BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday February 3, 2020 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging Member States to continue to be vigilant and to step up surveillance at their ports of entry, although the risk of the novel Coronavirus is still low.
The advice comes on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak in Wuhan, China, as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
A PHEIC is defined in the International Health Regulations (2005) as “an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in these Regulations to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and to potentially require a coordinated international response”.
This definition implies a situation that: is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.
CARPHA’s Executive Director, Dr Joy St John maintains that the risk of the virus remains low for the Caribbean region, explaining that it is deemed low because there are no direct flights from China to the Caribbean and travellers will receive multiple screenings before arrival to Member States.
Dr St John explained that health agencies and Caribbean officials at a meeting of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism for Health Security (RCMHS) last weej agreed with this risk assessment, having confirmed that there are no reported cases of the 2019-nCoV in the region.
The International Health Regulations’ Emergency Committee is not recommending trade or travel restrictions at this time.
“CARPHA urges regional national authorities to work with airlines, passenger ships and other transport and tourism industries to ensure that Caribbean residents and visitors alike remain free of 2019-nCoV,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it will continue to monitor these developments and provide Member States with guidance to support national response efforts, while strengthening regional health security in collaboration with regional partners.