Spotlight on the Caribbean: Dominica

COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 56

The first documented case of COVID-19 in the Caribbean and Latin America was reported in Brazil on February 26, 2021. In Dominica, the first positive case of COVID-19 was reported on March 22, 2021. The following day, the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 dashboard documented the first seven confirmed cases in Dominica. Since then, through June 6, 2021, there were 188 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection. All of the COVID-19 patients since then have recovered. Dominica has not reported any COVID-19 cases in the Kalinago territory. 

Commonwealth of Dominica. Coronavirus Update.

The GDP of Dominica, as tracked by the World Bank, shows the devastating effect of the pandemic on the country. The 2020 total GDP of Dominica shrunk by 16.7% as compared to the year 2019. Before the pandemic, Dominica’s agriculture sector formed 20% of the annual GDP and employed 40% of Dominica’s labor force. However, slightly more than half of Dominica’s GDP is derived from the services industry, including tourism and legalized mechanisms like the Citizenship by Investment. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown in Dominica and other Caribbean countries have lost tourism-based income. The loss of income meant that the economic resources that were generally available to the governments of Dominica and other Caribbean countries were severely limited, further imposing a rise in the national debt.

History and Context on Dominica

Map of Dominica

The Commonwealth of Dominica is an island nation with an area of 751 square kilometers. Dominica’s location is the Caribbean Sea between two French exclaves of Guadalupe on North and Martinique on the South. Dominica became independent on November 3, 1978. The text of the 1978 Constitution of Dominica outlines the elements of the current existing governance structures. In 2018, the population of Dominica was 72,000.

The CIA World Factbook describes Dominica as one of the last areas of the Caribbean that the Europeans colonized due to the brave resistance of the Carib people. The island has a Kalinago Territory (The Indigenous Caribs call themselves Kalinago) used by that was established in 1903 by the British Colonial Administration. However, it is considered one of the most impoverished areas of the island. A 1978 Carib Reserve Act governs the status of Kalinago Territory. A 2004 World bank publication, “Social Assessment for Indigenous Peoples Plan, Carib Territory,” assesses issues regarding the territory’s infrastructure and economic development. The governmental website of Kalinago Affairs provides further information on the Kalinago Upliftment

Dominica also was a part of the Slave Trade nexus until its abolishment by the British in 1833. And the current population of Dominica consists of peoples from African, Caribe, European and other ancestries. The Central Statistics Office of Dominica collates current population data. Dominica’s economy is both agricultural and tourism-dependent. 

Current situation

The GDP of Dominica was severely affected first by the 2015 Tropical Storm Erika and then in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Dominica’s GDP was picking up gradually until the arrival of COVID-19 on the island. Despite COVID-19, the island’s economy is projected to grow at the rate of 8.8% in 2021.

COVAX in Dominica

To this day, Dominica has zero deaths that one can attribute to the COVID-19. The COVID-19 response in Dominica is coordinated by the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and New Health Investment. The ministry provides regular updates on COVID-19. The frequency of updates generally varies from six to two days.  At the time of writing this report (June 6), Dominica had documented a total of 188 COVID-19 cases. All of these cases had recovered. As of June 6, 2021, 19,970 Dominica’s residents had received the first dose of vaccine, and 17,430 had received the second dose of the vaccine. However, the updates do not provide us the specific data on which vaccine was given to whom or districts. According to the Pan American Health Organization, under the COVAX program, Dominica received 28,000 dosages of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 6, 2021.

However, before the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines, in March of 2021, China donated Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines to Dominica. However, the Xinhua news report does not provide details about the quantities of Sinopharm vaccines delivered to Dominica. Under the Vaccine Friendship Plan of India, Dominica received 0.056 million vaccine doses according to the Atlantic Council’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the footsteps of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)’s anti-COVID-19 video campaign, Dominica continues to use social media to disseminate educational public health videos through its official channel, “Coronavirus Prevention Commonwealth of Dominica,” on YouTube to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. These videos vary from demonstrating hand-washing techniques, properly wearing masks to care for the elderly during the pandemic, and other topics.

By Liladhar Pendse

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