Caribbean governments are complaining bitterly as they blame Christmas holiday partying and illegal assemblies for massive spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases, with a number of member nations recording frightening daily records.
Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad, The Bahamas, and Barbados to a lesser extent, have all seen hikes of numbers as many struggle to survive calls to cancel the physical reopening of schools or to temporarily curb some freedoms to minimize the spread of the virus.
For example, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness Sunday gave every indication that his cabinet is feeling the pressure from society to do something about spiraling cases, noting that a lockdown of the economy is not the way to go at this time as the cabinet prepares for what he says is a fourth corona wave. Personal responsibility and adherence to scientific protocols are the preferred methods, he said.
“We are not going to shut down again. I have been very clear in parliament, very clear, absolutely gone overboard to say that we are not going back to lockdowns, so be calm. I have said what the containment strategy is. It is now in your hands. Go and take the vaccine. That is the strategy,” he told reporters. He also said that schools will remain open despite infections and challenges staff and administrators face.
In bloc headquarters Guyana authorities blamed wild partying and illegal assemblies for a massive spike in cases, with records showing more than 1,016 cases in a single day over the weekend. Until late December, daily averages had been hovering around 200 with less than 10 people in intensive care compared to mid thirties weeks earlier.
The main opposition People’s National Congress (PNC) at the weekend complained bitterly about government duplicity and hypocrisy, contending that while it urges citizens to be responsible, government cronies are being permitted to hold super-spreader sports and entertainment events with scant regard to protocols.
“What is most concerning and very worrying is that while other groups are refused permission to hold similar events, the government is willing to risk the lives of Guyanese to permit a group that supports its political agenda to host a super-spreader event amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” that party said.
In just 10 days for the year so far, neighboring Suriname is now averaging about 550 cases per day while Trinidad continues with its struggle to minimize the number of daily deaths with authorities. At the weekend, the daily record reached 974 but doctors say they are monitoring a two-day decline of about 50% as they try to determine if the holiday numbers have peaked.
In Nassau, The Bahamian capital, doctors reported 818 cases last Friday, easily making it a national individual day record. Some hospitals are reporting pressure to deal with incoming cases but government spokesman Clint Watson says action is being taken.
“We have opened four tents at the Princess Margaret Hospital. We are building capacity not only in infrastructure but also in manpower. We’ve asked the department of public health to lend us nurses to ease the burden felt because of those medical professionals in quarantine,” he said as authorities are expecting a batch of 50 nurses from neighboring Cuba this week.
In the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados, which is preparing for snap elections on Jan. 19, has also seen unusual spikes that officials link both to the holiday season and electoral campaigning. Last Friday the official figure was 495 cases in a day.
Campaigning for elections called by Prime Minister Mia Mottley late last month has intensified in recent days despite calls from medical personnel for adherence to protocols and social distancing.