australia and China. Bayer, who discovered Chloroquine [an anti-Malaria drug] in 1934, has donated three million chloroquine phosphate tablets to the USA and testing is on the fast track. Apparently, many doctors are already prescribing it. Other drugs are being investigated, blood plasma from survivors has been used to provide antibodies and various initiatives are underway to develop a vaccine. However, vaccines will take time.

What about economic fallout and bailouts?

The USA, the UK, and other countries are unveiling pandemic economy stimulus packages meant to restore confidence and to provide businesses and households with some emergency cash. This is because a breakdown of economic activity and investor confidence could easily trigger a recession or worse. Indeed, some have suggested a possible 24% decline in GDP, great depression-level numbers; but that is likely to be extreme. Worse for the Caribbean, Tourism is our only globally competitive industry; pandemic triggered drop-offs in tourism arrivals will obviously hit us hard.

For Montserrat, that means that we will have to go hat-in-hand to the UK, appealing for further help under the force of the UN Charter, Article 73 which the UK acknowledges to be legally binding. It is under this, that 60% of our recurrent budget and up to 90% of our capital budget has been funded over the years.  (Yes, this also means that those who have dismissed the UN Charter and the linked C-24 visit last December did Montserrat no favours.)

We will also need to see if we can expedite and expand the £30 million CIPREG capital programme negotiated by the former Donaldson Romeo-led PDM administration. For example, the case for a purpose-built, world-class standard local hospital has been strengthened and we obviously urgently need a significant upgrade for equipment, training and staffing our health care services.

More subtly, we may notice how digitally based work from home, distance education, teleconferencing, telemedicine, e-cash and more have been given a step-change boost through the pandemic.

This points to the relevance and urgency of the Fibre Optic Cable project that is also part of the CIPREG project. Where, already, ducting is being installed and the survey has been done.

Thus, too, we must bend every effort to expedite fibre optics and digitalisation, as the global digital sector just got a huge push. Onward, we have to seriously upgrade education and training for our people to be ready for digital productivity in the coming, even more digitalised world economy.

So, yes, there is hope.

Yes, we have to face and fix our stumbles.

Yes, we are to have faith and confidence and we must always pray, but we must also be well-informed, prudent and we must act soundly in good time.

END

Posted in CARICOM, Columns, COVID-19, De Ole Dawg, Health, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

Be bold on time, not without understanding and compassion

Be bold on time, not without understanding and compassion

April 3, 2020

It was disappointing to learn after the Government (GoM) had announced that they had put in place means of checking that passengers would under some kind of screening that there was no real method in place for so doing, and this not taking place at John Osborne Airport for persons arriving there.

What is still not clear or known as no one is answering questions thereabout, how the manner of tracing which is what they are to help trace or prevent the potential transmission of the virus is being conducted.

Of course, there is no way to know, had that been done properly, someone, anyone could still have arrived in Montserrat with the COVID-19 infection. But GoM must have it on their conscience; except there are persons who believe from up close and some actions, and reactions there is much insensitivity among them.

One cannot be too careful making observations, suggestions, express an opinion and some do not get offended. That is a recipe for mismanagement and abuse of one kind or another.

This pandemic which is unlike any developed from volcanic hazards, hurricane and earthquake disasters and related certainly like in those instances, requires a national response. It is therefore discouraging to learn as well as it instructs, that the government is not like it is referred to being the nine elected members, and two ex officio members who must either abstain or vote with the ‘executive’.

These thoughts let’s end by recalling a concurring statement made by His Excellency Governor Pearce at a press conference that there are (often) brighter people outside of the public service, who are all that make up the various committees dealing with this situation. Nothing questionable about that which goes for experts too. The question is not so sensitive. Why not widen the grouping dropping out some who are only there because they are a senior officer or even a department head whose expertise have nothing to do with the matter at hand.

Anyone familiar with the letter (as there has been several) from Attorney Jean Kelsick as far back as January with suggestions in particular regarding the St. Patrick’s Festival regarding its postponement or cancellation, cannot go away without feeling empathy for the thousands who reportedly increased the population by 50% not participating in the highlights (which were canceled of course) and being told, go back home right away from the March 14. They too should be refunded some of their passage monies.

The Premier in one of his statements did use the word ‘bold’ about the restrictions they have instigated. It was later used when the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr. Carissa Etienne, urges Caribbean leaders to “be bold and compassionate”. Why is it, no one can give their understanding of the phrase?

Why allow former Premier Romeo to accuse, government to include the Governor, for hesitating instead of taking the radical action required to slow contagion? To provide adequate emergency health care, as well as measures for mitigating the inevitable social and economic impact of this new threat? And to call on them to act swiftly to save lives and “to minimize economic fallout from COVID-19 containment supported by personal responsibility combined with proactive, and where needed, aggressive public policy”?

The Governor may have been very influenced by extraneous matters though serious and important to completely not understand that money is very essential to maximising health care and saving lives.

Those out here, as from being on the inside, do their part when they urge pleasingly or unpleasingly, begging or demanding that every effort is made to source and obtain the funds and things necessary, timely and well in advance as necessary. Proactivity is essential and that has a lot to do with educating the people who may not be well endowed to understand actions that are ‘bold, and without compassion.

Posted in CARICOM, Editorial, Health, International, Local, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

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World Bank Approves US$11.9 Million Additional Financing for Telecommunications Development in the Eastern Caribbean

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2020 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today, additional financing of US$11.9 million for the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) underway in Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

This financing will allow the completion of the regional broadband network as well as training activities, business incubation loans, and implementation support. The program has established undersea cables connecting the three countries and is rolling out terrestrial fiber optics. More than half of the office buildings in all three islands have been connected to the internet and over half of schools are connected in two of the countries. With this additional financing, schools in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will be connected to internet services. Key results include increasing access to regional broadband networks and helping develop an Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-enabled services industry. 

“Development of digital technology is essential for local, national, regional, and global connectivity and it is especially important for the small states in the Eastern Caribbean,” said Tahseen Sayed, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean. “Affordable and good quality high-speed internet is critical and plays a central role in connecting people, creating efficiency in public and private services, enhancing productivity and increasing countries’ capabilities to manage natural disasters and crises.”

The program was developed as part of the Caribbean region ICT strategy—the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Digital Agenda 2025—which was designed to address the challenges of a fragmented market and uneven distribution of resources in this sector.

The ongoing CARCIP program provided financing in the amount of US$25 million. Of the US$11.9 million approved today, US$3 million will go to Grenada, US$4.1 million to Saint Lucia, and US$4.8 million to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. These additional funds will cover financing gaps, including cost increases in infrastructure construction and training activities.

Contacts:

In Washington, Hannah McDonald-Moniz, (202) 250-4498, hmcdonaldmoniz@worldbank.org

For more information, please visit: www.worldbank.org/caribbean
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/worldbank 
Twitter: @WBCaribbean 
YouTube: www.youtube.com/worldbank   

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Features, International, News, OECS, Regional, TOURISM0 Comments

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