PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has called for a special Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting to determine a coordinated response to the two main public health threats facing the world at present, namely the Ebola and chikungunya outbreaks.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
In response to an advisory issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, as well as an increasing number of chickungunya cases in the Caribbean, Persad-Bissessar has offered to host this meeting in Trinidad and Tobago.
The proposed meeting will draw upon the expertise of the region’s leading voice on health, prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas, as well as the health ministers of other member states.
The meeting will feature discussions geared towards orchestrating a plan of action in response to the increasing number of cases of chickungunya in the Caribbean and the prevention of the Ebola virus disease.
This meeting will be instrumental in CARICOM’s stance, together with the rest of the global community in the fight against these life threatening viruses.
Furthermore, CARICOM must address international decisions made that will undoubtedly affect the tourism industry:
“In order to support the global efforts to contain the spread of the disease and provide a coordinated international response for the travel and tourism sector, the heads of WHO, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Airports Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) decided to activate a Travel and Transport Task Force which will monitor the situation and provide timely information to the travel and tourism sector as well as to travellers.”
Thus far, the Caribbean has not recorded any cases of the Ebola virus. However, Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 22 cases of the chikungunya virus while there have been several hundred reported cases in other Caribbean islands.
Persad-Bissessar called for a more preventative approach to this situation: “As prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, my approach to regional matters is similar to my approach here at home -- we must not wait for a crisis to act.”
This meeting will also act as a direct response to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which has been calling for CARICOM member states “to adequately prepare for potential cases to implement the necessary steps to protect health care facilities, patients, health care workers and communities.”
Additionally, it will enable a thorough exercise to be undertaken regarding the state of preparedness of all member states and the gaps that need to be filled to achieve that state of readiness, including whatever assistance is required.
It should be noted that the ministry of health of Jamaica “would be moving to acquire fever-detecting devices to use at the island’s ports as part of efforts to boost the country’s defence against the deadly Ebola and other viruses.” Similar types of devices were used during the SARS outbreak at ports of entry in Southeast Asian states.
Persad-Bissessar also declared, “My advice to colleague heads of government in the Caribbean is to take preemptive measures to ensure the safety, health and well-being of millions of citizens of the Caribbean region. While our risk is low, our actions must further diminish the risks to our citizens. And I am confident that nations across CARICOM will respond favourably.”