Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 20 July 2022. “The impact of and challenges posed by COVID-19 and its variants made CARPHA realise how much ground we had to cover for this particular ever growing COVID-19 family – with the highly infectious BE.1 and BF.1 being the latest sub variants of Omicron that we have just sequenced in the Region. The lessons we have learnt from this massive fight against COVID-19 have stood us in good stead for the new disease monkeypox that has followed all too quickly to the Caribbean shores.” These were the words of Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), as she spoke at the Opening Ceremony of the Stakeholder Consultations on Regional Health Security hosted by the Agency.
The high level meetings held over three days from 19 – 21 July 2022, at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, brought together laboratory directors, national epidemiologists and environmental officers from CARPHA Member States, Chief Medical Officers, CARICOM and other regional entities, as well as international development partners and public health agencies.
Dr. St. John further stated “The time is right for this meeting of key stakeholders to discuss regional Health Security, face the problems of the deficiencies and faults and plan collectively for the most effective ways and efficient road map to fix the ring fence that the CARICOM Caribbean needs to deal with whatever is around the corner.
Dr. Lisa Indar, CARPHA’s Director of Surveillance, Disease emphasised that as economies re-open, CARPHA is refocusing on strengthening capacities and sustainable mechanisms to promote resilience and economic recovery, to better prepare for and respond to public health issues that transcend boundaries and potentially impact on economic and political stability, trade, tourism, and access to goods and services in the Region.
Dr. Carla N. Barnett, Secretary-General of CARICOM, giving remarks at the ceremony said “We as a Region must consider Regional Health Security as we move to revitalize our economies, we have to continue to learn how to secure our health, education and social sectors while living with COVID-19. This pandemic has taught us that we must ensure that our health systems are resilient to assure our health security.
Dr. Richard Garfield, Acting Team Lead for Global Health Security Agenda and International Health Regulations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, praised CARPHA and the Caribbean region for the very good job in being able to maximise the use of limited resources better than other regions for COVID-19 response. “The strategies and plans that you have in the past have stood out as being more practical than those of many other regions in the world.”
The Honourable Terrance Deyalsingh, Minister of Health Trinidad and Tobago acknowledged CARPHA’s stellar leadership in public health, and providing evidence based information especially through COVID-19 response. The Minister also called for taking solidarity to the next level of global solidarity, and for equity in resources and response, stating “new diseases like COVID-19 are emerging at unprecedented rates, disrupting people’s health and causing social and economic impact. Access to healthcare, preventative medicines, and vaccination programmes are crucial elements in regional health security. The Region has used its limited resources to get the biggest bang for its buck, as opposed to countries with far more resources than ourselves. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised global awareness of the importance of health security, and the systems and capacity needed to prevent, and detect global health threats.”
The 3-day Stakeholder Consultations on Regional Health Security is funded by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the Government of Canada through the Global Affairs Canada.
More information about the Stakeholder Consultations on Regional Health Security can be accessed here.