Health-care workers make up nearly a quarter of infected people in the Bahamas

The health ministry in the Bahamas are expressing concern about the number of health-care workers who have contracted COVID-19.

Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, the COVID-19 task force coordinator revealed at a press briefing yesterday that 22 health-care workers have contracted the virus - 23.9 per cent of all infected people in the multi-island country.

"Regionally, the Bahamas ranks high for the percentage of total COVID-19 infections occurring in health-care workers," Dahl-Regis said.

The health official announced that plans were under way to launch a probe into the reason behind the high percentage of infections among the frontline workers.

"This investigation would support the identification of the most appropriate infection prevention and control measures to be strengthened to better protect healthcare workers," she said.

Among the locations experiencing exposure to the contagious virus are the Princess Margaret Hospital and Doctors Hospital. Of the 22 employees who have contracted the virus, five are physicians. In addition, there are one physiotherapist, two trained clinical nurses, one domestic staff, seven registered nurses and six patient-care assistants and technicians, the task force coordinator said.

There have been 92 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Bahamas, 31 of whom have recovered.

Ferry services to resume in Bermuda

The authorities in Bermuda have announced the resumption of ferry services effective Monday, 11 May.

However, the department of marine and ports services says the ferries will run on a reduced operating schedule with limited passenger capacity.

"In an effort to provide adequate physical distancing when travelling on public ferries, alternate seating arrangements are necessary. As a result, the available seating will be limited to 25 per cent of normal capacity when services resume with no standing allowed," the department said in brief statement. "This will generally amount to a maximum of 50 passengers."

It said crew members would provide passengers with hand sanitisers, and advised all passengers they must wear personal face masks when using any form of public transportation in the country.

"Individuals without a face mask will be refused entry," it warned.

Schools to reopen in Bonaire next week

Students in the Dutch Caribbean municipality of Bonaire return to school on Monday, ending weeks at home due to COVID-19.

However, they will not be required to maintain social distance while playing or engaging in sporting activities while at school.

The island's administrators said the decision was taken to have the pupils return to school because "for some children it is not safe to stay at home all the time".

"In some cases, the home does not provide a proper learning environment. Not all parents seem to be capable of providing adequate guidance and the schools cannot reach all children. Moreover, children in vulnerable situations have less access to learning opportunities at home and receive less support from parents," the statement said, while adding that the reopening of schools is also positive for the children's rhythm and their cognitive and social development.

The authorities also said it was not necessary for the students to practice social distancing at school since epidemiological studies worldwide had shown no evidence of children playing a relevant role in the transmission of coronavirus to family members or anyone else.

Meantime, the national office for the Caribbean Netherlands has announced that residents of Bonaire who are stuck on Curaçao, Saba and St. Eustatius can to return home as of today. However, it said the governor would first have to approve their return and those returning home would be home-quarantined for two weeks.

"The transmission of the coronavirus on Curaçao, Saba and St. Eustatius has so far been limited. The risk of importing the virus into these islands is therefore very small. This is why the return of people who are stuck on one of the three islands and want to return to their own island is justified," the office said.

There are 16 confirmed cases in Curaçao, and two each in St. Eustatius and Saba. All the cases in Curacao and St. Eustatius are imported and the authorities in Saba are investigating the source of the cases there.

Extended hours for BVI public service

As the British Virgin Islands attempts to return to some form of normality, the government has announced that as of next week there will be extended opening hours for the public service.

"As we work in a new environment, requiring remote and flexible working hours to accommodate the needs of public officers and customers, the public service will operate from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. daily commencing Monday, 11th May, 2020," deputy governor, David Archer Jr, said through a circular addressed to public officers today.

Archer said the extended hours of operation were necessary in order to maximise resources and to ensure full access to all government services by the public. This, he said, was part of the continued efforts to adapt to, and live with, the new realities in light of COVID-19. Restrictions eased on Cayman Brac

The government of the Cayman Islands has announced the easing of restrictions on Cayman Brac, the easternmost of the three islands that make up this British overseas territory.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said in a briefing late yesterday that as of this weekend, Sunday lockdown would be lifted for Cayman Brac, with the hard curfew from 8pm-5am throughout the week. Beach curfew has also been lifted, enabling both fishing by boat and line fishing from the iron shore, McLaughlin said.

However, people in public places are required to maintain social distancing protocols and restrictions remain in place on visits to residential care facilities.

"Dining in at restaurants is limited to outdoor areas only, meaning no indoor dining in allowed. At allowed social gatherings, 25 people may gather. Leisure, recreational, faith, service club, community and civic organisations may now hold meetings but must maintain social distancing measures," the premier announced.

The approximately 2000 residents will also be required to wear facemasks indoors in public places and maintain distancing of six feet.

"Bars will remain closed until 50 per cent of the population test negative or expiry of new regulations, whichever is sooner. Testing will continue," McLaughlin said.

There are 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Cayman Islands, the most recent of which were announced at the same briefing yesterday.

The chief medical officer, Dr. John Lee, reported that of the two new positive results, one had travel history and the other was a contact of a previous case.

Cuba records lowest increase in two weeks Cuba yesterday confirmed an additional 12 COVID-19 cases, the lowest increase in 15 days, according to the Granma, the communist party newspaper.

The 12 new cases bring the number of known infections to 1,741. Granma reported that all the new infections were Cuban, with ten being contacts of confirmed cases and two of whom the source of infection was unspecified. Nine were asymptomatic.

Patient 15 'not first case' at Grenada flour mill

More than two weeks after Grenada's 15th coronavirus case was confirmed – an employee of the country's only flour mill - health authorities now say the man referred to as Patient 15 was not the first worker there to contract the virus.

"When all our investigations were done, we found out that patient 15 was not the first patient in that company that had symptoms. We found that there were other persons - one or two - who had symptoms before him, he was the first one who actually got very sick," COVID-19 response coordinator, Dr. George Mitchell, revealed.

"So that has changed the dynamics in terms of the thinking process and it will mean or may mean or suspected that the infection at Caribbean Agro did not emanate from Patient 15. He was not the first point of contact."

Mitchell said there were various theories abound the source of contamination at the mill and feed processing plant, but none had been confirmed.

"The strong theory is that someone may have come in there and contaminated one or two persons, or one person that eventually contaminated another person," he said.

"Patient 15 just happens to be the first person exhibiting symptoms. In hindsight that may not have been the case of him being patient zero for that cluster."

Since the confirmation of Patient 15, four other people linked to the plant tested positive for the virus, leading the authorities to order its closure. All employees were retested today in preparation for its reopening.

One new case in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe's regional health authority, Agence régionale de santé (ARS) today announced it had confirmed one new case. This brings to 154 the number of known cases in the French Caribbean department.

No details were provided about the new patient, but again made reference to the existence of "sporadic cases".

It also hinted at the end of the current restrictions, stating: "This weekend is still useful to prepare well for the end of confinement."

Seven more recoveries, no new cases in Guyana

An additional seven people have recovered from COVID-19, bringing to 34, the number of recoveries, the country's chief medical officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, said in a statement yesterday.

Since the first case was recorded on 11 March, there have been 93 confirmed cases in Guyana, 49 of which are still active and ten of whom have died.

Entire communities quarantined in Jamaica

Health authorities in Jamaica are moving rapidly to curb an outbreak of coronavirus in one of the island's smallest parishes.

The ministry of health and the national emergency operation centre at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) have imposed a 14-day quarantine on entire communities in the north-eastern parish of St. Mary.

"There are a total of 13 persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the communities and our investigations show that there is considerable movement of the affected persons which has increased the risk of exposure to all persons in the communities," the health ministry said in a release.

"Exposed persons in the communities may develop infection and cause spread to other members in the communities resulting in a rapid increase in the numbers of positive cases. This is due to the high movement of persons within the affected households within the communities, the high population density of two of the communities identified and the high vulnerability of persons within the communities to severe illness due to age, comorbidities and other socio-economic factors," the release stressed.

The quarantine, which is due to end on 21 May, will restrict movement of members of the communities by further testing of members, close monitoring for development of symptoms, early containment of newly detected cases, prevention of new exposures and transmission of disease and education of members of the communities of infection prevention and control measures, the ministry explained.

According to the latest figures on the ministry's COVID-19 dashboard, which was updated last night, there are now 488 confirmed cases of the virus in Jamaica.

No active cases in Statia

With the last of the two known cases on the small Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius – popularly known as Statia – having been cleared, the administrators there have announced that there are currently no active cases on the island.

Government commissioner Marnix van Rij said during a live radio broadcast that the two positives cases officially recovered as of Tuesday, 5 May.

Both individuals had arrived in Statia on 15 March from the Netherlands for an internship and displayed mild symptoms. They, along with other passengers on the flight on which they had arrived, were immediately placed into self-quarantine.

State of emergency to be lifted in St. Maarten

After six weeks under a state of emergency and complete lockdown, residents of St. Maarten are to receive relief soon.

The Prime Minister, Silveria Jacobs, has announced plans to lift the state of emergency - imposed to help curb the spread on COVID-19 – on Sunday 17 May. The Dutch Caribbean country has been under a state of emergency and lockdown since 5 April.

Jacobs said in a national broadcast last night that although the intention was to reopen as of 17 May, the details were still being finalised, although a night-time curfew will remain in effect. However, she said not all businesses would reopen immediately.

The country, which shares a 34 square-mile island with French St. Martin, had gone eight days without any new confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 cases as of the end of the day yesterday. There are 76 confirmed cases of the virus in St. Maarten.

'The Caribbean has achieved COVID-19 containment'

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has been contained in the English-speaking Caribbean and Haiti, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has quoted University of the West Indies research Clive Landis as saying.

However, in a release issued today, the CTO said Landis, who chairs the UWI COVID-19 task force, warned that this did not mean that the Caribbean was out of danger.

"The bottom line for the whole Caribbean is that the Caribbean has avoided the kind of outbreak, the kind of epidemic that we've seen in many European countries…and North America. We've avoided that," it quoted the professor as saying in the organisation's podcast, COVID-19: The Unwanted Visitor

"When you look at the growth trajectories, they are basically flat. [However], I want to stress that when you have achieved containment…you are looking to find cases in clusters and having a cluster, there's nothing wrong with that. That actually shows you are doing your surveillance. We map how each Caribbean country has done from the first case and we can say quite confidently that these countries have achieved containment."

The CTO podcast is available at, Spotify and the CTO's Facebook page, among other platforms.