Emergency talks as COVID-19 hits region

Emergency talks as COVID-19 hits region
In this April 14, 2008 file photo, the Fred Olson Cruise Liner Braemar is docked at the port in Havana, Cuba. On Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 the Dominican Republic turned back the Braemar because some on board showed potential symptoms of the new coronavirus COVID-19. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh was among gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials from across the re­gion in­volved in emer­gency talks in Bar­ba­dos yes­ter­day on the im­pact of the coro­n­avirus COVID-19.

Even as that meet­ing, chaired by Cari­com chair­man Prime Min­is­ter Mia Mot­t­ley was in progress, health of­fi­cials in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic and France’s over­seas ter­ri­to­ries re­port­ed the first con­firmed cas­es of the new coro­n­avirus in the Caribbean.

Yes­ter­day’s meet­ing was aimed at de­vel­op­ing a com­mon Cari­com po­si­tion re­gard­ing the virus as it re­lates to the tourism sec­tor giv­en dif­fer­ing po­si­tions on cruise ships and air­lines op­er­at­ing in the Caribbean. In re­cent, days some Cari­com coun­tries have pre­vent­ed cruise lin­ers from dock­ing at their ports af­ter some pas­sen­gers were re­port­ed to have been suf­fer­ing from the virus.

The sources said it was felt there is need for a uni­fied po­si­tion on the mat­ter, not on­ly as it re­lates to the tourism sec­tor, but oth­er sec­tors of the econ­o­my.

The meet­ing was al­so at­tend­ed by se­nior of­fi­cials of US-based cruise lin­ers as well as re­gion­al air­lines. In ad­di­tion, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( PA­HO), the Caribbean Pub­lic Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Com­mu­ni­ty Im­ple­men­ta­tion Agency for Crime and Se­cu­ri­ty and the Caribbean Dis­as­ter Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (CDE­MA) were on at­ten­dance.

As those talks were tak­ing place, health of­fi­cials in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic and France re­port­ed the first con­firmed cas­es of the new coro­n­avirus in the Caribbean, while British cruise ship pas­sen­gers who had been trapped at sea due to virus fears were fi­nal­ly set to re­turn home.

Do­mini­can Pub­lic Health Min­is­ter Rafael Sánchez Cár­de­nas said a 62-year-old Ital­ian man had ar­rived in the coun­try on Feb­ru­ary 22 with­out show­ing symp­toms. He was be­ing treat­ed in iso­la­tion at a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal and “has not shown se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions.”

France, mean­while, re­port­ed a case on the Caribbean is­land of Guade­loupe, the first in one of France’s over­seas ter­ri­to­ries.

The an­nounce­ments came short­ly be­fore the Brae­mar cruise ship, which had been de­nied en­try to the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic due to the virus fears, at last found a place to dock—the Dutch ter­ri­to­ry of St Maarten.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines said two char­tered air­lin­ers would car­ry pas­sen­gers back to Britain. Oth­er pas­sen­gers, who had been sched­uled to board the ves­sel on Fri­day in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, were be­ing flown to St Maarten to em­bark there.

Do­mini­can of­fi­cials had barred the ship due to re­ports that a few of those aboard had a flu-like ill­ness, but the cruise line said none had symp­toms con­sis­tent with the new virus.

It was one of at least three cruise ships turned away from Caribbean ports over the past week due to con­cerns over pos­si­ble vi­ral in­fec­tions, though no pas­sen­gers on any of the ships has been con­firmed to have the dis­ease.

The broad­er Latin Amer­i­ca re­gion has re­port­ed sev­er­al oth­er cas­es of the COVID-19 ill­ness in re­cent days. Mex­i­co has re­port­ed four cas­es, Brazil two and Ecuador one, all in­volv­ing peo­ple who had trav­elled re­cent­ly to Eu­rope.

On Fri­day, CARPHA up­grad­ed the risk of COVID-19 dis­ease trans­mis­sion from low, to “mod­er­ate to high” , al­though at that time there has been no con­firmed case of the dis­ease which has killed near­ly 3,000 peo­ple in sev­er­al coun­tries main­ly in Chi­na and South Ko­rea.

CARPHA said trans­mis­sion of the virus has been re­port­ed in ter­ri­to­ries with di­rect flights to Caribbean coun­tries.

CARPHA Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Dr. Joy St. John is urg­ing health au­thor­i­ties in mem­ber states to shift their mind set from pre­pared­ness to readi­ness and rapid re­sponse and con­tin­ue to do all that is nec­es­sary to strength­en their ca­pac­i­ty to re­spond to pos­si­ble im­por­ta­tion of cas­es.

She al­so en­cour­aged mem­ber states to in­crease their ca­pac­i­ty for sur­veil­lance and to adapt their na­tion­al pan­dem­ic pre­pared­ness plans to this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion with COVID-19, as a mat­ter of ur­gency.


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