KINGSTON, Jamaica – In the one month it took the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to completely spread across the Caribbean, several islands have successfully managed to contain the spread of the virus, while other islands are actively struggling.
As of March 28, the region surpassed the thousand-case threshold with close to 1,100 cases of the virus with approximately 40 deaths. The Dominican Republic has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 as 50% of the Caribbean’s cases have been reported on the island, roughly the size of Georgia.
The Dominican Republic confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 1 and the precautionary measures which followed were slowly implemented. Over two weeks after the first confirmed case, tourists were still being allowed to travel to the island. It wasn’t until March 19 that President Danilo Medina announced the closure of the island’s sea and air borders, but by then the virus has already began spreading throughout communities. Along with the slow government response, lawlessness of locals has contributed to the spread of the virus. The Dominican Republic has been under a national curfew since March 20, since which, more than 10,000 residents have been detained for ignoring the curfew.
Other islands including Jamaica, Haiti and Puerto Rico have so far successfully managed to keep the number of cases relatively low. Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton has been lauded by several organizations and notable figures including the Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the US Ambassador to Jamaica, Donald Tapia for the island’s response to the virus. Jamaica, which now has some 30-odd COVID-19 cases including one death, has implemented several measures to contain the spread all while keeping residents informed with daily press conferences, COVID-19 websites, COVID-19 comic books for children, among other measures.
As for regional travel restrictions, nearly all Caribbean islands have closed their borders to incoming passenger travel and encouraged the larger Caribbean diaspora to refrain from attempting to travel to the region until further notice.
The Caribbean Turns To Cuba For Help
While Cuba now has over 100 cases of COVID-19, the Caribbean has turned to the island for answers and assistance. Since the spread of the virus, Cuba health care “brigades” have been invited to assist medical workers in Jamaica, Grenada, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica. Barbados also recently announced a medical agreement with Cuba which will see the arrival of medical doctors and usage of related drugs.
The specialized health teams which have included doctors, nurses and even therapists all adept in handling critical situations. Outside of the Caribbean, Cubans were also sent to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Suriname, and in Lombardy, Italy, one of the regions hit hardest by the coronavirus.
But while Cuba, which has one of the world’s leading medical industries, springs into action to help the world, the United States has criticized the island’s seemingly great efforts. “Cuba offers its international medical missions to those afflicted with #COVID-19 only to make up the money it lost when countries stopped participating in the abusive program,” tweeted an account for the US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, last week. “Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVID- 19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses,” the message said.
Ironically, the United States is now at the epicenter of the virus, overtaking Italy and China, with over 120,000 confirmed cases.