Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, has given the assurance that regional governments will keep their citizens fully informed about any developments regarding the strategy to combat the COVID-19 virus.
She made this clear as she chaired a press conference at the end of the 8th Special Emergency Meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which was held yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Stressing that the region had faced similar health crises in the past, in the form of SARS and MERS, the Prime Minister warned persons not to ‘push the panic button’ by attacking nationalities or countries, resorting to xenophobia, closing borders, or creating barriers that would lead to job losses, loss of economic activity, greater social implosion, greater opportunities for crime and other things, which were equally public health disorders.
“This is not an easy moment for any of us. And because we are living in a world where in the last decade alone air travel has virtually doubled … where communication between people is as easy as picking up this phone and using it, it means that we are fighting new forces in our ability to detect, contain and manage any public health outbreak, not just this one. And to that extent, because of the rise of fake news in the last decade as well, it is absolutely important that people only seek and receive their information from credible sources, credible established sources, either nationally, regionally or internationally,” she stated.
Ms. Mottley said that it was not possible to determine whether a vaccine against COVID-19 would be available in the next 12 to 15 months, but promised that the Government of Barbados would continue to keep persons up-to-date about any developments as far as measures to protect the country were concerned.
“I have every confidence that we the people of this region, as others before us, have risen to the occasion [and] that we shall rise to it and you shall hear us regularly, not because we want our voices to be heard, but because nature abhors a vacuum and it is important that the people of this region can get about their ordinary lives while allowing us to take the actions to contain the spread and to ensure we manage effectively those who are affected by it and infected by it,” she added.
She explained that clear boundaries and responsibilities would be established, with regional governments increasing the capacity to detect, manage and contain the virus, with the cruise lines also agreeing that, where possible, they would also work to facilitate the taking of samples so as to reduce the time taken for testing to be done.
Ms. Mottley appealed to Caribbean nationals to adhere to the protocols outlined and to work with regional governments, by practising good personal hygiene, inclusive of regular hand washing, not touching one’s face and managing one’s environment correctly.
She said regional governments would continue to enforce enhanced surveillance measures at the ports of entry and this would be extended to cargo vessels and the airlines, with each country doing its own analysis, while the Pan American Health Organization and the Caribbean Public Health Agency would assist governments by conducting a gap analysis.
The Prime Minister commended the frontline medical personnel; immigration, airport and customs officials; port workers, nurses, doctors and ambulance personnel for their dedication and commitment.