Ambassadors Express Cautious Optimism as Caribbean States Reopen

Ambassadors Express Cautious Optimism as Caribbean States Reopen - Ambassador Yolanda Smith - Grenada

Ambassador Yolanda Smith – Grenada

MASSACHUSETTS – The Authentic Caribbean Foundation (ACF) presented part 2 of its Caribbean COVID-19 Update discussion forum: Reopening of Caribbean States, which featured Ambassadors of several Caribbean Countries and other community leaders at a  Zoom Town Hall on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 4pm.

The session lasting approximately 3 1/2 hours was streamed live on various platforms including the Authen Caribe’s Facebook Page as well as its Instagram Page, Authentic Foundation. The recorded session is now available on its YouTube channel ACF.

Ambassadors – Representatives Panel

  • H.E. Ronald Sanders, Antigua & Barbuda;
  • H.E.  Audrey Marks, Jamaica (Represented by, Mrs. Lisa Bryant-Smart-Deputy Consul General, Jamaica Consulate, NY);
  • H.E. Sidney Collie, Bahamas;
  • H.E.  Noel Lynch, Barbados;
  • H.E. Daniel Gutierez Belize (Represented by Ms. Laura Frampton, Deputy Chief of Mission);
  • H.E. Yolanda Smith, Grenada;
  • H.E.  Riyad Insanally,  Guyana, (Represented by Mrs. Lesley Dowridge-Collins, Minister- Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission);
  • H.E. Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne; Saint Kitts & Nevis;
  • H.E.  Anton Edmunds, Saint Lucia;
  • H.E.  Lou-Anne Gaylene Gilchrist, Saint Vincent & Grenadines
  • Minister Joselin Croes, Aruba;
  • Dr. Claire Nelson, President, Institute of Caribbean Studies, Washington DC;
  • Andrew Sharpe, Chairman, Authentic Caribbean Foundation Inc., Massachusetts

The Ambassadors and Ambassador Representatives all reported on the state of affairs in their various countries as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Economic fallout was by far the greatest concern which influenced the decisions taken to reopen borders across many of these states, particularly because tourism is a major contributor to the GDP of many of these countries.

The welfare of citizens was also of paramount concern across the region with all of the reports highlighting public health responses; relief initiatives for citizens, especially vulnerable populations (the elderly and disabled) with many providing cash grants and care packages; moratorium on mortgages and protection against matters such as evictions in some jurisdictions.

Medium and small businesses in many of the countries received due considerations for favorable loans, working capital, (some) standard payroll deductions and taxes.

Aruba

Minister Joselin Croes of Aruba spoke of the assistance her country received from Canada and the Netherlands which included loans and care packages for residents. The country will open its borders to tourists from the United States on July 10.

Antigua and Barbuda

Ambassador Ronald Sanders of Antigua and Barbuda spoke of the lack of funding or support from the international community and bemoaned the impact that the United States withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO) would have on the regional body, Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), which provides assistance  to  regional states. Despite that, he reiterated that the Caribbean had come out of a difficult period before and this time will be no different.

The Bahamas

Ambassador Sidney Collie of The Bahamas noted that tourism was 43.3 percent of the island’s GDP and that most of their tourists (81 percent) originate from the USA; Canada and Europe follow. As such they are paying keen attention to how other countries are opening their borders; how the airlines are operating and how tourists are responding to travel protocols. The borders were reopened July 1. He believes leaders from across the Caribbean should be lauded for the measures taken to safeguard their citizens.

Barbados

Ambassador Noel Lynch, Barbados stated that theirs is a tourism dependent economy and as a result Barbados will open its borders to the USA July 25. The island repatriated citizens stranded in the USA during the pandemic by way of two recent airplane charters. The Government also implemented tax schemes to offer relief to persons and businesses and Banks initiated working capital and loan accommodations to businesses.

Jamaica

For Jamaica whose report was given by Mrs. Lisa Bryant Smart, Consul, Consulate General of Jamaica to NY, Jamaica has employed an innovative strategy in its reopening of its borders to tourists through the creation of a tourism resilient corridor which determines the areas tourists are allowed to stay. To facilitate and support this program hundreds of tourism workers have been trained in special hospitality protocols.

The Island also implemented an extensive and successful contact tracing program to help control the spread of the virus as well as a comprehensive care package for individuals and businesses.

Ambassador Anton Edmunds - St.Lucia

Ambassador Anton Edmunds – St.Lucia

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia opened its borders on July 9 with flights from the USA with Canada and UK to follow according to Ambassador Anton Edmunds. He added that the island is looking at the protocols and lessons learnt by fellow Caribbean states as they formulate their strategy.

Saint Lucia will also implement a travel bubble which gives inter-regional travelers exemptions from testing protocols. He lamented the state of healthcare and medical facilities across the Caribbean which was brought into sharp focus during COVID-19 and the anticipated medical needs especially against a population with comorbidities such as diabetes. He reiterated that the region must build and prepare the health care sector so that we are more resilient in the future.

 

Saint Vincent & Grenadines

Ambassador Lou-Anne Gaylene Gilchrist, Saint Vincent & Grenadines reported that the island did not go into lockdown. The Island had 29 cases with no deaths and has had no new cases since June 28. All are recovered. The country is slowly returning to normal. A flight of returning residents is expected July 11 from the United States.

Additionally, she noted the extended drought the island is now facing which would necessitate additional support to the island’s economic pillars.

Ambassadors To Discuss Re-Opening Of Caribbean States At Zoom Town Hall - H.E. Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne; Saint Kitts & Nevis

H.E. Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne; Saint Kitts & Nevis

Saint Kitts & Nevis

Ambassador Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne Saint Kitts & Nevis spoke about resilience in tourism and public health. The island had 15 positive cases and recovery and is now COVID-19 free. The borders will remain closed until further notice.

She spoke of the island’s special initiatives through agriculture which was highly successful and reiterated that the region needs to consider agriculture and its role in making the region self-sufficient.

She lauded the Diaspora for proving invaluable assistance to students in the USA and expressed concern for the impact of the recent USCIS rule that foreign students will have to return to their home countries if university classes move online because of the pandemic.

Grenada

Ambassador Yolanda Smith of Grenada reported that Grenada had 23 cases.  All are recovered. Grenada has been COVID-19 free as at June 18. The borders remain closed to international commercial traffic.

The Island is under preparation for opening with training of the tourism industry staff in transportation, accommodation and food and beverage.

Guyana

Ambassador Riyad Insanally of Guyana, was represented by Mrs. Lesley Dowridge-Collins, Minister- Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission. She advised that Guyana’s planned reopening was postponed from July 1 to August 1 due to a sharp increase in cases. The country continues to monitor the situation at home and abroad as they prepare for opening.

Belize

Ambassador Daniel Gutierez of Belize (represented by Ms. Laura Frampton, Deputy Chief of Mission) spoke of the social programs and financial relief provided to citizens. A health App is being developed for utilization of all travelers to the island when the Airport opens August 15. Since Belize  has land borders, particular care had to be taken.

Of concern is the impending hurricane season and access to financial relief from international agencies. She believes that International Financial Institutions (IFI’s) should be looking to offer funding at lower rates to the region if we are to be resilient.

Click below to Watch Caribbean COVID-19 Update Reopening

Caribbean COVID-19 Update Reopening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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