Caricom Ministers of Health held an emergency meeting on the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday and agreed to the establishment of a working group to formulate recommendations and protocols for a possible regional response to the disease.
Recently the Caricom Heads of government outlined that an outbreak could reverse economic gains of Caricom states, but recognised that the risk of transmission of the virus in the region remained relatively low.
This second emergency meeting of Caricom’s Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD-Health) was also joined by Caricom chairman, Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados and Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. It was chaired by Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Health Mr Molwyn Joseph.
The working group includes representatives of the Caricom Secretariat, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Caricom’s Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Ministers of Health from Grenada and Jamaica.
It will report back to a reconvened meeting of the COHSOD-Health this afternoon.
In proposing the establishment of the group, PM Mottley urged that Caricom recommends a possible course of action for regional governments to consider.
According to media reports, the rising cost of the coronavirus outbreak for business and the world economy is expected to become clearer this week as major firms issue trading updates and China reports the toll on its manufacturing sector.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has already produced some preliminary forecasts relating to the expected economic impacts of COVID-19 travel bans on international air connectivity.
ICAO reported that some 70 airlines have cancelled all international flights to/from mainland China and that a further 50 airlines have curtailed related air operations.
The preliminary estimates from ICAO indicate that the first quarter of 2020 has instead seen an overall reduction ranging from 39 per cent to 41 per cent of passenger capacity, or a reduction of 16.4 to 19.6 million passengers compared to what airlines had projected.
It said: “This equates to a potential reduction of $4 to $5 billion USD in gross operating revenues for airlines worldwide.”
In relation to another health issue affecting the region, the heads expressed concern about the escalation of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases.
They recently received a report with respect to the incidence of heart attacks which accounted for the highest percentages of deaths amongst NCDs in most countries in the region.