Chief Executive Officer of Carnival Corporation, Arnold Donald has emphasized that safety is a top priority for the cruise industry, noting special protocols are in place to deal with not only COVID-19 but several diseases around the world.
Mr. Donald made these remarks during a press conference held at the end of the 8th Special Emergency Meeting of CARICOM in Barbados on Sunday.
The meeting was held to establish a regional protocol outlining the minimum standards for dealing with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
The cruise official stressed Carnival Cruises and other industry players prioritize safety, whether it was marine safety, health, environmental protection or compliance.
“The industry does have a number of screening procedures and protocols for prevention, surveillance and response that are integral to our industry operations because we have to do this all the time.
“Through the years, there have been a number of diseases, issues and scares around the world, to name a few, Zika, Ebola, MERS, SARS. We have to deal with isolated things because in our case, we go to over 700 ports a year, and there’s always something going on somewhere. We’ve dealt with issues here in the Caribbean, even. And so these protocols that we have in place tend to serve us well. Of course, we fine-tune them, as we have in this case, for the specific disease or illness or situation that arises and in this case it is COVID-19,” he stated.
Mr. Donald said he felt it was important for Carnival Corporation to participate in the meeting, so that the organization has a common basis for operating and continuing to provide opportunities, while keeping its crew, guests and locals “healthy and safe”.
Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who led the meeting, said she was satisfied with the commitment of the cruise industry to maintaining clear lines of communication.
Ms. Mottley noted that islands have different responsibilities based on whether they were only a cruise destination or a home port.
It was for this reason, she said, that it was important that individual Member States have emergency response mechanisms in place.
“Our ability to scale up surveillance at our ports of entry; identify quarantine and isolation facilities; enhance the training of our frontline staff, and strengthen the laboratory capacity within the country is really at the centre of what we mean when we talk about building capacity.
“Against that background, we will continue to be guided by the scientific and the medical officials in this matter so that we can at all times protect the health of our citizens and all visiting our territories, while at the same time protect the economic stability of our region and our countries, given the fact that panic and fear can have a greater deleterious impact on our countries than the impact of COVID-19 itself,” she stated.
The Prime Minister further stressed that CARICOM was setting out clear boundaries and responsibilities for individual partners, as it seeks to increase capacity to detect, manage, and contain COVID-19 and similar threats.
Noting that there was no rapid test currently in place, she said the cruise lines agreed to taking samples where possible to assist with reducing the wait time of testing.
“I think it is only fair that we place in context to that if Carnival, for example, says that they have about a quarter million people travelling every week, and there has not been a single case within the region on a cruise vessel, we have to be thankful for that. We pray that we can continue to be thankful so we enhance measures on both of our parts in that respect. We have also been doing the same for cargo vessels and airlines and we intend to do so as we go forward,” she reported.
Prime Minister Mottley also stated that a framework was created for an expanded Bureau of Heads of Government to immediately work on marshalling resources and increasing the region’s capacity to contain and manage the disease.
Members of the sub-committee are Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Antigua.
They will work in partnership with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to address the region’s concerns. A gap analysis will also be conducted by CARPHA and PAHO on the capacities of member states.
The CARICOM 8th Special Emergency Meeting was attended by Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet, regional Ministers of Health and senior health officials.
Also present were representatives from the PAHO, CARPHA, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and representatives of the leadership of the cruise ship industry and their representative bodies, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association and the Cruise Lines International Association.