Daily Brief- Wednesday 18th March, 2020

NEWS

TT covid19 total now at 7

 TT now has seven confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The Ministry of Health reported this in a media release issued shortly before 11 pm.  The release said that like the previous six cases, the latest one was imported. No details of the gender, age or whereabouts of the latest patient were given. The release did not say how many tests have been done on suspected covid19 cases, as did previous releases.
On Monday the ministry announced that a 26-year-old man was the fifth confirmed case. He is a leading athlete. Read more here

2 Trini women catch COVID-19 on ill-fated cruise

The two latest novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases announced by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday night were two Trinidadian women who were aboard the Costa Favolosa cruise ship that was anchored off Martinique for several days. The ship was isolated off Martinique after passengers on board were suspected of contracting the virus and French authorities there initially refused the vessel the chance to dock so passengers could get off. Sources at the Piarco International Airport told Guardian Media that the women returned home aboard Caribbean Airlines flight BW449 from Bridgetown, Barbados, around 8.25 pm on Tuesday. Sources revealed that after getting the all-clear from Martinique authorities to leave the ship, the women were tested on their way back home in both in Guadeloupe and Barbados, where they were in-transit to T&T and the tests done in one of those two countries subsequently confirmed their positive status. However, it is unclear in which country their tests turned up positive. Read more here

Companies gearing up for remote workers

One telecommunications company is planning for an increase in traffic on both their full fibre and mobile networks in Trinidad and across the Caribbean as more and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home via technology amidst the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. Read more here

 

POLITICS

Panel to meet on new drug to treat covid19

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the drug Interferon Alfa-2b is already imported into TT, but for another use. The minister was responding to a question put to him in the Senate on Tuesday by Opposition Senator Wade Mark on whether Government is considering the importation of the drug which is said to be successful in treating covid19. "WHO has not made a formal declaration that this drug is effective. However, we were informally informed as such." He reported the chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram, who is the chairman of the drug advisory committee, sent the drug to the principal pharmacist on Monday to convene a panel of specialists, including thoracic and infectious disease specialists, to look at the issue. Read more here

Meeting between Education Ministry, TTUTA breaks down

Talks between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) to discuss a number of pertinent issues, came to abrupt end Tuesday soon after TTUTA resisted a proposal to extend the school term by one week for teachers alone. TTUTA President Antonia Tekah-De Freitas spoke to Guardian Media after the 8 am meeting ended at 9.20 am. Indicating TTUTA was in support of the five-week closure which was extended to include the two-week Easter vacation period, Tekah-De Freitas said, “We are satisfied the State and the Ministry acted prudently in terms of closing schools for the period they did, to minimize the community spread. That is not an issue.” She said, “When the Minister began speaking about the possible postponement of SEA into the new term, possibly into May, that too was acceptable to TTUTA. Read more here

 

BUSINESS

Central Bank makes it cheaper for banks to borrow, lowers reserve requirement

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has announced a reduction in the Repo rate as it tries to support the economy hit by the free-fall of energy prices and the loss of production expected as the impact of measures to combat the COVID-19 is felt in T&T. The reduction in the Repo rate by 150 basis points will make it cheaper for banks to borrow and cold assist it in reducing interest rates to its customers. According to a release from the CBTT: " The MPC decided to reduce the repo rate by 150 basis points to 3.5 per cent and to lower the primary reserve requirement on commercial bank deposits by 3 per cent to 14 per cent. The MPC considered that such actions would amplify system liquidity in the short run—approximately $2.6 billion in the case of the lower reserve requirement—and allow for a reduction in interest rate spreads by lowering commercial banks’ cost of funds." The Bank said it held a special sitting on March 17, 2020 as it looked at the globally impact of the Covid-19 virus on lives and economies. Read more here

Border leak leaving Trinidad exposed

Trinidad’s maritime border with Venezuela continues to be breached with ease, with an unknown number of undocumented Venezuelans coming ashore and blending into the local migrant population. And concern is being raised that while Trinidad and Tobago is taking unprecedented measures to limit foreigners from entering the country at official ports of entry, not enough is being done to stop people making the trip from Venezuela, where confirmed COVID-19 cases crossed 30 on Monday, prompting Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro to implement a nationwide quarantine. Last week Tuesday, 37 Venezuelans were held in a convoy of vehicles in Cedros. The men, women and children had camped out in abandoned coconut estates and the bushes waiting for local contacts to move them into South and Central Trinidad. Read more here

 

REGIONAL

Hotels Closing - RIU Shutting Three Out West, 1,000 Workers Going Home

Plunging arrivals out of the United Kingdom and Canadian markets as a ­result of COVID-19 have forced at least four Spanish hotels and several attraction operators to close their doors. The hotels – RIU Palace Jamaica, RIU Negril, and RIU Montego Bay – will cease operations as of this Thursday, while the three Royalton Negril properties have shuttered, moving all their guests to their Trelawny resorts, Royalton White Sands and Royalton Blue Waters. A fourth hotel, Melia Braco, will also close. Read more here

Guyana-Suriname border to open today for stranded passengers

The `MB Sandaka’ which plies between the Moleson Creek, Guyana, and South Drain, Suriname ports, will operate today, March 18, 2018, only to facilitate the transport of passengers who have been stranded in both countries, according to the management of the Guyana/Suriname Ferry Service. The ferry will depart the Moleson Creek port at 09:00hrs with check-in to be done between 06:30 and 08:00hrs. However, the notice was specific that the service will facilitate ONLY “Suriname nationals or Surinamese by naturalisation with resident status, that is, he/she must be the holder of a Surinamese passport.” Meanwhile, Guyanese desirous of returning home are asked to check-in at South Drain, Suriname, between 6:30 and 8:00hrs (Suriname’s local time). Read more here

 

INTERNATIONAL

Virus confronts leaders with one of modern history's gravest challenges

The coronavirus emergency is fast transforming into one of the gravest political and societal challenges of the modern age -- and America's leaders are only just beginning to understand the gargantuan task before them. The longer-term realities are setting in for Americans amid calls for a World War II-style national mobilization to fight the pandemic. And the deeply concerned politicians charged with fighting it are comparing the historic significance of the crisis to the 1918 influenza calamity, the Great Depression and 9/11. But it is not clear if the stark message is getting through to everybody, especially younger Americans, who are vital to stopping a disease now spreading like wildfire before it reaches levels that could overwhelm the US health system. Read more here

Total number of cases passes 200,000

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has now passed 200,000, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University. The total is now 201,530 confirmed cases, and 8,007 deaths. China still has the highest number of confirmed cases (81,102), while Italy has the second highest with 31,506. Read more here

18th March 2020

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