Daily Brief - Thursday 19th March, 2020

NEWS

TT covid19 cases climb to nine

TT's covid19 cases have risen to nine as the Health Ministry reports a man and woman tested positive for the coronavirus. The cases are not related but the individuals travelled recently, the ministry said in its latest advisory issued late on Wednesday night. Their ages were not released. It is not known if the newest cases are from among 68 people in quarantine for 14 days at a facility in east Trinidad where they were taken on Wednesday after being stranded onboard a cruise ship in Guadeloupe. In a previous release, the ministry said none of the people tested positive for covid19 although there were confirmed cases on the cruise ship. Read more here

Social gathering limit now 10 in new COVID plan

The limit on gatherings due to COVID-19’s arrival in Trinidad and Tobago is now ten people and less and a crackdown’s coming on bars and river liming. Government is also determining whether bars which continue to open pose a public health threat and could lose their licenses for this breach. Instructions are also being issued to restrict access to Caura and other river lime locations. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced this on Wednesday as Government sought to reinforce appeals against congregating in a bid to stop the virus’ spread. Rowley spoke at a media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, which followed another special Cabinet meeting, where several ministers announced measures to deal with the fallout from the virus reaching these shores. Teams working on the issue involved finance, banking and insurance, trade and business and social support. Ministers detailed measures to preserve jobs and assist business and low-income earners. Read more here

Wuhan offers hope on virus front; Italy nears stark warning

Thursday was a day of contrasts on the front lines of the battle against the new coronavirus. In a sign of hope, the Chinese city of Wuhan reported no new homegrown infections, but in a stark warning for the world, Italy appeared set to surpass China's death toll from the virus. The two milestones were a dramatic illustration of how much the global outbreak has pivoted toward Europe and the United States. They also showed how the arc of contagion can vary in different nations, as Italy with 60 million people braces to see more carnage than China, a nation of 1.4 billion. Italy registered 2,978 deaths on Wednesday after another 475 people died. Given that Italy has been averaging more than 350 deaths a day since March 15, it's likely to overtake China’s 3,249 dead when Thursday’s figures are released at day’s end. Read more here

 

POLITICS

PM tells citizens: Take covid19 seriously

The Prime Minister again urged citizens to take the covid19 threat seriously, saying tough measures can enforce the precautions he is now asking citizens to take. To stop the possible spread of covid19, people are being warned against gathering in social settings. At a special post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Wednesday, Dr Rowley also chided as “nasty” those naming a covid19 patient on social media, saying, “Would you like that to happen to you?” To those not serious about covid19, he said, “I want once again to appeal to every single person in TT wherever you are, whoever you are, to understand that success or failure in these efforts might depend on you at your personal level.” Read more here

Banks to cut lending, credit card rates, give loan deferrals

Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Wednesday unveiled a number of changes to the current banking systems to help stimulate borrowing and a stagnated economy during the period the country will be slowed down while trying to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In a bid to inject more money into the system, the commercial banks are expected to drop their prime lending rates by as much as 30 per cent and provide a moratorium on mortgages and loans. Speaking during a press conference after a special meeting by Cabinet, Imbert announced that the Central Bank is now offering commercial banks incentives to motivate borrowing and to use the “Skip a Payment” initiative to defer payments on loans and mortgages for one month in the first instance. “As we see how this pandemic evolves, it would be on a rolling monthly basis. We’re starting with one month, all penalties on non-payments would be waived,” said Imbert, who is part of a finance committee, set up to look at measures during the COVID-19 response period. Read more here

 

BUSINESS

Pandemic leave: Self-employed left hanging

Cabinet, as late as Wednesday morning, was set to approve sweeping measures aimed at protecting the rights of workers during the coronavirus outbreak and preventing workplace transmission. They include guidelines for employers for staggered hours, remote work, and a new type of leave called pandemic leave which is designed to protect public and private-sector employees who are directly impacted by the virus from a loss in earnings. Yet while the proposed policies will mitigate the financial impact on traditional employees, one major category of wage-earners appears to have been overlooked: self-employed individuals. Indeed, covid19 has revealed gaps in TT’s labour policies, social welfare supports, and crisis response which remain out of step with the reality of work for a growing number of people. “I have already lost work. A couple speaking engagements got cancelled so I lost income from that,” said Jamila Bannister who owns a marketing consultancy. Read more here

Republic Bank Defers Loan Payments

Republic Bank Limited (RBL) has announced that it will be lowering the interest rates on loans and giving parties the opportunity to defer loan payments. Speaking on these measures recently on CNC3, Managing Director of RBL Nigel Baptiste said that the decisions made by the bank would assist with the liquidity requirements of companies. Baptiste articulated: “The Prime Minister mentioned the deferral of loan payments. This is not a waiving of the loan payment, this is not a write off of the loan payment - this is a deferral of the loan payment.” He continued: “Again it is intending to assist in the cash flow of the company. Not for the company to take and use otherwise but for the company to use that cash flow very wisely to see it through this crisis.” Also implementing a deferral policy was Term Finance, which announced that it would offer deferrals on employee loan payments. In a release, Term Finance indicated that it would only grant deferrals in cases where employers confirm that wages are being adversely affected. Read more here

 

REGIONAL

CJIA, Eugene Correia airports closed for two weeks

THE Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), on Tuesday, announced the closure of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport at Timehri and the Eugene Correia Airport at Ogle to all international flights for (two weeks) 14 days. Addressing reporters at the National Communications Network (NCN) studios, CAA Director-General, Lieutenant Colonel (ret’d) Egbert Field, said the closure will take effect from today at midnight. “The Civil Aviation Authority, in order to slow the process of this virus and in consultation with the Ministry of Public Health, has decided, with the approval of the Cabinet Taskforce, to close all airports to all international flights,” Director Field stated. Read more here

COVID-19 DEATH JOLTS FAMILY - 79-Y-O Man From New York Wanted To Be Buried In Jamaica

The fearful family of the 79-year-old man who was confirmed as Jamaica’s first COVID-19 death has been ordered to self-isolate to safeguard against contagion as the country grapples with imported cases and local transmissions of a pandemic that has killed around 9,000 people globally. The man, whose name The Gleaner will not disclose because of the risk of stigma to his relatives, hails from Corn Piece, Clarendon, and travelled to the island on Thursday, March 12, along with his wife, son, and grandson, to conduct business. They arrived from New York, where he lives. His death was announced during a press conference at Jamaica House in St Andrew yesterday, where he was one of two persons confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus out of a testing pool of 11. The total number of confirmed cases here has now reached 15. Read more here

 

INTERNATIONAL

US government is preparing for coronavirus pandemic that could last up to 18 months and 'include multiple waves of illness'

Nearly two months since the first US coronavirus case, the federal government is now preparing for a pandemic that could last up to 18 months or longer and "include multiple waves of illness," a report obtained by CNN shows. Hospitals have already sounded the alarm on quickly vanishing supplies as the outbreak in the US shows no signs of slowing -- in just 24 hours, cases soared by more than 40%. The US government announced this week it would help make up for potential medical supply shortages and deploy two hospital ships to help increase medical capacity. Nearly 9,000 Americans have tested positive for the virus. At least 149 have died. "I view it as, in a sense, of wartime president," President Donald Trump said in a news conference Wednesday. "I mean, that's what we're fighting. It's a very tough situation here." Read more here

How long does the virus stay active on surfaces?

It varies a lot on the type of surface. On hard surfaces like door handles, lift buttons or kitchen worktops it is probably around 48 hours, although some previous research on coronaviruses has found they can survive for perhaps a week in the right conditions. On soft surfaces like clothes it will survive far less long, so if you have a coat that has virus on and you don’t wear it for a day or two the virus shouldn’t be active any more. Remember, simply touching an infected surface will not give you Covid-19. Read more here

19th March 2020

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