COVID-19 in the Caribbean: Some Numbers, Testing and “Opening Up”

Today (Thursday May 28) Jamaica thankfully had a fourth day without any new cases of COVID-19. We had five more recoveries, which means around half of our 569 total cases. As for testing, we have done a total of 11,460, with 33 results pending. We tested 201 samples in the last 24 hours – which seems like a low number to me. I got out my calculator and figure that just 0.4 per cent of our total population of 2.9 million Jamaicans has been tested. Does that seem like enough, and why have our testing numbers averaged around 200 or even lower sometimes in recent days?

I am a little confused as to how many people are actually in quarantine, after so many Jamaicans (over 1,000) have recently arrived on the island. The numbers in facility isolation, home isolation, and facility quarantine really don’t add up; but then, I was never very good at Math. I must be missing something. By the way, 28 deportees from the United States arrived today and have also been quarantined.

Resident Coordinator ad interim at the United Nations office in Jamaica Mariko Kagoshima (right) presents a cheque for US$1 million to Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, in support of Jamaica’s COVID-19 response. The funds will not only support our health sector, but also our most vulnerable families – including those on the PATH social support program with children with disabilities. (Photo: UN Jamaica)

Anyway, I thought I would take a look at what’s happening across the Caribbean in terms of COVID-19. Are things steadily improving overall? Are we past the worst, or is this just a lull before the storm of the much-feared “second wave”? What measures are now in place and what are the plans to “open up” societies and economies, especially with respect to travel and tourism? The Caribbean attracted 31.5 million visitors last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Tourism has been decimated by the virus across the region. According to Condé Nast magazine, “The region’s infection tally is currently less than half a percent of cases worldwide,” and the region will begin receiving travelers from the U.S. in June. But…is “June too soon?”

This is what I have gleaned. It may not be totally up to date, but here goes. I hope you will find it useful to compare numbers, etc.

CARICOM Chair, the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, was interviewed on BBC this week. She stressed that caution was key in reopening the Caribbean.

Note: some countries have NO active cases: Anguilla, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Barts, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands. So one would think that these will be the first to fully “open up,” all being well, in the very near future.

In fact, several countries are planning to open their borders in the next few weeks: Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Belize, Bonaire, Grenada, St. Lucia, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Some countries are not quite out of the woods yet: Bahamas, Bermuda, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti are among them.

How does Jamaica compare?

Anguilla: Has NO active cases, and 3 recovered cases. Dashboards are here. Easing up: Some COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on April 29, but ports are not yet open and meetings of more than 25 persons are still prohibited until May 31.

Antigua is expecting its first flight (AA from Miami) on June 4. (Photo: Getty Images)

Antigua & Barbuda: Has had 25 confirmed cases and 3 deaths. Its first case was on March 13. Easing up: Beaches reopened on weekends on May 16. Antigua will welcome its first flight from Miami (American Airlines) on June 4. Caribbean Airlines will fly in in mid-June and British Airways in July. Travelers will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.

Aruba: As of today, the island has NO active cases. Its total number of cases is 101, with three deaths. 2,091 tests have been done. There are 158 in quarantine. Easing up: Curfew ended last night. From June 1, Aruba will enter the 3rd phase of reopening the local economy, with dine-in restaurants, spas etc. opening. The Government has not yet decided on a date for opening its borders, but is working on travel protocols.

A closed beach in the Bahamas.

Bahamas (population 393,000): The islands have a total of 101 cases, with one new case today. It has had 46 recoveries and 11 deaths. Easing up: Today Parliament extended its State of Emergency until June 29. Varying somewhat from island to island, the Bahamas is generally moving towards Phase 3 of its COVID-19 response plan. Beaches will reopen on some islands on June 2. Churches will reopen for in-house worship on June 6. Fish and other vendors will be able to start up again in the next two weeks after sanitizing. There is a possible opening of borders in July.

Barbados (population 287,000 – Prime Minister Mia Mottley has expressed concern at their declining birth rate and aging population): The island has had NO new cases for the fifth consecutive day. It has had a total of 92 cases, with 76 recovered and 7 deaths. The island has tested 1.7 per cent of its population (compared to our 0.4 per cent). Health Minister Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic says they intend to continue ramping up testing. Easing up: Nightly curfew has been relaxed to 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (Monday to Thursday) but remains 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (Friday to Sunday). It has lifted its “alphabetical order” rules for essentials shopping and remaining retail stores and also dine-in restaurants, will reopen on Monday. Stand-alone bars remain closed. Beaches are now open from 5:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and national parks open – with social distancing to be observed and no picnics. Churches are now allowed to resume in-house worship, with 40 sq. ft. per worshipper. Government is considering opening borders.

Meanwhile, a cruise ship bringing more than 4,000 crew for repatriation to several countries via charter flights has arrived in Barbados and will remain until June 1.

Belize: Has had 18 confirmed cases, 16 of which have recovered, and 2 deaths. It has had no confirmed cases for over one month. Easing up: Churches can now hold services with a 10-person limit. Government aims to open borders by July 1, but no definite date has been announced.

Prime Minister of Bermuda, David Burt.

Bermuda (Population: 64,000): Has had 140 confirmed cases, 39 active cases, 92 recoveries and 9 deaths. 6,600 tests have been conducted. 47 cases and three deaths have been at care homes. Easing up: The island began Phase Two of its reopening on May 21, but social distancing rules in some areas are not being observed and the Prime Minister has announced “zero tolerance.”

Bonaire (plus Sint Eustatius and Saba): These Dutch-speaking islands have NO active cases. It has had 7 cases and no deaths. Easing up: The island will be opening its borders on June 15.

British Virgin Islands (population 30,000): Two days ago announced it has NO active cases. It has had only 8 cases and one death, in total. Nevertheless, restrictions have been tight. Easing up: Returning nationals will start to be received from June 2 to 15 and will be quarantined.

Construction workers get a temperature scan at a site in the Cayman Islands. (Photo: Cayman Compass)

Cayman IslandsRecorded NO new cases today. Overall cases total 140 (most have been asymptomatic), with 67 recoveries and one death. It has recorded 10,466 tests. Easing up: Construction and retail businesses will fully reopen next week, with certain conditions. Some further social restrictions may be lifted next week. Its first phase of reopening began on May 4. Ports and schools remain closed. (Interesting details in these links). The Government’s planned September 1 reopening of travel and tourism may not happen, the Prime Minister suggested this week. Very cautious!

Cuba: The island has 1,983 cases to date, with 1,734 recovered and 82 deaths. It currently has 165 active cases with four seriously ill, according to a daily press updateEasing up: Cuba will not reopen its borders before July.

Curaçao: Has 18 positive cases to date, with 14 recovered and 572 tested. There has been one death. It has a nightly curfew (12:00 midnight to 6:00 a.m.)  Easing up: The island lifted its “shelter-in-place” order on May 8, 2020, but social distancing protocols remain in effect when in public. Ports remain closed until further notice.

Dominica: Has had NO active cases since May 18 – its 16 recorded cases have all recovered. Easing up: Barber shops etc. have been reopened. Plans are for the gradual resumption of travel in July.

A beach in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic: Has the highest number of positive cases in the Caribbean: 15,264 cases and 468 deaths. Curfew hours are Monday to Saturday 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., and Sunday 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. until June 1. Bars, clubs etc. remain closed and public gatherings prohibited. A State of Emergency was declared on March 17 and remains in place. Easing up: An official date has not been confirmed for the opening of borders but there are suggestions it could be as early as mid-June.

Grenada: Has 23 confirmed cases to date, with 18 recovered and zero deaths. Easing up: The island is hoping to reopen its borders in June. It is the first Caribbean island to welcome yachts back last week under strict protocols.

Guadeloupe: Has had 161 cases and 14 deaths. There is a curfew in place. Easing up: There are outgoing flights to France twice weekly.

The Guyanese elections are as yet unresolved. 

Guyana: Has had 150 cases, with 67 recoveries and 11 deaths. They have tested 1,599. It has 72 active cases, including 2 who are seriously ill.  Easing up: The Government said this week there are no plans to “reopen fully” until the pandemic is under control. Citizens are reportedly not obeying social distancing rules. Government is considering a possible total lockdown when current emergency measures expire on June 3. And it is still struggling to resolve an electoral crisis that won’t go away.

Haiti: On May 25 the country became the first Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nation to record over 1,000 cases (total: 1,174), recording over 300 new cases in three days. It has 1,119 active cases. Haiti also received 30 deportees this week. Easing up: No plans for that.

Martinique:  Has had 197 cases to date, with 14 deaths.  Easing up: The island has regular flights to France, and has eased stay-at-home restrictions.

Montserrat: This British territory is almost COVID-free, having 11 cases and 10 recoveries. It has recorded one death. Easing up: The island remains “vigilant.”

Kindergartner Andres Vazquez works at a plastic table under a gazebo where his teacher gives a class at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down school buildings throughout the island, some children in Puerto Rico like Andres had been left out of school for nearly a month after an earthquake forced school closures earlier this year. —AP Photo/Carlos Giusti

Puerto RicoThe U.S. territory has had 3,189 cases and 127 deaths. There are still stay-at-home orders and curfews. The Government is currently testing in all nursing homes. Easing up: The island may be able to open its borders more easily for U.S. visitors, but not yet.

Saint Barthelemy (St. Barts): This French territory has reported no new infections over 27 days and confirmed cases remain at six with no deaths. It has opened for business.

Saint Kitts and Nevis: Has had 15 cases (all now recovered) and no deaths. It has tested 394. Easing up: The Government is concerned about a “second wave” and social distancing rules remain in place. The Government still holds daily COVID-19 briefings. There are plans to open the borders at some point. Note: General Elections are scheduled here for Friday, June 5.

Saint Lucia: The Government has decided to extend its State of Emergency by four months, until September 30. However, it has no active cases, with all 18 cases recovered and no deaths. Easing up: It is planning to reopen its tourism sectoron June 4.

Saint Martin: The French overseas territory has recorded 40 cases and three deaths. Travel restrictions remain both here and in the other half of the island, the Dutch Sint Maarten – at least for now.

Saint Vincent & Grenadines: Is in pretty good shape, with 18 cases and no deaths. It still has four active cases. However, 29 SVG nationals on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Vision of the Seas” currently docked in Kingstown have tested positive for the coronavirus, it was reported yesterday.

Sint Maarten: Has had 77 cases and 60 recoveries, with 15 deaths. However, it is “flattening the curve,” with only three active cases. It has tested 438. It’s not clear when it will be opening up.

In this archive photo, Suriname President Desire “Desi” Bouterse, right, arrives at a swearing-in ceremony for UNASUR, the regional grouping known as the Union of South American Nations. Miguel Gutiérrez EFE (Miami Herald)

Suriname: Has done better than its Guyanese neighbors, with 12 confirmed cases and one death to date. It is also preoccupied with general elections. The only active case now is a Brazilian illegal immigrant. Its borders remain closed.

Trinidad & Tobago: As of yesterday it has had NO new cases for over one monthIt has had a total of 116 confirmed cases, with 108 recoveries and 8 deaths. It has tested 3,091. It also has no patients in hospital. And it also has elections on the horizon.

Turks & Caicos Islands: Has had 12 positive cases, with one death. It has tested 129. There are 25 persons in quarantine, including two suspected cases. Easing up: All airports remain closed until at earliest June 1 and cruise ports until at least June 30.

U.S. Virgin Islands: Easing up: Flights to St. Thomas and St. Croix (American Airlines) are expected to begin on June 1.



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