On Wednesday, during a Special Emergency Meeting, unified Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met via video conference to discuss strategic plans as the fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic continues globally.
Presentations from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Archbishop Jason Gordon were delivered towards the various leaders.
Dr Joy St John, Executive Director of CARPHA, indicated that the Caribbean has done fairly well in its overall response to the novel coronavirus due to early implementation of measures which helped to contain the virus. She recommended a co-ordinated approach as the Region prepares for the next phase of the virus.
The CDB presented the economic implications for the Community of the pandemic and ideas for stimulating economic activity in going forward.
The UWI researchers included projections for the future of the virus in the Region in their presentation while Archbishop Gordon spoke to the social impact of the COVID-19 as well as ideas to alleviate those challenges.
All Heads of Government agreed on a collective approach to the International Financial Institutions in accessing assistance to meet the financial fiscal challenges arising from the crisis. They urged that the criterion of GDP per capita not be the sole consideration in assessing the needs of the Community and that an understanding of each country’s vulnerability is a far better measurement to determine need especially as we face multiple challenges.
They agreed that additional technical work would be undertaken in specific areas to be presented for their consideration at another meeting within two weeks. They would be presented after the relevant ministerial councils would have reviewed the proposals.
Proposals on a Common Public Health policy would first be presented to the Ministers of Health. This would include proposals for joint procurement, – including of pharmaceuticals and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sourcing of additional medical personnel. The joint procurement would assist in addressing supply constraints being experienced.
There would also be consideration of a proposal for a protocol on re-opening borders which all Member States would adhere to at the same time when such a decision is taken.
Issues related to Food Security would be considered in the context of the CARICOM COVID-19 Agri-Food Risk Management Framework which has been circulated to Member States following a meeting of Ministers of Agriculture last month. This would address in particular the production and supply of food products.
The transportation of people and goods by air and sea inter-regionally would also come under scrutiny with particular reference to the operations of the regional air carriers which have been adversely affected by the measures adopted to contain the virus.
Proposals would also be formulated for building a robust digital architecture, including governance, to facilitate digital commerce and to assist in the fight against the virus.
The Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE), which met last Wednesday 8 April, has been considering the threats to security during the course of the pandemic. Their recommendations would also come before the Heads of Government.
Heads of Government called for the lifting of sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela on humanitarian grounds as all countries must be part of the global effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heads of Government were of the view that it was regrettable that resources for the World Health Organisation were being threatened at a time when all must join in leading the fight against the pandemic.
All fifteen (15) Member States and the five (5) Associate Members were represented at the Meeting.