By Jacqueline Charles, Jimena Tavel, and Nora Gámez Torres
As of June 8, there were more than 3.3 million cases reported in region of the Americas, more than any other region around the world.
“Unfortunately, many areas are reporting exponential rises in cases and deaths, and we are concerned by data showing that the virus surging in new places, places that had previously seen a limited number of cases,” Dr. Carrisa Etienne, the director of the World Health Organization’s Americas office, said during her weekly press briefing.
Etienne continued her call for redoubling efforts as she highlighted the rising counts in Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica, where Etienne said they are seeing increased transmission around the Nicaraguan border.
“In South America, the virus continues to spread aggressively in Brazil, Peru, and Chile. We’re also seeing in Venezuela that cases are now mounting faster than at any point during the country’s outbreak,” Etienne said. “In the Caribbean, cases are on the rise in Haiti, and after more than a month without a new case, Suriname reported a spike this past week.”
Etienne said while social distancing and stay-at-home-orders are challenging, they are necessary in the absence of a vaccine or more effective treatments.
“It is equally important for countries to test, treat, trace contacts, and isolate patients,” she added. “Without this combined approach, our efforts will have limited impact and we face the risk of a rebound in cases”.
Here is a snapshot of some of the steps that Latin America and Caribbean countries continue to take to fight the pandemic as of June 10:
Anguilla: There are currently no active cases. On June 5, health ministry announced protocol for repatriated citizens. Among the requirements: Mandatory testing for Covid-19 upon arrival in Anguilla and 14 days quarantine at a government-approved location.
All prohibitions on meetings of more than 25 persons at public and private gatherings, groups or activities were lifted as of June 1. The Public Health (Temporary Restrictions on Public Gatherings) Regulations, 2020 expired on May 31 and was not extended. The island has gone more than 65 days since it’s last confirmed COVID-19 case.
All three confirmed cases have now recovered. The government on May 30 extended the closure of all ports in Anguilla until June 30. Permission has now been given to allow fishing between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.
As of April 22, certain restrictions were relaxed by the government after extending its March 27 measures until May 12. Among the relaxed restrictions: government offices resumed day-to-day functioning; childcare facilities reopened and some non-essential business were allowed to resume. The island has announced a phased return to fishing beginning April 30th under certain conditions.
The British overseas territory became the final nation in the Americas on March 26 to confirm the coronavirus. The next day the government implemented a two-week restriction on the movement of people and public gatherings that was extended until April 21. Restrictions remain but with the aforementioned relaxed measures.
All seaports and airports, which were closed on March 20 for 14 days, remain closed. Schools, which were supposed to reopen on April 17 have had Easter break extended until May 8. The Ministry of Health & Social Development has also launched a new platform, www.beatcovid19.ai, to keep everyone updated on its response. A day prior to Anguilla’s March 26 COVID-19 confirmation of two positive cases, the British Virgin Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis separately confirmed positive cases of the virus. Previously, the government required all persons arriving in Anguilla who had traveled outside of the Caribbean region to be quarantined for 14 days on arrival. All nonessential travel for public officials was suspended. The government also had banned direct flights from Europe, including the United Kingdom; cruise ships with passengers who recently had visited Europe; and a 45-day ban on public and private large gatherings that are likely to involve visitors from overseas.
Antigua and Barbuda: V.C. Bird International Airport opened to commercial flights on June 1. Travelers will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival, or agree to testing. Antigua and Barbuda still has 25 confirmed cases and three deaths as of June 10.
A mandatory 24-hour curfew, went into effect on April 23 until 12:01 a.m. May 15. A daily curfew window from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. has been authorized by the State of Emergency. Curfew hours have been amended to 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. As of May 16, beaches reopened on weekends. Visitations are allowed from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.; tennis and swimming commenced on May 18.
During curfew private vehicles are limited to two per person, and the government has launched an economic recovery commission. The Heritage Quay Duty Free Shopping Center has reopened select stores in accordance with COVID-19 Emergency Orders established by the government. On April 19, Antigua announced the cancellation of this year’s Carnival 2020, July 23 to Aug. 4. The country confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 13. Prime Minister Gaston Browne, hinting at the possible relaxing of measures during a weekend radio program, said “We don’t have the luxury of some countries to remain closed for two, three, four months.”
A mandatory seven-day, 24-hour curfew first went into effect on April 2 until April 9 and was extended at 6 a.m. April 16 until April 22. On March 30, the government reduced the number of people allowed at funerals from 25 to 10. On March 28, the government banned all yachts, declared a state of emergency until April 11 and imposed an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for two weeks. The government previously announced a 30-day ban on all parties, festivals and similar social gatherings. Foreign nationals who have traveled to and from China, Italy, Iran, Japan, Korea and Singapore the past 28 days are not being allowed in. Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda as well as resident diplomats will be allowed entry.
Argentina: Cases and deaths continue to increase. As of June 10, the country registered 24,761 infections and 670 deaths.The government has extended the national quarantine that began on March 20 through June 28, with greater restrictions in the greater Buenos Aires area. The previosu deadline was June 7. On March 15, the country closed its borders to all non-resident foreigners.
The government has announced the suspension of all ticket sales for commercial flights scheduled to depart before September 1. Argentina has previously extended the national quarantine through May 24 but some businesses in Buenos Aires and other parts of the country were allowed to reopen on May 12. Cafes and restaurants in the capital also started taking orders for delivery.
As the country slowly reopens, residents are still ordered to stay home and children are only allowed to be out during the weekends. Limited quarantine exemptions include movement to obtain food and medical care and travel to the international airport.
Aruba: The number of active cases remains at zero as of June 8. Aruba registered 101 positive COVID-19 cases in Aruba and three deaths.
As of Wednesday June 10, the country will move to Level 3 of reactivation of Aruba’s local economy. Bars and Nightclubs will reopen along with conference and meeting facilities. Controlled visits to nursing/retirement homes will be allowed and no-contact indoor sports. Casinos will remain closed The country is making preparations to reopen its airport.
As of June 1, lottery sales outlets, restaurants with inside seating, bakeries, coffee shops, spas, massage salons and saunas resumed operations.
A new curfew came into effect as of May 21, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Police checks limited to those of individuals traveling only on public roads. Maritime traffic will be allowed for registered fishermen during the curfew.
As of May 25th, restaurants with outside seating, gyms, beauty salons and barbershops were allowed to reopen, along with gyms. All must comply with specific protocols defined by the Aruba government and Department of Health. Government departments will also be fully operational with all personnel as of May 25th. Social distancing and hygiene protocols will need to be adhered to at all times.
Aruba’s tourism minister has announced tentative plans to reopen the country’s borders for some time between June 15 and July 1st.
The government announced that as of April 28, the curfew time would be changed to 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and all businesses will be required to close by 9 p.m. On May 4 the shelter in place measures were eased with some businesses and government departments allowed to reopen with no more than 15 allowed inside at any one time. The relaxed restrictions will be reevaluated every two weeks. Restrictions on inbound travel for passengers other than legal residents of Aruba and airline staff, extended until May 31. There are no restrictions on outbound passengers. Previously there was a complete lockdown for all incoming passengers from March 17 to March 31.
The Aruba government had extended nightly curfew and mandatory shelter in place directive from April 19 to April 28. On March 28, a 9 p..m. to 6 a.m. daily curfew first went into effect. Under a mandatory shelter-in-place order, people are only allowed to leave their homes for essential business. Anyone caught in violation will be detained until the following morning, fined and then released. At least 180 people have been arrested for violating the curfew. There is a ban on gatherings of four people or more, except for families under the same roof. Hospital visits by the general public are also banned until further notice. Aruba confirmed its first two positive cases on March 13.
Bahamas: New COVID-19 infections continue as the Bahamas moves to phase 4 of the reopening of its economy. Two additional confirmed cases has increased the tally to 103 as of June 10.
Restrictions on beaches and parks for the islands of Eleuthera, Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, Exuma and San Salvador have been lifted as of Monday, June 8. They remain closed in New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and Bimini remain.
Effective June 12, restaurants may re-open with outdoor seating only. The country’s weekend lockdowns will be lifted on June 13 but the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew Monday to Sunday will be maintain until further notice. Hair salons and barbershops will resume on June 15, the same day the airport is scheduled to reopen. As of June 5, the government’s quarantine facilities closed and returning residents no longer have to quarantine for 14 days. They will, however, be maintained.
Restrictions on weddings, funerals and social gatherings are also relaxed but with social distancing enforcement in this phase.
On May 18, commercial activities resumed in Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros. Exercise was permitted again on Saturday and Sunday from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. in residents’ immediate neighborhood. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the country was looking at reopening for commercial travel on or before July 1st. In the meantime, residents will need a COVID-19 authorization card to travel some family islands.
Minnis earlier in May assumed the role of acting health minister following the resignation of Dr. Duane Sands after Minnis accused him of breaching protocol when he allowed a private flight with six residents, transporting COVID-19 texting swabs, to land despite the closure of the country’s borders.
Minnis on May 3, announced a phased reopening of the economy. Certain islands in the southern Bahamas were allowed to fully resume commercial activities while construction sector received the go-ahead in New Providence and on Grand Bahama, which is still recovering from last year’s hurricane. He also said returning residents will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test and be quarantined for 14 days. The government said it is finalizing plans to secure a mandatory quarantine facility to accommodate the return of approximately 200 Bahamians stranded in the U.S.
The Bahamas went into its third emergency powers COVID-19 lockdown on April 17 until April 20th. Under the lockdown everything was ordered to remain closed except for essential services. While a curfew remains in effect, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis on April 19, announced the partial re-opening of home and hardware stores, auto parts establishments and plant nurseries, and the resumption of construction in the Family Islands. Landscaping and property maintenance services will also be allowed to operate during the 24-hour curfew, Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The country, which recently had medical supplies blocked by the U.S., had previously announced a mandatory shutdown of all services from 9 p.m. April 3 until 6 a.m. April 6. Similar to the Cayman Islands, the government announced a new food shopping schedule based on an individual’s last name, until further notice. All Bahamians are to remain confined to their homes. All airports, seaports and public beaches are closed. No tourists are allowed to enter the country. The penalty for breaking the orders is a fine of up to $10,000, up to 18 months in prison or both. The government had already closed businesses and schools until April 14, banned parties and public gatherings and imposed travel restrictions for nonresidents who had traveled to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and Europe in the last 20 days prior to the order. Returning residents were subjected to quarantine for a maximum of 14 days if they have visited the countries. All national sporting events and permits for use of public spaces are suspended. Continue reading