Today makes one month since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the Lesser Antilles. Combined there are 551 positive cases reported in 22 countries in the Lesser Antilles as of 30 March 2020. At the moment the top five countries with the most infections are Martinique (119 cases), Guadeloupe (107 cases), Trinidad & Tobago (83 cases), Aruba (50 cases) and Barbados (33 cases). Thirteen deaths have been reported with Guadeloupe leading at 5 fatalities.
There is growth in COVID-19 cases everyday although not alarmingly in the islands. Any one country is however poised for a sizable crisis if strict measures are not taken to prevent or stop community spread of the coronavirus. Chart 1 below shows the total number of daily confirmed cases reported in affected countries throughout the Lesser Antilles.
Countries still have an opportunity to determine their fate with the COVID-19 pandemic. Caribbean leaders have had the opportunity to witness how the virus can rapidly get out of control as it has done in places such as Italy and Spain; causing many infections, deaths, stress on health care systems and significant impact on economies. As a model of success to date, the world has also seen how the infection rate in South Korea was quickly and successfully contained.
Many experts believe the best thing is to starve COVID-19. This entails social distancing, staying home, temporarily closing non-essential businesses which attract large gatherings and border protection.
Governments across the Lesser Antilles have already begun implementing protective measures at various levels to prevent a crisis. However, the level of mitigation and aggressiveness to control the virus’ access to communities will determine the most successful systems. Notwithstanding, co-operation is needed by all citizens to follow public health guidelines and the laws. If communities take swift and efficient measures, the virus will lose its life support.
Over 3,000 tests have been carried out already in the Lesser Antilles. South Korea has proven that the success rate on containment is largely based on widely testing persons for the virus and implementing effective contact tracing on positive cases while scaling up surveillance and aggressively protecting borders.
The current situation is at an opportune stage to control. Some countries have already declared a state of emergency. The response goal is to avoid a sharp turn of events that will be too much for health care systems to handle on the islands. The graph below (Chart 2) shows how Trinidad, took a sharp turn when over 40 passengers returned from a cruise and tested positive. Luckily these were not cases of community spread. A crisis can arise rapidly without strict protective measures. Preventing a crisis is far more desirable than experiencing an outbreak.