Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne said that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has wrecked the economies of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping, the United States announced it is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world to one billion doses.
Brown, who is also chairman of the 15-member grouping told the virtual Global COVID-19 Summit organized by the White House that, in some Caribbean countries, more than 20 percent of Gross Domestic product (GDP) has been lost; unemployment has risen; poverty has expanded; and demands on the state have multiplied, even as revenues have declined steeply.
He told the summit that recovering from the economic effects of COVID-19 will be protracted, because hard-won economic progress has been greatly reversed.
Browne noted that thousands of people have been infected and thousands have died, many who had not yet enjoyed life and others who had much to contribute.
He said the disease must be stopped and nations must act together to build a stronger, better and more prosperous would.
The prime minister said CARICOM governments are committed to a global drive to inoculate 70 percent of the world’s population by September 2022, “including in our own countries.”
Barbados parliament has given the green light for the island to a transition to a republic.
Parliament voted by a 25-0 margin to amend the Constitution (Amendment Bill) to bring the Republic into force by Nov. 30.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley told legislators her administration was not rushing into republicanism and that talks regarding the transition began more than two decades ago.
She described as a “simple but functional bill,” the constitutional amendment would revoke the Barbados Order of 1966 as an Order in Council of her Majesty while keeping complete the Barbados constitution
The amendment makes provision for a Barbadian to be a head of state, change the oath of allegiance from her Majesty to now the State of Barbados and to ensure continuity in all of the other aspects of the functioning of the state of Barbados through offices, appointments and commissions.
The government said the change would bring to an end a British head of state of Barbados ever since English settlers landed on the island in 1625 and claimed the island for King James.
Prime Minister Mottley maintained the time had come for the transition, as Barbados needed to be in complete control of all its affairs.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has said that nearly 8,000 confirmed new coronavirus (COVID-19) have been reported in Caribbean countries over the last three weeks of September.
It said that the figure is a 52 percent increase over the 4,231 cases recorded in August in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
PAHO said the increase of cases is largely noted in persons who are unvaccinated and that the new reported cases also showed a proportion of the cases, 15-25 percent to be children under the age of 18 years old driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
It said in the last seven days in September, the increase in the number of cases is led by St. Vincent and the Grenadines, (282) new cases followed by St. Lucia (872) new cases and Antigua and Barbuda (74.2) percent.
“We are observing a situation of community transmission with limited additional capacity to respond and a risk of health services becoming overwhelmed,” said Dr. Yitades Gebre, PAHO representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
Kidnappers have released two persons, including journalist Frantzie Simeon, who had been abducted recently.
The authorities confirmed that Simeon, of National Television of Haiti, was released three days after her abduction, but gave no details as to whether or not a ransom had been paid for the release of the journalist.
The authorities also confirmed that former Gabel band singer, Jean Junior Marcelus, better known as “Money G”, who was kidnapped a month ago, had also been released.
They also gave no information as to whether or not a ransom had been paid.
But the police are still searching for Mackenley Mogene, an employee of the Directorate General of the Budget and his brother, who were kidnapped recently at the Turgean gas station by unidentified individuals.
Several countries, including the United States and Canada, have issued travel advisories urging their citizens not to travel to the country as political instability, crime, especially kidnappings, have increased.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says government is moving to make travel with Jamaica’s vaccination card more seamless by establishing a system for verifying the validity of the vaccination status of Jamaicans.
The prime minister’s announcement comes following concerns being raised that the United Kingdom’s government does not recognize the vaccination status of Jamaicans who travel to that country, based on new travel guidelines established.
“If you need to travel and you arrive in the foreign country and you present your card, we will develop the appropriate system to ensure that there is the ability to validate that card so your destination of travel will be able to verify on the Jamaican data base that your vaccination is accurate and appropriate and valid,” he said.
Holness sought to assure Jamaicans that the country’s vaccination program meets the highest standard, noting that the vaccines administered to more than 700,000 Jamaicans inoculated so far, are safe.
The St. Vincent and Grenadines government has mandated that teachers and other school staff members be vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said “on the basis of the advice which we have received from the medical authorities, those on the Health Services Subcommittee of NEMO (National Emergency Organization), it was decided to put in these regulations to include teachers as frontline workers.”
He said this would also apply to “those who are working at the schools, the cooks and everybody who comes in touch with children and students.”
He said there were 12 deaths for a long time and just over a week there were eight, almost one a day.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded 21 deaths and 3,508 positive cases linked to the virus since the first case was reported in March last year.
Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert presented a TT$52 Billion budget based on an oil price of US$65 a barrel and US$3.75 per MMbtu gas price.
The budget has a substantial deficit of $9 billion.
Total revenue is projected to be TT$43.33 billion and total expenditure $52.429 billion.
The budget for the fiscal year 2021/2022 is titled “Resilient in the Face of a Global pandemic” were tax measures which include property tax, the hiring of 100 accountants for the Board of Inland Revenue to clamp down on tax evaders, VAT off some basic food items, fuel cash card for the needy, move to settle wage negotiations, zero taxes, no VAT (Value Added Tax), no VAT, duties on therapy items, and more tax breaks for new home owners.
Imbert also announced the removal of all custom duties, motor vehicle tax and value added tax on the importation of battery powered electric vehicles of two years from Jan. 1, 2022.
— Compiled by Azad Ali