Caribbean Roundup

FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 vaccinations in Stevenage
Boxes of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are pictured in a refrigerator at a NHS mass coronavirus vaccination centre at Robertson House in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Britain on Jan. 11, 2021.
Joe Giddens/Pool via REUTERS//File

BARBADOS

The Argentina government recently donated 30,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to help in the fight against the pandemic.
The shipment arrived at the Brantley Adams International Airport and was accepted by Health and Wellness Minister Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Boston, deputy Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Anthony Best and director of the Drug Service Maryam Hinds.
The donation was coordinated by the Argentine White Helmets, a humanitarian institution with an active presence in the region.
Aside from the 30,000 doses recieved by Barbados, donations of AstraZeneca vaccines have also been sent to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Dominica.
According to Best, the Ministry of Health and Wellness was grateful for the vaccines, which he said would boost the efforts of the National Vaccination Program  for Covid-19.
“We really relied on the goodwill of countries to assist small island developing states, like Barbados,” he said.
CARIBBEAN
The Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat was recently among the countries and international organizations invited by the United States administration to the International Partners Meeting on Haiti help by video conference.
The meeting sought to gain a sense of what support could be provided by the international community to help Haiti, which at present is mired in a multifaceted crisis.
The Secretariat, Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Colin Granderson, informed of the areas where Caricom heads of government had previously expressed to the Haitian government their willingness to provide assistance.
These include good offices to bring the contending parties together to help end the political impasse, and capacity-building, in particular for the electoral process, justice and law enforcement and public administration.
The importance of a long-term socio-economic development plan was also underlined.
During the meeting, representatives from the United States announced plans to provide Haiti with weapons and armed vehicles in an effort to counter the numerous challenges facing the French-speaking Caricom member state.
Haiti was represented at this meeting by Haitian Chancellor Jean Victor Geneus and the Ambassador of Haiti in Washington, Edmond Bocchit.
GUYANA
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed concern about the plight of indigenous Venezuelans in neighboring Guyana.
UNHCR’s Multi-Country Office Representative in Panama, Philippe Candler says more humanitarian presence and support from the international community is needed for the indigenous Venezuelan refugees in Guyana.
She noted that an estimated 24,500 refugees and migrants from Venezuela are living in Guyana, including some 2,500 indigenous Warao. Some have settled in hard-to-reach areas near the Venezuelan border and others around the towns  of Mabaruma and Port Kaituma.
Since early 2020, an estimated 250 Warao also found refugee in Anabisi in Northern Guyana.
According to UNHCR, these communities have limited access to services and the delivery of aid is impeded by remoteness, lack of transport infrastructure and distances.
It said assessment conducted in October and November show mounting needs, aggravated by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNHCR said most Warao people have only one  meal a day or less and most families do not have access to drinking water,  relying instead on rivers for drinking water, bathing and defecation, it said.
GRENADA
Grenada police said preliminary investigations into the discovery of seven bodies in a boat found drifting within the island’s maritime border last month may have been victims of human trafficking or smuggling.
Police Commissioner Ervin Martin said the police recovered or discovered seven corpses on that particular vessel, all of whom are male persons and two of whom are believed to be teenagers.
He said the vessel and the remains have been secured and are currently the  subject of an investigation.
Martin told a media that the incident may have been associated with a human trafficking or smuggling incident that  went horribly wrong.
The Commissioner said the situation requires international collaboration and  “we will be seeking the assistance of Interpol and other law enforcement agencies to support our investigation into this matter”.
The boat discovered in Grenadian water brings to seven the number of small fishing vessels found drifting with dead bodies in the Caribbean.
HAITI
Police are searching for gunmen who shot and killed seven passengers and injured several others on two buses last week.
The authorities said that the gunmen, who his themselves in houses, fired upon the public transport minibus on a road near Martisant, a communal section of the city of Port-au-Prince.
In the first instance, four passengers were shot and killed and four others injured, while in the second attack, a minibus carrying 18 passengers were shot, at killing three people including a woman, and four others injured.
The drivers said they were forced to seek refuge at the police station in Martisant with the surviving passengers.
JAMAICA
Jamaica has officially launched its digital coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination card, saying the internationally  accepted document, was developed in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) standards.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr. Christopher Tifton said it’s an important step in efforts to digitize the national  COVID-19 vaccination program.
The digital card, which will be made available in the Ministry’s website, features a quick response (QR) code to enable the validation of the information on the card and of the person’s vaccination status.
Dr. Tufton said the initiative forms part of ongoing efforts to enhance the vaccination program.
He said in light of new and emerging trends around vaccination screening, the development of the digital card is timely as it enables people to provide proof of vaccination, which is increasingly becoming a requirement in accessing and conducting transactions.
TRINIDAD
Public servants in Trinidad and Tobago who are employed at state agencies, including national security, will all be required to be vaccinated to go to work or they can choose to stay home without pay from the middle of this month.
This was the mandate given to public sector workers by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during a press conference recently at the Diplomatic Center in Port of Spain.
He had given the public service workers time off from December 24 to January 2 to allow them to get vaccinated.
Rowley stressed that because of the increasing number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as low vaccination numbers, the government had to intervene to encourage people to get vaccinated and increase the vaccination rate which has lingered in the mid-forties for weeks.
December 2021 was the deadliest month of the pandemic in T&T with 715 deaths recorded from December 1 and 31. This averaged out to be just under 23 deaths per day and 20, 538 confirmed positive cases, compared to November’s toll of 462 deaths and 14,032 total cases. This brings the number of Covid-19 related deaths since the pandemic in March 2020 to 2,870.
However , the trade unions representing workers in the various public sectors who are opposed to the new policy are preparing for a legal fight claiming it is mandatory.
AG Faris-al-Rawi says the government is not backing down and is prepared to take the legal battle all the way to the Privy Council in London.

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