The Caribbean has generally been successful in containing the virus over the past year to levels below that which is being experienced in many parts of the world. COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates are among the lowest in the world. This has been attributed to the early and ongoing response by many Caribbean governments, health care and tourism industry leaders and the large number of Caribbean residents who have adhered to health safety protocols.
The task force cautions that now is not the time to “let down our guard,” as the next several months will determine how quickly the tourism-dependent region will be able to rebound. Tourism is viewed by many as the catalyst for getting people back to work and restoring much-needed revenue that governments have lost due to the pandemic.
“We are now in a race against time,” said Dr. Joy St. John, executive director for the Caribbean Public Health Agency. “Particularly given the presence of variants which spread more rapidly, we must adhere to health safety protocols lest we find ourselves moving backward, rather than forwards. We must remain diligent while we continue to accelerate vaccinations of our populations, now that approved vaccines are becoming more available,” she said.
“We urge countries to continue to intensify their surveillance activities to rapidly screen, identify, test, quarantine, isolate and trace contacts of new cases, and for every resident and visitor to the Caribbean to do their part through physical/social distancing, wearing of masks and practicing proper hand hygiene,” St. John said, speaking on behalf of the task force.
The Caribbean COVID-19 Tourism Task Force also urged all members of the public who can do so to become vaccinated once the vaccines become available and they are eligible. Data overwhelmingly supports the safety of World Health Organization-approved vaccines.
The task force was established over a year ago to develop and collaborate on strategies and programs aimed at helping to share information, develop health safety protocols and guidelines for the tourism industry to protect employees and travelers, conduct health safety training, monitor and minimize COVID-19 incidents in the tourism industry, and advocate for sound health safety practices and the harmonization of said practices.
Through the agency’s efforts, more than 5,000 hotels and tourism-related managers and supervisors have undergone Caribbean Public Health Agency-led health safety training, which has reached thousands more who have been trained by the initial graduates.
The Task Force member organizations include the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the Jamaica-based Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Center.
For information about vaccines and health safety protocols, visit www.carpha.org.