By Sandy Deane, Barbados Today
Point of View.- CARICOM (Caribbean Community) officials at a special emergency meeting in Bridgetown last week ramped up the region’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) even as three non-English speaking countries confirmed cases.
“We are setting out clear boundaries and responsibilities for individual partners, to increase our capacity to detect, increase our capacity to manage and increase our capacity to contain [the Coronavirus],” CARICOM Chairman Prime Minister Mia Mottley told a news conference at the end of the talks held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre.
A wide cross-section of officials including representatives from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and representatives of the leadership of the cruise ship industry and their representative bodies, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Associate (FCCA) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) participated in the deliberations.
Mottley announced that a regional protocol establishing minimum standards for dealing with the COVID-19 virus and other infectious diseases was approved that defines the roles and responsibilities of governments and the cruise line industry.
She also disclosed that agreement was reached to establish a framework for an expanded bureau of Heads of Government to start discussions with regional and international partners to ensure countries are prepared to tackle any eventuality.
“Whether from our partners in the travel and tourism industry, from our partners in international financial institutions or regional financial institutions, or our regional and local private sector in order to be able to increase our capacity to contain and manage any outbreak.
“And against that background, we have asked PAHO and the Caribbean Public Health Agency to help us with the identification of the gaps that exist within our respective member states that as we move to marshall our resources we will be in a position to help.”
PAHO today revealed there were three cases of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic, two cases in St Maarten and one case in St Barts.
Prime Minister Mottley warning against panic stressed that countries, “will continue to be guided by the science and medical officials on the matter so that we can all times protect the health of our citizens and all visiting our territories and at the same time protect the economic stability of our region and countries given the fact that panic and fear can have a greater deleterious impact, a greater negative impact on our countries than COVID-19 itself.”
She called for region-wide public service announcements via traditional and social media to help citizens better understand the virus and prevent infection, she urged citizens to only seek information from credible established sources at the local, regional and international level.
“We need to contextualize this and the one thing we cannot do is to start to attack nationalities or countries or to get a level of xenophobia and to close off borders, to create barriers that will in fact lead to loss of jobs, loss of economic activity, greater social implosion, greater opportunities for crime and all of the other things which are equally public health disorders,” Mottley cautioned.
The Prime Minister maintained it was within the region’s capacity to detect, contain and manage the virus but it would require cooperation, partnership, discipline and communication.