Since the World Health Organization decreed the Coronavirus, or Covid19 a pandemic, it has become the most current topic and it is no surprise that Haiti and Haitians are not immune from the rumors and uncertainties that come with the unknown. This was the case last week when the arrival of a bus from Jimani in the Dominican Republic to Port-au-Prince caused panic when news broke that a passenger among the 17 onboard the bus, died and that she had fever and acute coughing, symptoms similar to that of the Covid19. Autopsy on the deceased revealed that the cause of death was not the coronavirus as feared, but the damage was already done. This incident only reaffirms people’s concern about the preparedness of the health authorities in the event the virus appears in the country. Suffice to say the 16 other passengers were quarantined at a special facility put up by the Ministry of Health, but the die was already cast as people began to abuse them and treat them as pariahs, or worse as people suffering from leprosy. This past Saturday, one of the Directors from the Ministry of Health, Dr Lauré Adrien announced via tweeter that after the autopsy results, the other passengers quarantined have been released and they went to their various homes.
The government, like most governments in other parts of the world, is taking measures to contain the spread of the virus. In a statement by the Prime Minister Jouthe Joseph, all flights from Europe, Canada and Latin America have been suspended as of last Sunday, and the borders with the Dominican Republic have been closed as of Monday, but flights from the US are currently being allowed and are being monitored. Since the government’s decision was taken the Dominican Republic has recorded a dozen cases, Canada with about 300 cases and one death and the US over 3000 cases, causing anxiety on social media. In order to prevent people from misinformation and profiting from the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought, the Minister of Health, Dr. Greta Roy Clément released a brief video on Facebook in which she warned the public that only the national public health laboratory is equipped to test and confirm the presence of the virus in the country, and that people should be wary of others selling kits purported to test or cure the virus. This warning is particularly geared towards those pharmacies in the country that claim to be able to test for the virus. To confirm or deny the presence of the virus, a cotton swab is inserted into the nasal cavities to take a sample and only two types of health officials can administer this test: nurses and biologists.
Now to the perennial issue facing the island, the group, Mache Kontre is calling on all the different sectors of the Haitian society, including civil society to come together to oppose President Jovenel Moïse and his antidemocratic and autocratic regime, and call for the return of constitutional order as soon as possible. According to the group which consists of Fusion des sociaux-démocrates haïtiens (Fusion), Verite, Veye yo, le Mouvement chrétien pour une nouvelle Haïti (Mochrena) and l’Organisation du peuple en lutte (OPL), a sustainable and durable way out of the current crisis includes the putting in place a transitional government which should make it possible to hold hearings nationwide to define a common national project going forward, to revisit the constitution and organize fair trials on those implicated in the PetroCarïbe scandal. While railing against the bad governance of the current and previous government of Tèt kale (PHTK) the group also calls for the trial and punishment for those who have engaged in summary executions, unpunished crimes and killings recently, as well as respond to the legitimate claims of the population. The group expressed their dismay at the way the government is solely responsible for the state of affairs in which the security situation has deteriorated to unprecedented levels, the political instability caused by the regime and the destruction of all state institutions. It referenced the failed dialogue that was to take place in January, while the President autocratically selected the former Minister of Economy and Finance to become the new Prime Minister, without waiting for negotiations and dialogue to produce a political agreement.
Meanwhile, the national police undertook an operation in Gonaïves last weekend resulting in the death of three individuals and a number of others were wounded. The police operation took place in the Jubilee neighborhood not too far from Raboteau,, a bastion of antigovernmental activities. In a press conference at the Toussaint Louverture police station in Gonaïves, Inspector Max Saint-Preux said that police officers were looking for one Robinson, who was suspected on armed robbery, kidnapping and attempted kidnapping, but when they got to the area, Robinson’s men opened fire on the police and two agents, Guerbenz Lebrum and Eddy Délien were wounded, and another officer was evacuated to Port-au-Prince for urgent care. Militants and residents in the area who witnessed the police operation called it an assassination and quickly posted photos on social media. Though the police spokesperson could not confirm if there were any civilian casualties, he did confirm that a .22 calibre and a magazine with 13 rounds of ammunition were seized. But the locals claimed three victims, including a former militant. When reached on the phone, Raphaël Clavanet Marado, one of the opposition leaders in Gonaïves did not want to comment on the police operations but stated that the police were just doing their job since a complaint has been launched against Robinson, while distancing himself from those exacting reprehensible acts on the people in the community.
Finally, Senator Kedlaire Augustin was briefly detained on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in the Puits Blain neighborhood. The senator was in a Toyota Prado jeep without license plates. The Senator from the Northwest said he was beaten by the police who took him to the police station in Delmas. The senate president, Pierre François Sildor has confirmed the story and said he was at the hospital to visit his colleague. According to various sources, there was an alert to the police that a car fitting the senator’s description was without license places was involved in several kidnappings, but he also confirms that the car did not have the license places because the authorities who were to issue it to him did not do their jobs. The Senator who complains of stomach pains because of the beatings form the police equates his treatment to an assassination attempt.