Alicia Nicholls

Declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11, 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has now spread to well over 100 countries worldwide, including most Caribbean countries. As of March 22, Belize and St. Kitts & Nevis are the only English-speaking Caribbean countries to have not yet reported a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Globally, the number of confirmed cases is over 300,000. In the Caribbean, the number is over 300 (if the Dominican Republic and Cuba are included). Detailed COVID-19 statistics for each English-speaking Caribbean country as at March 21, may be found here.

While the number of cases and deaths in the Caribbean currently remain low compared to other regions, the economic fall-out is far more daunting. Tourism associations across the region have reported booking cancellations, a reduction in flight bookings and the real possibility of some accommodations having to close their doors temporarily. Similarly, many businesses across the region have begun to feel the economic pinch from declining patronage and event cancellations.

This article takes a brief look at some of the various policy responses instituted by Caribbean governments so far to mitigate the human and economic impact of the highly contagious virus.

Caribbean Government Policy Responses

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across Caribbean shores, regional governments have stepped up their responses which vary according to the severity of the outbreak in the country concerned.

Based on media reports and government public announcements, below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the major COVID-19 policy measures implemented by Caribbean governments to date:

A. Containment Policies

  1. Mandatory quarantining of all travellers (both nationals and foreigners) coming from selected countries – mainly the US and Europe, China, South Korea, and Iran e.g: Barbados
  2. Temporary restrictions of entry of foreign nationals from selected countries e.g: many Caribbean countries
  3. Restrictions on non-essential travel by nationals to certain affected countries e.g: many Caribbean countries
  4. Suspension of international flights or flights from certain countries e.g: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago
  5. Refusal of docking for cruise ships with cases of respiratory illness onboard e.g: most Caribbean countries now
  6. Temporary closures of land borders, and most or all ports of entry (except for citizens or permanent residents returning home – they will be placed in quarantine on arrival) e.g: Belize, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago
  7. Restrictions on mass events, public gatherings and public events over a certain number of persons, e.g: in Barbados the number is now restricted to 25 persons
  8. Closure of beaches e.g: Tobago has closed beaches to control public gatherings
  9. Mandatory closures of bars, restaurants, casinos e.g: Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago
  10. Restrictions on public visits at hospitals, polyclinics and geriatric hospitals e.g: Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago
  11. Temporary closures of schools and other educational institutions e.g: several Caribbean countries
  12. Declaration of state of emergency e.g: Haiti, Dominican Republic
  13. Imposition of curfew with penalties for non-compliance e.g: The Bahamas, Haiti

B. Communication Policies

  1. Establishing dedicated COVID-19 hotlines e.g: several Caribbean countries
  2. Regular press briefings on the status of the outbreak in the country and measures being taken e.g: Barbados
  3. Public service announcements/campaigns e.g: many Caribbean governments are running public service announcements on respiratory hygiene and social distancing

C. Social and Economic Policies

  1. Stimulus package e.g: the Government of Barbados, which is currently undergoing an IMF-sanctioned adjustment programme, announced a BBD $20 million stimulus package to assist people and businesses impacted by the outbreak. The Jamaica government has also outlined a JAM $25 billion fiscal stimulus package.
  2. Tapping into disaster funds e.g: Cayman Islands has tapped into its National Disaster Fund to set aside $3 million for its COVID-19 response.
  3. Anti-price gouging policies e.g: Barbados has instituted a COVID-19 basket of goods
  4. Additional benefits for affected workers, such as extending the period of non-certified sick leave and increasing the duration period of unemployment benefits e.g: Barbados
  5. Providing assistance to affected families and small businesses e.g: increasing welfare cheques and recapitalising funds for assisting businesses
  6. Enlisting private sector and civil society support
  7. Reinstatement of standpipes e.g: Dominica
  8. Efforts to stimulate local food production e.g: The British Virgin Islands has set aside $2 Million to stimulate local food production and assist fisherfolk under its stimulus package “The Rapid Response Fishing and Farming Production Programme”.

D. Providing external assistance to other affected countries

Cuba has reportedly sent 144 health care workers to assist affected countries.

This article will be updated periodically .

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant. You can also read more of her commentaries at www.caribbeantradelaw.com and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may be affiliated from time to time.