By Caribbean News Global
TORONTO, Canada – While the majority of Caribbean islands are timing and not prepared to make hard decisions relative to the coronavirus out of fear of the unknown impact on the tourism industry, trade, and investments; yet in most cases unprepared for a major health catastrophe, there are exceptions in an attempt to interrupt the spread of the coronavirus.
The rise in new coronavirus cases outside China now constitutes a global health emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee declared on Thursday, calling on all countries to take urgent measures to contain the respiratory disease.
Trinidad and Tobago
Health minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced Thursday that people looking to enter Trinidad and Tobago having come from China will be obligated to layover for 14 days before being allowed entry locally.
The embassy of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in Beijing, China, is in contact with two (2) nationals of Trinidad and Tobago who are in Hubei Province, following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (nCOV) in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province. The embassy has confirmed that there are two (2) nationals of Trinidad and Tobago in Hubei Province, one in Wuhan and another in Qianjiang.
According to the records of the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, most of the 120 nationals of Trinidad and Tobago who are in China at this time are in Beijing, Hong Kong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Chongqing and eighteen (18) other cities, including Wuhan and Qianjiang.
Antigua and Barbuda
On Friday, January 31, 2020, a press release issued by the government of Antigua and Barbuda stated:
“The government of Antigua and Barbuda has decided to close its borders, effective immediately, to travellers from the People’s Republic of China. The decision has been taken in light of the declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has infected more than 8,200 people across the world, is a global health emergency.
Prime minister Gaston Browne noted that “a global health emergency is also defined by the WHO as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ and as ‘an extraordinary event’ that is ‘serious.
“In this connection”, the prime minister said, “Antigua and Barbuda, as small island communities, has to mitigate against any threat to health of its citizens and residents.
At the same time, the Antigua and Barbuda leader joined the Emergency Committee of the WHO in praising the leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of Chinese government, “for taking very strong measures and comprehensive multi-sectoral approaches to prevent further spread of the virus”.
“The concern shown by China for the rest of the world is highly commendable”, prime minister Browne said.
He concluded “My government will monitor developments related to the coronavirus and will continue to strengthen its capacity to respond to any eventuality related to this novel virus.
We also wish to assure the families of Antigua and Barbuda students, now in China, that we will remain in contact with them and take every possible step to ensure their well-being.”
The government has confirmed that a chartered flight from China with eight people on-board arrived during the early hours of Tuesday, January 28.
Health minister Nikolas Steele said: “All flights, private or commercial, are monitored and screened… and I can assure you that the flight was met by health care workers and everybody on board that flight was screened.”
“Grenada is a member of the Pan American Health Organization and WHO, and we have active participation,” Steele said, regarding the risk and possibility of transmission through ports of entry.
On Friday, January 31, 2020, a National Health Security meeting anticipated that a multidisciplinary approach will be taken, to ensure the necessary coordination to managing this new threat; while continuing to work closely with the regional agencies in the management of the threat of coronavirus.
The department continues the following:
- The education and sensitization of health workers, non- health stakeholders and the general public. The communication and health education will be heightened in the coming week as our teams will be participating in various media programs;
- The enhancement of the Port Health Services. The department of health and wellness met with senior officials at Saint Lucia Air and Sea Port Authority (SLASPA) with a plan to strengthen surveillance and port health services. Training has also been conducted at the two main airports for the relevant port health workers;
- The active surveillance at high-risk institutions (ports of entry, hotels);
- The prompt recognition strategies– high index of surveillance for travellers with recent history or visits to China and other affected countries;
- Ensuring the isolation of ill cases in designated hospital isolation room/ward;
- Establishing diagnostic capacity through the Caribbean Public Health Agency;
- Facilitate contact tracing and quarantine of suspected cases;
- The promotion of general hygiene measures and infection control for border agencies, health care personnel, and the general public.
The government of The Bahamas has implemented a travel ban restricting all travel from China to The Bahamas,” chief medical officer Dr Pearl McMillan said during a press conference, Thursday, January 30.
“Effective immediately, any non-resident, regardless of nationality, who has visited China in the last 20 days will be denied entry into the country. All residents returning to The Bahamas will be strictly quarantined and monitored for the development of symptoms for the duration of the incubation period for a maximum of 14 days.”
Minister of health Dr Duane Sands also revealed that so far two Bahamians who returned are already being quarantined at an undisclosed location.
There are 160 Bahamian residents presently in China, Sands said the government will not be evacuating those individuals.
“We have been in constant communication with not just students but other Bahamian nationals and they are being advised to let us know when they are planning on arriving; and once they arrive – no matter what happens along the way in terms of the screening that they go through, typically they will travel through Canada, the United States, Great Britain or Cuba — once they arrive in The Bahamas, starting today, every person who has been in mainland China will be quarantined,” Sands said.
Coronavirus economic impact
Meanwhile, there are concerns about preparedness and capacity to deal with the coronavirus outbreak in island states, exposed to a mono-economic model of tourism, lies the global risks for the implications on economic activity in China, global investment ramifications, international travel and trade with direct impact on the Caribbean and Latin America.
“If we see this outbreak hurting economic activity in China, the countries suffering first and most quickly from the economic impacts in Latin America will be Brazil, Chile, and Peru, as they export huge volumes of commodities to China,” Luciano Rostagno, Latin America chief strategist at Banco Mizuho do Brasil, told BNamericas.
Pointed to fears of what the impacts of lower activity in China could be, “Obviously it’s an issue that concerns us due to the drop in the price of copper. China is our main buyer of copper and what happens regarding the perception of economic growth and the noise around the coronavirus and a possible impact on economic activity is evidently felt in the markets,” Chilean finance minister Ignacio Briones was reported as saying by local media.
Suggesting that the SARS outbreak in 2003 could be a useful template, but this time the economic impacts in Latin America are likely to be more strongly felt, due to the expansion of China’s influence in the region.
“Since the SARS outbreak, however, the size of the Chinese economy has doubled, Chinese outbound travel has increased six-fold, and the weight of China’s external demand in total global exports has gone up from below four percent to over 11 percent today,” the team of economists at BNP Paribas wrote in a research report for clients.
“Finally, EM [emerging markets] growth is softer than it was in 2003. This time we are only emerging from a deceleration. We still expect a recovery in EM activity to happen this year, but believe the coronavirus outbreak may delay the recovery,” it added.
Meanwhile, US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, said in an interview on Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak could bring back jobs to America: “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to [the] US, probably some to Mexico as well,” Ross said. He then likened the outbreak to other global health crises including the “African swine virus” and the 2003 Sars epidemic as “another risk factor that people need to take into account”.
“The fact is, it does give business yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain… So I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America,” he said.
The US Commerce Department echoed his comments: “As secretary Ross made clear the first step is to bring the virus under control and help the victims of this disease.”
“It is also important to consider the ramifications of doing business with a country that has a long history of covering up real risks to its own people and the rest of the world,” a spokesperson said.
Simon Baptist from the Economist Intelligence Unit in Singapore told the BBC that the comments struck him as “weird”.
“Companies are not going to make serious and long-term investment decisions on the basis of an outbreak of a disease that might last three to six months,” he said. “In fact, the US is going to be a net loser because despite everything, China is still a big market for the US, so if the Chinese economy slows significantly that’s going to have a blowback effect on the US as well.”
Eventually, the Caribbean and Latin America are in the middle and left to manoeuvre preparedness and response plan, safety and economic impact heavy reliance on external factors.