The Caribbean Region steps up its response to COVID-19

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The Caribbean Region steps up its response to COVID-19

OECS Media Release

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 — An Emergency Meeting was convened on Sunday, 1 March 2020 by Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, current chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government, on a regional approach to the unfolding Covid-19 coronavirus.

The meeting was attended by the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Dominica and Saint Lucia; the Minister of Finance from St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and Ministers of Health from Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. The Prime Minister from Jamaica and President of Haiti joined virtually via the Zoom platform alongside, inter alia, representatives from St. Kitts and Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), joined the meeting via Zoom to update the grouping on the unfolding global situation. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) led the discussion on regional protocols and other regional entities including the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) were engaged. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission was represented via Zoom by OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules and in person by Dr. Carlene Radix, Head of Health and Acting Head of the Social Development Cluster. Various public and private sector individuals from Barbados were represented, and there was international representation from the cruise industry.

Prime Minister Mottley urged persons to continue to get their information from credible national, regional and international sources, as well as urged the media to be responsible in ensuring the correct information reaches the public about the actions to be taken to reduce their risks.  She also reminded the group of the information shared by PAHO that

Over 80% of cases of coronavirus are mild, and the greatest risks are for persons over 80 years of age and persons with underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), PAHO, the OECS Commission and Ministries of Health in the region continue to send messages to the public. People are encouraged to take the usual precautions they would take for the flu, including, washing hands regularly with soap and water, ‘covering your coughs and sneezes’ and avoiding interaction with others when sick. In addition, persons with underlying chronic diseases are recommended to ensure that their diseases are well controlled and that they have adequate medication and needed supplies.

The Minister of Health of Antigua, Hon. Molwyn Joseph is the current chair of the CARICOM Council of Health Ministers and he stressed the need for countries to continue to build national and regional capacity to detect, contain and manage the virus. Prime Minister Mottley noted that there is a need for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to include regional and international financial institutions, as well as national and regional private sector organisations and all sectors of government. 

Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules stated

 “…this situation requires common, clear and unambiguous protocols. Our proximity to each other and the volume of people traffic among our islands requires that the responsibility is shared across our borders.” 

The OECS Commission continues to play a convening role to monitor capacity across, as well as to facilitate the pooled procurement of medications and supplies through the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service.

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