Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in his capacity as Chairman of Caricom, said the region continues to be challenged with various responses to the pandemic that has disrupted every segment of society.
Speaking Wednesday at the start of the 32nd Caricom Inter-Sessional Meeting, Rowley said “This pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of our community and those of many other small-island developing states. To ensure our post-pandemic recovery we must continue calling for the broadening of existing economic vulnerability indices that take into consideration the impact that climate change, natural disasters and global pandemics have on our development.”
“This will permit small-island developing states access to much needed concessional financing to aid our recovery and build resilience.”
He said CARICOM has been invaluable in the fight of member states against COVID-19.
“The evidence of this has been replete over the last year. The continued support provided to the community by our regional institutions led by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and the most fervent demonstrations of regional solidarity through the sharing of PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment), reagents and Test Kits and most recently, vaccines, have had significant impacts on our ability to combat the ravages of this nefarious disease.
He noted the generosity of the Governments of Barbados and Dominica in sharing their vaccine gifts, received from the Government of India.
Rowley thanked the governments of India and of the African Union for allowing Caricom countries to have a pathway to access COVID-19 vaccines and added “We continue to anticipate that our many approaches, requests and orders will soon result in satisfying deliveries of approved vaccines for our anxious populations.”
He also reiterated thanks to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, saying “It is particularly noteworthy and commendable, Prime Minister Mottley your pioneering role in securing the community’s access to vaccines through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) showed great ingenuity, foresight and stamina.”
Rowley said the pandemic has also magnified global asymmetries as exemplified by the access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the early months of the pandemic and more recently through access to vaccines.
He said it was in that context, as Caricom chairman, he wrote the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) proposing a Global Summit be convened as soon as possible. This was to address issues related to equitable access and vaccine distribution.
Rowley also welcomed commitments by the US, UK, Northern Ireland, France and Germany to the global mechanism, COVAX and to the equitable allocation of vaccines.
However, Rowley pointed out that “Our community, although having achieved relative success in our fight against COVID-19, has been identified as one of the region’s most vulnerable to the virus especially when the effect that travel bans have had on tourism services in our region are taken into consideration.”
He said this sector is crucial to the survival of many Caricom states and associate members.