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CARICOM Heads of Government to harmonize regional response to COVID-19 following spike

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CARICOM

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2021. 9:00 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: On Monday, a special emergency session of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) took place concerning the regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been agreed to renew the push for vaccination region-wide and coordinate efforts among countries.

Government leaders urge residents, especially frontline workers, to be vaccinated to reduce the immediate risk from a surge in cases. They will consider harmonization of travel protocols, including for cruise ships.

Heads of Government agreed to the design of a Community Public Relations Strategy to supplement national campaigns to encourage citizens to vaccinate.

Heads of Government agreed to share excess vaccines, personal protective equipment, and test kits. They also agreed to approach the COVAX Facility to grant the Community an exemption, which would allow vaccine doses from the Facility to be reallocated among Member States.

They also agreed to continue to advocate for vaccine equity and access as well as financing and debt sustainability at the United Nations General Assembly and the United States Global Covid-19 Summit, both to be held later this month.

Heads of Government also met with representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom to convey the gravity of the regional situation, and to make specific requests for assistance. They requested that the United States deliver the next batch of Pfizer vaccines donated to the Region earlier than originally planned and asked for field hospitals and the accompanying equipment to help ease the current strain on health facilities in Member States.

The request to the United Kingdom centered around the negative impact of the traffic light listing of countries which determines requirements for re-entry to the UK given the importance of that tourism market to the Region.

More than 100,000 new cases and 1,400 deaths have been reported between July 2021 and 12 September 2021. Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr. Joy St. John, noted that since the outbreak in March 2020, the Region has seen more than 300,000 confirmed cases with more than 6,700 deaths. Dr. St John stressed that the percentage of deaths was exceedingly high among unvaccinated people with less than one percent of deaths recorded by persons who were vaccinated.

As of 3 September, according to CARPHA, vaccine coverage in the Community ranged from 58.7 percent in Bermuda to 0.1 percent in Haiti. The Heads of Government noted that no country was close to herd immunity and that the increased incidence of mutations and variants made it imperative for there to be a greater improvement in the rates of vaccination.

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