By Caribbean News Global contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met virtually on May 5, 2020, (a special emergency meeting was held on April 15, 2020) specifically to continue their efforts to harmonise their responses to and policies on the multifaceted impact of COVID-19.
Heads of government welcomed a presentation from a regional working group which indicated that the pandemic was largely contained in the region due to the decisive action by governments to put restrictions in place. They also noted the emphasis by the group that re-opening by the Member States must be done with the health consideration being the foremost criterion.
The group, including representation from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), The University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), offered recommendations for common public health policy.
The recommendations included parameters for the easing of restrictions in Member States that would allow for a re-opening in phases. The recommendations also included suggested criteria for a protocol on the re-opening of airports for intra-regional travel. The draft policy will be resubmitted to the heads of government for final approval.
Heads of government recognised the need to pool their efforts at the procurement of medical devices and supplies in the context of COVID-19 to more easily gain access to supplies and achieve economies of scale. This system would utilise the existing structures of the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Pharmaceutical Procurement Service (PPS).
The heads of government also endorsed the regional COVID-19 Agri-Food Security Action Plan to strengthen the region’s food security in the face of the threat posed by the pandemic. The plan was developed by agriculture stakeholders, including the private sector.
The need for a common protocol for the re-opening of regional airports to flights from selected third countries and the re-opening of hotels was also discussed. In that regard, heads of government established a sub-committee led by the Allen Chastanet, prime minister of Saint Lucia, to have discussions with stakeholders in the tourism industry, including the hoteliers, airlines, cruise operators and the labour unions to settle the appropriate protocols needed to ensure safety for workers and visitors upon re-opening of the sector. This would be informed by the regional public health policy.
Heads of government stressed their determination to speak to the cruise and airline industries with one voice; agreed to meet in the coming weeks to discuss the financial and economic challenges related to the impact of the pandemic.