Outgoing Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet, and new Chair, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, outline the challenges faced by CARICOM member countries. (BGIS)

As the region faces the challenge of climate change, it is also grappling with a major public health threat in the form of Covid-19 – the novel coronavirus – and crime and security.

Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, made this clear as she delivered remarks to open the 31st Inter-sessional Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

In a wide-ranging address, Ms. Mottley said that following the regular summit in Castries last year, the region could not have anticipated that it would be facing a potential pandemic in the form of the novel coronavirus with much reliance on regional public health agencies as the frontline in protection.

She said: “This is a critical moment for us as a Community to understand that whether the challenges be with respect to chronic NCDs … or … the more talked about and definite existential threat of climate [change] affecting us, not just through hurricanes … or whether it is violence that is genuinely becoming a public health disorder with a level of killings across our community that is unacceptable for any community, … or whether it is the challenge to our fiscal sovereignty … or the challenge to multilateralism that are taking and making aim at the integrity of our freedom of association as small groupings,  we have to determine how best to confront these challenges.”

Ms. Mottley noted that the creation of an Implementation Agency for Crime and Security in 2006, and the joint Regional Communications Centre were designed to prepare the Caribbean for Cricket World Cup 2007, but noted that they would also serve the Caribbean Community for much longer, in the area of border security.

CARICOM Chair and Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley addressing the opening session of the of the 31st Inter-sessional CARICOM Conference today. To her right is CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

She added: “The ability for that agency to be linked in real time to Interpol, to the US Department of Homeland Security and to be able to have access to the travel histories of persons, allows us to be able to make that determination at the level of our border security officials, who we thank for being our frontline warriors in the protection of our people.

“At the same time CARPHA – a relatively new regional institution as well – has proven its worth to us by being able to ensure that along with the Pan American Health Organization a number of our countries are today now in a position to test quickly for whether persons within our jurisdiction have been infected with this dangerous virus.”

During today’s Plenary, leaders were given an update on the strategy to tackle the novel coronavirus, by Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Dr. Joy St. John.

CARICOM leaders in attendance were: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne; Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Dr. Hubert Minnis; Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell; Premier of Montserrat, Joseph Farrell; Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Timothy Harris; Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet; Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonzalves; Suriname’s Vice President Michael Ashwin Satyandre Adhin; and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley.

The two-day summit concludes on Wednesday with the issuing of a communiqué.

cathy.lashley@barbados.gov.bb

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