Containing COVID-19

The UWI continued to engage in the fierce battle to regain its grasp on the many aspects of our lives that have been threatened by the pandemic. In addition to the initiatives already mentioned within this report, there were several other ways in which the University responded individually and collectively.

Vaccination Drives

In Jamaica, by the close of the 2020/2021 academic year, the Mona Aging and Wellness Centre had succeeded in vaccinating over 16,000 persons, many of whom were from the UWI retiree community and UWI lecturers.

The UWI School of Nursing (UWISoN) supported the T&T Ministry of Health by providing vaccination administration training for inter-professionals. UWISoN trained 468 persons to support the Ministry’s vaccination roll-out.

In Trinidad and Tobago, on the St. Augustine Campus, the MoH granted approval to the Health Services Unit (HSU) to operate a COVID-19 vaccination site as part of the national effort to protect the population from the worst effects of the virus. This was one of the largest outreach exercises the HSU has ever embarked upon.

In Barbados, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, The UWI Cave Hill Campus facilitated vaccinations for all staff and students. In addition, approximately 400 students were hailed for their courage by PM Mia Mottley after they volunteered to support the country’s COVID response by helping to gather data and disseminate information through Operation Seek and Save, conducted to help stem a deadly second wave. There was also a focus on other health issues, including dengue fever. A further 575 volunteered for the National Immunisation Campaign. The students were also lauded by Principal Professor the Most Honourable Eudine Barriteau in a special virtual appreciation ceremony.

Genome Sequencing Project

Led by Professor of Molecular Genetics and Virology, Christine Carrington, Faculty of Medical Sciences, researchers at the St. Augustine Campus commenced a project to analyse the coronavirus genomes in infected people, to monitor mutations of the virus and identify the sources from which the virus was being spread. The project was entitled COVID-19: Infectious Disease Molecular Epidemiology for Pathogen Control and Tracking (COVID-19: IMPACT).

The UWI offers the only facility in the English-speaking Caribbean with the capacity for rapid whole genome sequencing for SARS-CoV-2. Tests were conducted to detect variants of concern for 17 Caribbean countries. Thousands of samples were sequenced and the effectiveness of the project was demonstrated by its rapid detection, assessment and reporting of the presence of one or more SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.

This project informed public health policy and communication across the region.

COVID-19 Partnerships

The Campus engaged with several stakeholders in its contribution to the fight against the pandemic. They included:

Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health – Guidance on what medical equipment and PPE is needed and in what quantities. Testing and approval of all equipment prior to use in national hospitals.

CARIRI – Testing of air purifiers, facemasks, N95 respirators. Collaboration for standards development. PAHO and the WHO – Guidance and assistance with testing of medical equipment and PPE to applicable international standards.

TTMA – Partnerships to mass manufacture and export medical equipment and PPE.

CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the TTBS – Development of local and regional standards for medical equipment and PPE.

MIC – Assistance with prototyping and manufacturing of medical equipment and PPE.

AMCHAM TT and the Embassy of Canada – Technical assistance and access to funding for research into medical equipment and PPE.

UWI COVID-19 Task Force

The UWI COVID-19 Task Force is an in-house panel of subject-matter experts, who have been guiding the pandemic response at university, national and regional levels over the past two years. During the period in question, they continued to bring value to our efforts to overcome the pandemic and its effects.

Support to MSMEs through upskilling and digitalisation

As part of its COVID-19 recovery programme, the UNDP in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean partnered with The UWI Open Campus and Frankfurt School (FS) to support more than 300 Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in increasing their digital skills and resilience to external shocks.

As MSMEs rely strongly on tourism, they have been the most affected sector during the pandemic. The UNDP Future Tourism Project was born out of a need to adapt to the new post-COVID environment, and to help MSMEs to be more resilient and respond better to shocks and new market needs through revamping their digital skills.

New book on COVID-19

A new book addressing the challenges of the Coronavirus in the CARICOM region features chapters written by experts from The UWI.

Written by Dr. Yonique Campbell, Senior Lecturer at the Mona Campus, with her University of Sydney co- author, Professor John Connell, COVID in the Islands: A comparative perspective on the Caribbean and the Pacific considers the complex impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in two contrasting island regions and within several islands and island states. The book focuses on public health, the economies, social tensions and responses, public policy, future ‘bubbles’ and regional connections.

COVID-19 ethics handbook

A handbook outlining ethical principles to guide the responses of Caribbean governments and policymakers in managing the COVID-19 pandemic was authored by two members of The UWI COVID-19 Task Force.

Dr. Anna Kasafi Perkins, an ethics specialist, and Professor R. Clive Landis, a cardiovascular research expert—who chairs the COVID-19 Task Force—wrote the handbook aimed at helping decision-makers navigate the ethical dilemmas arising from the mix of medical, social, economic and other issues posed by COVID-19. The free eBook is entitled Ethics Amidst COVID-19: A Brief Ethics Handbook for Caribbean Policymakers and Leaders. It is available for free download via The UWI COVID-19 Task Force website.

The UWI COVID-19 Task Force website

The UWI was awarded gold at the 36th annual Educational Advertising Awards (EduADAwards) for marketing execution and message impact in its public education/ communication campaign on its COVID-19 response strategy.