CARICOM’s Response to Coronavirus is ‘Regionalism Working’: Outgoing Chairman Says

New CARICOM Chair, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley , flanked by Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne (left) and CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque, at the opening of the 31 Inter-sessional meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, held in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Photo by Mohamed Hassim)

Secretary General Announces ‘The Region is Coronavirus Free’

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS – Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Outgoing Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, Hon. Allan Chastanet, has lauded the Region’s response to the Novel Corona-virus as “regionalism working”.

He was addressing the opening ceremony of the 31st Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Barbados, February 18th and 19th, 2020.

The Prime Minister said the approach reminded him of the importance of being part of a group that in times of emergency had your back. He expressed gratitude to the Regional Security System (RSS) and Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for their roles in the Region’s response, particularly as it related to transporting and quick testing of samples.

CARICOM leaders at the 31 Inter-sessional meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM. (Mohamed Hassim photo)

“You had Saint Lucia’s back and we thank you. This is what being part of CARICOM is about,” Prime Minister Chastanet said.

Caricom Secretery General Irwin La Rocque, in his welcome address, noted that countries of the region must each do their parts to stave off the epidemic of chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and the spread of the global viruses that threaten the region.

The latest of these, the coronavirus, he noted, “has been deadly, claiming more than a thousand lives globally so far and proving difficult to contain.”

The secretary announced, “There are no cases in CARICOM.”

“Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has deemed the risk to the Caribbean to be low, we adopted a pro-active approach and convened an Emergency Meeting of the Ministers of Health on the virus, with participation from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA),” la Rocque noted.

(L-R) Saint Lucian Prime Minister, Allen Michael Chastanet; Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis; Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell; and Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley. (Mohamed Hassim photo)

“The Regional Security System has also played a critical role in transporting samples for laboratory testing at CARPHA,” he said.

He commended the collaboration that is taking place, “as another example of the co-ordination that is required in addressing some of the challenges to our integration process and to have a positive sustained impact on the lives of our citizens.”

La Rocque noted that while CARICOM Member States have no case of the novel coronavirus, they have responded robustly to the threat. They have boosted ports of entry screening, enhanced medical quarantines, and have increased public awareness to combat misinformation on the virus as well as increase general knowledge on preventing respiratory infections. CARICOM Member States have also been working closely with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to enhance national preparedness and to strengthen the capacity of the national laboratories to detect the virus.

The opening ceremony of the 31 Inter-sessional meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM. (Mohamed Hassim photo)

New CARICOM Chair, Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, in her address, alluded to challenges posed by chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), reminding fellow CARICOM leaders of the need to rely on the bonds of “family” to make the decisions that would effectively address these challenges.

“There is always strength in unity … We ought to be able to find the resolve to understand that we meet her today, not because we share a common ideology, but …. because we are family. We are kith and kin,” she said

Mottley used the current threat to the Region posed by COVID-19 (corona virus health emergency) to demonstrate the benefits of family and taking decisions to confront our challenges. She singled out regional institutions: CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) (and its sub-agency Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) that are working along with other agencies to keep the emergency out of the Region.