CARICOM HEADS OF GOVERNMENT MEETING HELD TO DISCUSS MITIGATING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 ON KEY SECTORS, SUCH AS TOURISM

Minister of State with responsibility for Health, the Honourable Wendy Phipps

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 03, 2020 (SKNIS): A CARICOM Heads of Government meeting was held on March 1, 2020, which focused on addressing the spread of the COVID-19, also known as the Novel Coronavirus, in particular minimizing the effects on tourism.

Minister of State with responsibility for Health, the Honourable Wendy Phipps, stated that the meeting “was a tremendous effort and what was able to be achieved last evening was nothing short of phenomenal considering you are coming from 13 jurisdictions in which there is a sub region called the OECS whose own consideration, sovereignty and nuances as it relates to travel would have to be taken into account as we try to come up with a logical way forward to address the spread of the virus to contain what is happening and to minimize any fallout, in particular our fallout to tourism.”

Coming out of the meeting were basic guidelines as to how to handle travel throughout the region, said Minister Phipps.

“The issue of ensuring that as we build out what might be a common position that outlines basic guidelines for handling travel through the region, at the same time we recognize and we respect the fact that every member state of the region has the right to its sovereignty,” she said.

“In other words no FCCA and no cruise industry association is going to dictate to Jamaica or to Trinidad or to St. Kitts and Nevis what these countries should be doing to protect its citizens, but at the basic level, we expect that we should all be on the same page with what we consider to be minimum guidelines.”

Minister Phipps said that “at the end of the day, in as much as we want to make sure that we cooperate and that we are on the same page, our primary responsibilities as Ministries of Health and national security and governments, is to make sure you protect the lives of your people first and foremost.”

Risks reduction was also looked at during the meeting, said Minister Phipps. A seven page document was created that outlines, among others, the various provisions that would be in place in terms of how to treat the infection, the pre-screening mechanisms that the cruise industry would have to guarantee would be in place before allowing someone to board the vessel.

“We are also discussing with them when persons get ill onboard and have symptoms that might seem to be along the lines of the coronavirus, what mechanisms are you putting in place onboard, if that person has to disembark, what are the mechanisms for getting them off the ship.”

Other areas that were looked at in terms of inputs had to do with how a suspected case is defined, said the Minister Phipps.

“We have guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) that we are following as it relates to that,” she said. “These guidelines would have been issued and reissued up to yesterday to everybody who was in place and of course these are guided by the international health regulations that the World Health Organization (WHO) would have issued in 2005 and then would have done revisions for up to 2019.

The document also outlines what enforcement measures at a minimum the cruise industry would commit their members to and the advice that should be coming from countries relative to those restrictions that would have been issued as it relates to countries of interest, said Minister Phipps.

Also looked at were the mechanisms that would be in place to extract a person from a ship.