Report on CARICOM + OECS (04/24/2020)

1. What is Your Interest in the Project?

I am from the Caribbean (Jamaica, to be specific), and while many family members reside in the United States, Canada and the UK, I still have relatives, friends, and colleagues living and working throughout the Caribbean. I had responded to an earlier post from Marcelo on the COVID-19 situation there. He asked me if I wanted to continue monitoring the English-speaking Caribbean region, and I agreed.

2. What Have You Noticed Since the First Week You Began Monitoring Until Now?

Many Caribbean states have adopted curfews, states of emergencies, and lockdowns. Some curfews are nightly, and in some territories such as St. Kitts and Nevis, lockdowns have been for twenty-four hours. The St. Kitts and Nevis Government is moving to nightly curfews, instead of the total lockdown.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has made available US$140 million as economic relief to the CDB’s Borrowing Member Countries. Governments are also implementing their own relief efforts. Jamaica, for example, recently passed the J$10 billion COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Welfare Plan. I also found this International Monetary Fund Policy Responses to COVID-19 Tracker to be useful for researching Caribbean economic policies. The IMF is forecasting a 5.2% economic contraction for the Latin American/Caribbean region in 2020.

With respect to elections, at least one CARICOM member state (Guyana), held elections during COVID-19 (March 2nd). Ballot counting was suspended due to a court-ordered injunction on March 17th, and CARICOM had to withdraw its independent High-Level mission. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is tracking the impact of COVID-19 on elections.

3. What Situations Are You Monitoring the Most?

I am mainly monitoring responses from CARICOM (Caribbean Community), and the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States), since these groups are the main bodies that can provide us with a more comprehensive overview on the region. For the latest statistics on COVID-19 in the Caribbean, see the CARICOM website. Food security in the region is a main concern and member states have drafted the Regional Response Framework Document. The aim is to encourage member states to prepare national food security plans and collaborate with the private sector regarding supply chains.

CARICOM Chair, and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley called for a Special Emergency Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government on April 15th. This Press Release provides a summary of the meeting.

Caribbean economies also rely heavily on tourism, (See Caribbean Tourism Organization site for statistics and travel advisories) and I will be monitoring that closely, as well as the healthcare capacity of governments in the region.

4. Is There Anything Else You Would like to Add?

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is leading the regional health response to COVID-19, based on the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) mandate from CARICOM. CARPHA has raised the alert level for the Caribbean to “Very High” due to imported cases to the Caribbean. CARPHA has the only CARICOM Reference lab accredited to test for COVID-19. It has been issuing Situation Reports. The most recent Situation Report No. 34, for the week of April 17th is available here.

The University of the West Indies has also formed a Task Force which will provide a uniform Caribbean response.

By Yasmin Morais

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