A regional protocol establishing minimum standards for dealing with the COVID19 virus was agreed to by CARICOM Heads of Government and Ministers of Health at the 8th Special Emergency Meeting in Barbados on Sunday. The protocol is critical to avoid an outbreak of panic and fear in the Region.
The meeting was attended by 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).
The capacity to manage an outbreak was identified as an area of concern. Accordingly the Meeting agreed to establish an expanded Bureau of Heads of Government to continue discussions with the travel and tourism industry, regional Financial Institutions, International Financial Institutions and the private sector with respect to the marshalling of resources to augment the region’s capacity to deal with a possible outbreak. Against that background, the meeting asked CARPHA and PAHO to assist by conducting a gap analysis of Member States’ capacities.
The protocol, drafted by CARPHA following two emergency meetings of the CARICOM Ministers of Health last week, allows for individual states to place additional measures if they so require.
Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) the Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, emphasised that the leaders were prepared to protect the Region’s “vital national and regional interest at all times. We must act together to get through this,” the Prime Minister said referring to the Community’s response to the virus.
The Protocol defines roles and responsibilities of all parties and seeks to ensure that there is effective communications between CARICOM governments and the cruise line industry with respect to decisions so that there would be a common understanding.
The meeting also recognised that the existing Regional Response Mechanism co-ordinated by CDEMA was already on alert and was actively undertaking scenario planning in partnership with CARPHA, PAHO, IMPACS and Member States’ emergency management agencies and Chief Medial Officers.
CDEMA would also provide guidance and share best practices to Member States in their approach to managing an outbreak. A draft framework document has already been shared with regional partners and all CDEMA participating states and this will be built upon.
The cruise industry officials confirmed that they have been doing their part in screening passengers and stated they were willing to work with the established protocol.
The officials said they greatly appreciated the commitment and expertise of their partners in CARICOM, PAHO, CARPHA, CEDEMA, and IMPACS as everyone works together in their mutual interest of providing the highest degree of safety and health for passengers, crew and the destinations visited.
They said screening procedures and protocols for prevention, surveillance and response are integral to industry operations. The cruise officials added that clear and practical protocols throughout the Region are essential and look forward to continued co-operation with all stakeholders. They urged everyone to align with the guidance and procedures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other global medical experts.
They expressed their gratitude for Prime Minister Mottley’s leadership and initiative in convening what was a productive meeting.