The government of Haiti has announced the imposition of a new nightly curfew and other restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus as the French-speaking nation still awaits the long-promised delivery of the 756,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses arranged through a United Nations program.
Though organised over a month ago, Haiti does not yet have any vaccines to offer its more than 11 million people as COVID-19 cases increase, raising concerns among health experts that the well-being of Haitians is being pushed aside as violence and political instability across the country deepen.
“We are all working hard with the government of Haiti, the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders so that Haiti can receive vaccines as soon as possible,” said Dr. Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies for the Pan American Health Organization, the WHO’s Americas branch.
The free doses were scheduled to arrive in May at the latest, but delays are expected because Haiti missed a deadline and the key Indian manufacturer is now prioritizing an increase in domestic demand.
Haiti is among 10 countries in the Americas that will receive vaccines at no cost through COVAX, an initiative to provide COVID-19 inoculations to countries that would otherwise have difficulty getting them. The nation of more than 11 million already struggled to administer routine vaccines and provide basic health care before the pandemic.
For this reason, all outdoor activity will be banned from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. under the decree issued by President Jovenel Moise, who was in Ecuador on Monday for the inauguration of that country’s new president.
The decree also makes the use of face masks mandatory for anyone out in public, while temperature checks and handwashing stations are required for all public or private buildings, such as banks, schools, hospitals and markets. Social distancing in public places is set at nearly 5 feet.
The president also ordered public institutions to reduce staff on duty by 50 percent, while he encouraged that other employees work from home.
According to official government statistics, Haiti has had 13,906 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began in March 2020 and 288 deaths related to COVID-19. But a recent surge in daily cases of contagion has prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency.