Caribbean braces for more Covid-19 cases
The Caribbean, as well as Bermuda, is facing a new reality of social distancing and restrictions on movement as they battle their fears during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Dominican Republic has been hit the hardest of the 28 countries in the region with 1,109 cases, 1,053 active, and 51 deaths and Cuba has suffered 186 cases, with 172 active, and six deaths.
Cases have rocketed in the Dominican Republic since its first Covid-19 death on March 16 and the government declared a state of emergency the next day.
A nationwide curfew from 8pm to 6am was announced on March 20 and then extended to 5pm to 6am on March 26 as the number of cases and deaths continued to climb.
There have been 85 cases, 81 active, and three deaths in Trinidad and Tobago.
Jamaica, the fourth-most populous country in the Caribbean, with about three million people, has 36 cases, 33 active, and one death.
Bermuda, in comparison, has 32 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and no deaths.
Jamaica has introduced stringent measures, including an islandwide curfew from today until April 8 as the government attempts to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Judy Williams, a Bermudian who has lived in Jamaica for three years, said that “anxiety, fear and panic” had started to grip the people of her adopted home. Ms Williams, who worked at the Black Horse Tavern in St David’s for 34 years, said: “It’s a very stressful time and it seems as though everybody is really scared.
“But I think the government are doing a pretty good job in trying to contain the virus with their measures.
“Where I live, in Davis Town, Saint Ann Parish, you hardly see anybody.
“Nobody will ever be out of food, though, because the people here are so generous. It’s like the way St David’s used to be.”
Ms Williams, the mother of former Bermuda cricketer Lionel Cann, added: “I think about home every day. I make sure I’m keeping up on the news there.”
Bermudian Sarah Graham has lived in the British Virgin Islands for six years, where there are three active cases.
A 24-hour curfew was imposed last Friday and will last until tomorrow morning.
Ms Graham said the island knew the drill for lockdown only too well after it was hammered by Category 5 Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm more than two years ago,
She added: “The general mood is that people are taking it very seriously and I think people are welcoming the lockdown that started last Thursday.
“Watching the numbers creep up on our neighbouring islands like the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, it is disconcerting and does make you feel anxious.”
Ms Graham said: “It’s interesting because we went through a major catastrophe with Hurricane Irma when we were basically razed to the ground and had to build ourselves back up again.
“Stocking up with supplies and preparations feels a lot like the approach of a storm, only this time we get to keep our roofs and keep our water and power on.”
In the Cayman Islands, where there have been 12 cases and one death, a 68-year-old Italian visitor on a cruise ship, the whole country was placed under a round-the-clock curfew from last Wednesday until Saturday morning. Schools have been shut for more than two weeks.
The borders have also been closed for the past ten days and there is an almost total closure of non-essential businesses.
James Whittaker, a former Bermuda Sun reporter, who now works for the Cayman Compass newspaper, said the drastic measures appeared to have the support of most of the island.
He said: “Our number of cases might not sound like a lot, but there is a fear that if we get significant local transmission, the virus could spread very quickly through the island and put hundreds of lives at risk.
“The round-the-clock curfew was lifted on Saturday morning and replaced with a more flexible arrangement, that allows supermarkets and pharmacies and a handful of other core businesses, to open in daylight hours.
Mr Whittaker said: “Residents are allowed out of their homes for one trip a day to any of those business and for 90 minutes of exercise in groups of two or less. The night time curfew remains in place.”
Mr Whittaker added that it was “quite surreal” to see streets empty of cars, beaches free of tourists and shops boarded up.
He added: “Cayman is a small community where everyone knows everyone else and there is a real determination from the country as a whole that no one should die from thus virus.
“I think everyone is willing to hunker down for a week or two and hopefully come out the other side and for some normalcy to resume.”
Gemma Handy, a journalist and broadcaster in Antigua, said the government imposed a curfew at midnight on Saturday after repeated warnings for people to practice social distancing were ignored.
Antigua has reported seven Covid-19 cases so far, all of which are active.
Ms Handy added: “Across the nation, people do not appear to be taking social distancing requirements seriously and are still being seen gathering in small groups and talking closely.
“The severity of the situation does not seem to be sinking in.”
Ms Handy said that tests were still having to be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad and quarantine and isolation facilities were yet to open.
She said: “There is a lot of concern about whether the medical service here can cope.”
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