Haiti mulls aid to workers hit by coronavirus restrictions

Aerial view of the high density of houses in the neighbourhood of Jalousie in Port-au-Prince, on March 12, 2020

Haitian authorities say they are considering providing economic support to people affected by coronavirus restrictions that have shut down schools and factories in the impoverished Caribbean country where three new COVID-19 cases have been reported.

"My government is in the process of considering partial leave at half workers' pay," Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe said Sunday on Twitter, calling on workers to "stay home."

The Haitian health ministry on Sunday reported three new cases of the novel coronavirus, but provided no details on where they were detected.

On Thursday, President Jovenel Moise responded to the first two confirmed cases in Haiti by ordering the immediate closure of all factories, schools, training centers and universities.

The decision, which put the textile industry's nearly 60,000 workers out of a job, was taken without consultation with the country's private sector or labor organizations.

"We learned of this measure on TV, just like that. There was no warning," Georges Sassine, the president of the association of Haitian industries, said.

Some factories continued operating normally on Friday, ignoring the government measures.

On Sunday, several members of the clergy were arrested in Port-au-Prince for not respecting a ban on gatherings of 10 people or more.

Lockdowns like those imposed in Italy and France would be difficult to carry out in Haiti because most inhabitants survive day to day in the informal economy.

The high density of the population of Port-au-Prince, which with three million inhabitants is the most populous capital in the Caribbean, hugely complicates efforts at social distancing, particularly in the crowded public transportation system.