COVID-19 is surging in the Caribbean, leading several island nations to impose new restrictions on visitors and residents alike. The most drastic move is taking place in Martinique, where tourists were advised to leave the island “immediately.”
“The situation is extremely serious,” French Overseas Territories Minister Sebastien Lecornu said of both Martinique and Guadeloupe. “There are infection rates that have never been seen, not just in these territories, but all of France.”
Authorities in Martinique this week announced an extreme lockdown. In addition to asking tourists to leave, all shops have been closed with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies, as have all beaches, hotels, and holiday rentals. Residents can only go within an approximate half-mile radius of their homes.
The measures come as the island is suffering from a staggering 1,200 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. Hospitals are overflowing with patients and are at 227 percent capacity.
“These rules are strict, and they will be lifted as soon as the health situation allows it,” said Stanislas Cazelles, the island’s prefect and its top official. A review of where things stand will take place in 15 days, Cazelles said.
The situation is similar in Guadeloupe, and similar restrictions are expected to be imposed in the coming days. The small island has added 9,000 new cases in just the past month.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran this week appealed for volunteer doctors and nurses to travel to the territories to reinforce local staff.
Meanwhile, Jamaica has instituted strict curfews as cases rise on the island. The curfew, which will be in effect until the end of August, is from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. weeknights, 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said if infection rates do not improve, “no-movement” days may be instituted.
“In fact, no movement days, if the numbers do not show signs of improving, will probably come two weeks from now,” Holness said. “So we are gradually easing in tighter measures so that people can prepare and have enough time to adjust their scheduling and so forth.”
The new restrictions also include the closure of beaches not under management control, a ban on all entertainment events, and restaurants reduced to 50 percent capacity.
A major issue with the pandemic is the lack of vaccinated residents in Caribbean countries. Martinique has just 22 percent of its population vaccinated, while that number is just 10 percent in Jamaica.
Holness is on a national campaign to get his citizens to take the shot.“I am going to be hitting the road. I am going to go into the nooks and crannies,” Holness told Nation News. “I will go about asking you to preserve your lives and livelihoods and to encourage you to take the vaccine.”