By Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St Kitts, March 1, 2020 – Against the background of the World Health Organization raising the global risk assessment of the COVID-19 Coronavirus world wide infection level to “very high, CARICOM Heads today Sunday, March 1, to discuss ways of protecting the region from the continued spread of the deadly virus.
The meeting will be hosted by Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, will host the special meeting in Barbados, in the Frangipani room at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, beginning at 12 noon.
It will bring together some Heads of Government, Caribbean Ministers of Health and their chief medical officers, representatives from the Pan American Health Organization, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
The decision to hold the special meeting was taken by Ms. Mottley following consultations with outgoing CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of St. Lucia, after both leaders participated in two emergency meetings on Wednesday, February 26, and Friday, February 28, of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) and Chief Medical Officers on COVID-19, via video conference.
When they meet in Barbados, Caribbean leaders will consider a recommendation from the COHSOD Working group on regional coordination for management of the virus and other infectious diseases on passenger ships.
Chief executive officers of cruise lines and airlines servicing the region will be invited to participate in the special session.
In the meantime, the United States today reported its first case of death from COVID-19. He is a man who resided in Washington State.
In the U.S., at least 63 people are being treated for COVID-19 as of Thursday, most of them evacuated from Asia. The origin of two cases, both women in California, have been impossible for doctors to trace, leading the CDC to warn the U.S. has likely seen its first case of “community spread.”
The head of the World Health Organization said that kind of transmission, of unknown origin and possibly from the general population, represented the third of four outbreak stages that every nation must be prepared for: “Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission, and for dealing with sustained community transmission,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The Caribbean welcomed over thirty million stay over visitors to its shores last year, accompanied by 27 million cruise ship passengers.
The United States remained the dominant source market for Caribbean tourism, with just under 15 million visitors coming to the Caribbean, followed by Canada, Europe and the United Kingdom.
According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, CTO, the region’s stayover visitors contributed more than $37 billion to the Caribbean economy.