Editor’s note: The following updates are excerpts from news releases from the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the region’s tourism development agency, and respective Tourism agencies.
Cayman Islands COVID-19 testing update
Dr. John Lee, the Cayman Island’s chief medical officer, announced Thursday that results from 494 COVID-19 tests completed over the last 24 hours, all returned negative, according to a statement from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Lee said it is important to note, especially for regionally interested neighbors, that the Cayman Islands has had no new positive COVID-19 cases requiring clinical management since April 27.
“All the positive cases reported since then have been discovered through our wider screening program and these people have not presented with any symptoms,” he said.
Dominica to assist jobless residents
The Dominica government says it has spent an estimated $22 million in Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollars in direct costs so far in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic even as it outlined new initiatives to assist nationals, some of whom have lost jobs as a result of the virus.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, in a nationwide broadcast last week said his administration has had to utilize the funds — even at a time when, for obvious reasons, “our revenues are plummeting” — to deal with the COVID-19 that had infected 16 persons on the island. To date, Dominica has not recorded any deaths from the coronavirus.
Skerrit said that the loss of revenue as a result of the pandemic, which forced a lockdown of the island, must be viewed in the context of a country that is still recovering from the utter devastation caused by Hurricane Maria less than three years ago.
“Notwithstanding the negative impact of the pandemic on Government’s fiscal situation, the need to address the economic challenges currently being encountered by many of our residents and businesses has not been ignored,” he said, adding that with the assistance of the St. Kitts-based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), his administration has engaged the financial institutions to provide relief to customers from payment of loans, mortgages and credit card debts.
“In most instances customers have the option to defer payments for a period of up to six months and I am advised that many people are taking advantage of that option,” he said.
The government also has extended the deadline for the filing of personal and corporate income tax returns, and the payment of income tax was extended by three months for companies with financial year ending in January 2020 to June 2020.
Skerrit said the government is committing to spend an additional EC$10 million under the Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) of the Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience Project, providing support to crop and livestock farmers.
“To assist with meeting the cost of farm labor and other direct costs, cash grants have been approved to approximately 2,500 individual crop farmers,” he said. “The amount of these grants is based on the size of the farmer’s holding. Farmers with small holdings will receive grants of EC$700, medium holdings EC$1,400 and large holdings EC$2,800. This intervention is valued at EC$3.5 million.”
The prime minister said he is confident that the interventions will help lower the food import bill, reduce household expenditure, improve dietary quality, and increase sustainable employment.
Further, he said, government also is putting plans and policies in place to stimulate other sectors of the economy, especially in the construction sector, which will positively impact employment.
St. Lucia to welcome visitors next month
St. Lucia Tourism Authority announced a phased approach to reopening the island’s tourism sector “in a responsible fashion,” beginning June 4, 2020.
According to a news release, Dominic Fedee, Tourism minister said that the employed strategy “protects nationals and visitors from the threat of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) through advance testing; daily screening and monitoring of staff and visitors; sanitization at various points throughout the travelers’ journey; and new social distancing protocols.”
“Our new protocols have been carefully crafted and will build confidence among travelers and our citizens,” Fedee said.
“The Government of Saint Lucia remains resolved to protect both lives and livelihoods as it jumpstarts its economy.”
According to the statement, Phase One of the reopening includes welcoming international flights from the U.S. only at the larger of its two airports — Hewanorra International Airport.
“In anticipation of the first visitors, some 1,500 hotel rooms in Saint Lucia are being prepared to open in early June, pending completion of a new COVID-19 certification process,” the release stated.
Fedee noted that in order to protect St. Lucia residents and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, the island closed its borders to international markets on March 23.
Since then, he said, St. Lucia has followed safety protocols recommended by the World Health Organization and the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad, collaborated with St. Lucia’s Department of Health and Wellness, observed shelter-in-place guidelines, and created a COVID-19 Task Force to plan for a responsible reopening.
To date, St. Lucia has recorded 18 cases of COVID-19, and all individuals have fully recovered. No active cases are currently being investigated, according to the news release.
Fedee said the phased approach to reopening, which continues through July 31, resulted from national COVID-19 Task Force consultations with on-island industry stakeholders.
The new procedures span from the hotel booking process to the airport arrival and hotel experience in Saint Lucia, the article said.
The protocols include:
• Visitors are required to present certified proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of boarding their flight.
• Upon arrival in Saint Lucia, all travelers must continue the use of face masks and physical distancing.
• Travelers will be subject to screening and temperature checks by port health authorities.
Fedee said that protocols are being established for taxis, to provide safety precautions and separate the driver from guests as an added security measure.
He added that in order to ensure St. Lucia remains a safe and responsible destination, the government is developing a COVID-19 Certificate for hotels.
“Hotels must meet a dozen or more specific criteria for sanitization, social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols before they will be permitted to open to guests. These measures will enhance protection of visitors, staff and St. Lucia nationals,” Fedee said.
Phase Two of the island’s “new responsible approach to tourism will begin on Aug. 1. Details will be released at a later date,” Fedee said.
For more information on current measures visit www.stlucia.org/covid-19.
Montserrat continues phased re-opening
After two months of managing COVID-19 on the island, the number of active cases in Montserrat is down to zero. As of Friday, there are currently no suspected cases and the number of persons in quarantine has reduced to two, according to a statement from the CTO.
“The government and other stakeholders will work together to develop protocols for businesses, the workplace, schools and all other institutions. These will be geared towards safeguarding the population, further reducing the threat of the virus, while we continue to reopen the island for business,” Premier Joseph E. Farrell said relative to the island’s status.
On May 7, the island began a phased reopening of the economy with the understanding that the Cabinet would assess each phase, guided by the information available from the Ministry of Health.
As of midnight Friday the following amendments to the existing restrictions went into effect:
• A nighttime curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
• No weekend lockdown.
• No restrictions on the times persons are allowed to exercise outdoors.
• All retail stores will be allowed to re-open.
• Restaurants and cook shops will be allowed to re-open, but for takeouts only Resumption of all construction activities.
• Visits to Margetson Memorial Home and the Golden Years Home are open to immediate family members only.
According to the statement, all businesses allowed to operate must be able to show that they can adhere to the social distancing requirements. Additionally, they must provide evidence that they have a plan for regularly disinfecting furnishings, tools and equipment that are frequently touched or handled by workers and customers, as well as providing them with hand sanitizers. Gatherings remain restricted to four persons, preferably with members of the same family or household.
The following closures remain in effect:
• Air and sea borders.
• Schools (The Ministry of Education will provide updates to teachers, parents and students on plans to re-open and the facilitation of exams).
• Hairdressers and Barbershops.
“Our stakeholders continue to cope during what is an extremely difficult time for everyone on the island. Nonetheless, thanks to their collective responsible approach to following the restrictions and protocols, we’ve been able to see the positive results,” Warren Solomon, the director of Tourism said. “I’m pleased that the Tourism Division will now be able to resume its upgrade projects of the island’s hiking trails and beach facilities and we will also be launching a series of training initiatives for our tourism partners via video conferencing.”