by STAFF WRITER
April 6, 2022
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 6, CMC – The chief executive director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr. Joy St. John Wednesday praised regional chief medical officers (CMO) for the role they played during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that killed and infected thousands of people in the Caribbean.
“This is my first opportunity to tell you CMOs to your faces, how proud I am of the world class achievement in public health that the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) region has attained and demonstrated repeatedly in these two harrowing years, “ Dr. St. John told the opening ceremony of the two-day Chief Medical Officers COVID-19 Meeting here.
CARPHA said that the high-level meeting will seek to provide an update on the regional and national COVID-19 response. Additionally, it will discuss safe and sustainable strategic initiatives in the new era of COVID-19 and advise on optimal ways of working and responding to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and the resultant effects on the health status of their countries.
The CARPHA executive director told the meeting that she was pleased at the turnout for the event saying the meeting was taking place in Trinidad and Tobago “because it is safe”.
She said that the CARICOM region remains one of the most tourism and travel dependent regions in the world and the economic fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic “would have placed extra pressure on you to find the right balance between lives and livelihoods in dealing with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and all of its variants”.
She said pandemic allowed for the Caribbean to engage in regional solidarity adding “your reliance on each other at many critical points was necessary to help overcome the unrelenting pressures. CARPHA was pleased to be of service to you
Dr. St. John said that over the next two days, delegates will focus on COVID-19 by providing updates on the international, regional and national COVID-19 response; discussing safe and sustainable strategic initiatives in the new era of COVID-19 and advising on optimal ways of working and responding to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.
“This is in order to provide the foundation for the CMOs’ decision making on the public health recommendations on the way forward to avoid and mitigate resultant negative effects on the health status of CARICOM.
“CARPHA will also demonstrate that in the overall scheme of things, its focus is not only on COVID-19 but it is also actively engaged in many other activities within the remit outlined in the Inter-Governmental Agreement,” Dr. St. John said, adding “it is my expectation and that of others that at the end of this meeting, we will report on lessons learnt and impact of COVID-19 in member states as well as to have common approaches to responding to COVID-19 going forward”.
The meeting is being funded by the European Union and in his address, Trinidad and Tobago Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh said while the region has not escaped unscathed, “the monumental threat of COVID-19 to the people, economies, and our way of life in the Caribbean has been significantly reduced due to the diligent leadership of the region’s CMOs.
“The progress made in the fight against COVID19 by individual countries and as a region is in no small measure due to these men and women born and bred in this region. The people of this region truly owe you and your teams a great debt of gratitude,” Deyalsingh added.
He told the meeting that vaccine inequity that afflicted the Caribbean should never occur again.
“As the CARICOM attempts to recover from the financial impact of the virus, CMOs are now being called upon to go a step further by providing clinical guidance to their country’s leadership as they navigate a safe transition out of the pandemic, toward COVID-19 endemicity and the prospect of living with the virus.”
Deyalsingh said that the health of a region remains a fundamental determinant of the quality of life of its people and directly influences expenditure, productivity, and the achievement of sustainable development goals.
“Health is therefore an instrument of development. For years, our region has been fiercely battling a silent pandemic on Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The onset of COVID-19 only exacerbated the risk of negative outcomes for persons living with this disease.”
He said that while individually and as a region collectively, come to grips with the pandemic that has exacerbated previous socio-economic challenges, there are significant lessons to be learnt.
“As a region, we must therefore maintain a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic that includes where possible; sharing of critical resources, the promotion of equitable vaccine distribution, the implementation of best practices, and the establishment of a standing committee specifically targeted to the ongoing planning and collaborations on future pandemic preparedness and disease prevention.
“It is only through preparation can we be in a stronger position to face the next pandemic, which to some health experts could be much sooner and more severe than we think,” Deyalsingh added.