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Caricom heads of government met virtually on May 5 to continue efforts to harmonise policies on the multifaceted impact of Covid-19.

They welcomed a presentation from a regional working group which indicated that the pandemic was largely contained in the region due to the decisive action by governments to put restrictions in place.

They also noted that reopening by member states must be done with the health consideration being the foremost criterion.

The group, including representation from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), offered recommendations for a common public health policy.

These included parameters for the easing of restrictions in member states that would allow for a reopening in phases. The recommendations also included suggested criteria for a protocol on the reopening of airports for intra-regional travel. The draft policy will be resubmitted to heads of government for final approval.

Attendees recognised the need to pool their efforts for procurement of medical devices and supplies in the context of Covid-19 to more easily gain access to supplies and achieve economies of scale.

They also endorsed the regional Covid-19 Agri-Food Security Action Plan to strengthen the region’s food security in the face of the threat posed by the pandemic. The plan was developed by agriculture stakeholders, including the private sector.

The need for a common protocol for the reopening of regional airports to flights from selected third countries and the reopening of hotels was also discussed. In that regard, heads of government established a sub-committee led by the Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, to have discussions with tourism industry players, including hoteliers, airlines, cruise operators and labour unions to settle the appropriate protocols needed to ensure safety for workers.

Heads of government stressed their determination to speak to the cruise and airline industries with one voice. They agreed to meet in the coming weeks to discuss the financial and economic challenges related to the impact of the pandemic.

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