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Reopening the Caribbean

Many of us have been largely scaled-down, working from either our bedroom, living room, or wherever is most convenient for us. The same goes for academic pursuits- no longer are we able to fluidly engage with our lecturers or teachers as we may have wanted. Trips to the grocery seem like the luxurious outing until you are actually there and you have to join the line, unless you’re over 65, pregnant or special needs. The question that remains on the minds of everyone is - When will we return to a state of normalcy? But do we even truthfully know the answer to that question?

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, just over one month after the initial stay at home orders were put in place, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley unveiled plans to lift the restrictions gradually, or as he called it- a phased basis. As much as this may be welcomed news for many, it now meant starting to live in a ‘new normal’ for most. As more businesses reopen, employers are looking at new ways of working.

At Media InSite, we have been monitoring online articles and social media posts about Reopening the Economy across the Caribbean and based on our statistics, the Top Theme is “moving forward.”

Moving forward, as easy as it sounds would mean readjustment. Let’s face it, not everyone is easily adaptable- so for some of us, getting back to the 8-4 routine after being home and working from the comfort of whatever part of your home; and in whatever you’re wearing, will be challenging. Hence some businesses extended their Work-From-Home policy until the end of 2020, for example Google, Amazon and Twitter. The biggest concern as we gradually reopen the economy is- avoiding a new surge in cases. Scientists have placed their hope in finding a vaccine for the novel virus- but that is still unlikely until 2021.

One festivity that we hold near and dear to our heart in Trinidad & Tobago and is a significant contributor to our tourism industry could have faced a possible cancellation. However, as luck would have it, the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly recently said Carnival 2021 will not be cancelled. This news allowed us all to breathe a sigh of relief as Carnival has constantly contributed to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with 2018 alone raking in a high of $318 million.

With over 7.55 million confirmed cases and 423 thousand deaths by the virus, as at June 14th 2020 globally, there is an expected loss of 300 million jobs or the equivalent by mid- year. The pandemic has been nothing short of cruel in its injustices in the world of work. The decimation of various sectors including one which was hit hardest - the tourism sector, has left gaping holes in even the richest countries.

Despite this, many countries, are preparing to reopen for tourism in June. Jamaica reopened its borders on June 15th, following a two-month closure due to the pandemic. A total of six scheduled flights from the United States are expected to arrive in Jamaica, bringing approximately 600 visitors. A total of 6,000 tourists are expected to enter the island between now and month’s end. This announcement was made by Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett at a press conference on June 11th. All arriving visitors will have to undergo temperature checks, safety protocols and completed travel authorization application. The initial phase will see travel limited to tourist friendly places such as Montego Bay, Ocho Rio among others.

Bahamas, like Jamaica has announced the start of Phase 1 of the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Plan being implemented as of June 15th. This will see the welcoming of foreign boaters, yachters and private aviation back to the Bahamian shores. The second phase which will see the the resumption of international commercial travel on July 1st. The entire process will continue to be monitored by the government and health officials of Bahamas. Based on our data Bahamas ranks third in Shares of Country.

In Barbados, from June 22nd, the different sectors of the economy which were shut will now become functional. Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley said all aspects of work will resume. Gyms will now reopen, public transport will now operate at full capacity and limited sporting activities would resume. The previous weekday 10pm-5am curfew was lifted and will now be imposed for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Barbados has so far recorded 96 COVID-19 cases and 7 deaths to date.

Guyana took a double hit, after their March 2nd election results was stretched way past its expectations. The country then recorded its first COVID-19 case, approximately two weeks after the Guyanese went to the polls. Guyana has recorded 154 positive COVID-19 cases and has suffocated the economy. Their National COVID-19 Task Force has extended the COVID-19 Emergency measures to June 17th. With a weakened economy the possibility for Guyana to see through its projected economic growth of 56.4% as predicted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), would mean significant work done.

All in all, reopening the Caribbean is definitely not going to be a case of flicking a switch and returning to normal. It will be a process, one which requires each of us to do our part, as we adjust to the "new normal."

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