(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Tuesday, 14 February 2023): The need for continued vigilance against COVID-19 and the recent threat of Monkey Pox are among the critical issues for discussion at the upcoming Forty-Fourth (44th) Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), 15-17 February in The Bahamas. This is according to Ms. Alison Drayton, Assistant Secretary-General (ASG), Directorate of Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat. She also highlighted challenges to health system resilience, regional health security, Climate Change and routine vaccinations as significant issues for the attention of Heads of Government.
Ms. Drayton explained that while COVID-19 has persisted for over three (3) years, based on reports from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and Member States, the pandemic is in a phase of less severe disease and death with the spread of mainly the Omicron variants. However, she emphasised that the continued spread is consistently on the agenda of high-level forums, including the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) and within the CARICOM Secretariat.
“CARPHA has been mandated to lead the response to COVID-19 as early as 2020,” stated the ASG, “and I am pleased to see that the Region has benefitted from a number of public goods as a result of their coordination and leadership”.
Ms. Drayton further explained that Heads of Government would also receive updates on the recent challenges experienced by the Region regarding health system resilience, regional health security, as well as protecting the Region’s reputation as a relatively disease-free tourism destination.
“A CARPHA report on this agenda item will be presented to Heads of Government,” stated the ASG, “this will illustrate the role of the new Regional Health Security Agenda, as well as measures taken to mitigate health threats and climate change challenges. These are among the issues which threaten to disrupt our Region’s pursuit of resilient health systems and regional health security”.
Ms. Drayton indicated that she expects robust discussion on this item and support for the proposed recommendations from CARPHA, which urged Member States to remain vigilant, continue active surveillance and promote the use of established prevention and control guidelines to curb the further spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
She stated, “We hope for agreement on proactive health measures, particularly on returning to routine vaccinations to ensure a safer and healthier Caribbean as well the robust recovery of our tourism industry and sustainability of our Caribbean economies”.