Government is planning to use the old naval base at Harrison’s Point, St. Lucy, to “better detect, contain and manage” the COVID-19 virus, if necessary.
So says Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, as she spoke to the media following five hours of talks as regional leaders, health officials, representatives of the cruise industry, labour and the private sector met yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre for the 8th Special Emergency Meeting of CARICOM.
The meeting was called to map out a strategy for dealing with the threat posed by coronavirus.
Ms. Mottley said a team comprising herself, Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Bostic; Attorney General Dale Marshall; Minister in the Ministry of Public Works, Peter Phillips; and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott, inspected the site on Saturday.
She said a project manager would be identified, with the quarantine building in St. Lucy being able to house approximately 150 to 160 people, with persons only being transferred to isolation if they tested positive for COVID-19.
She noted that the old naval base was in a “significant amount of disrepair” and surrounded by overgrown bush, but that government would be examining the cost involved “in bringing parts of it back in to functional operation.”
Ms. Mottley explained that the Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance had cleared all of the surrounding bush and the building was still in “good shape”, although all of the windows, doors, conduit and wires had been removed, and noted that the facility would be used for both quarantine and isolation.
“Luckily, we have a number of buildings that will allow us to be able to deal with quarantining and previously it was used as the temporary prison. There was also a temporary hospital provided there, so we have a building that we will have to bring back into shape. It’s a couple weeks work to do all of it …but I am now satisfied that each country in the region needs some kind of facility that allows us to be able to retreat in times of emergency…,” she indicated.
The Prime Minister also advised that government would be looking at other facilities such as the old district hospital and Paragon, as well as the Barbados Defence Force’s military hospital, which she said was “second to none” and could accommodate “quite a few people”.
The CARICOM Chairman said that regional governments would be guided by the scientific evidence and medical officials, so as to protect the health of citizens and those persons visiting, while at the same time protecting the economic stability of the region.
At the end of the emergency meeting, regional governments adopted a protocol for dealing with COVID-19, which included establishing a sub-committee of Heads of Government which will continue discussions with the cruise industry, regional financial institutions, international financial institutions and the private sector to look at ways of providing resources for capacity to deal with any possible outbreak.