Gov’t plans for hurricane season amid Covid crisis

Minister of Social Transformation, Samantha Marshall (Facebook photo)
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By Kadeem Joseph

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As officials continue to inject large sums of money into weathering the impact of the coronavirus, there are concerns on the measures needed for the impending Atlantic hurricane season.

Minister of Social Transformation, Samantha Marshall, under whose ministry the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) falls, said residents need to “keep praying” after Colorado State University experts predicted that the 2020 season will be “above normal” and feature four major storms.

“We are praying that God will just watch over this world and not give us any more than we can manage,” she said.

Marshall said officials have already started to put a “strategic plan in place” to deal with the possibility of a storm affecting Antigua and Barbuda in the midst of the pandemic.

“You have to think about what happens in a shelter and how you establish the shelter,” she said. “You have to think about how we ensure that hygiene during the time of a hurricane is something that we can maintain.”

Marshall added that the possible impact of a hurricane on economic development is also a concern.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson, is concerned about the availability of already scarce resources ahead of the hurricane season.

“The countries are having to use a lot of their reserves or resources to respond to Covid-19 and to further prepare themselves for what could be a coming peak in the Covid-19 response,” he said. “That is going to impact on their resource availability to channel into preparedness activities from the upcoming hurricane season.”

Jackson noted that this is against the backdrop of declining revenues, exacerbated by a premature end to the tourism season and reduced remittances.

The executive director said that in the coming weeks CDEMA will be assessing how it can continue to support its 19 member countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, to prepare for “what could be a deepening crisis” due to the virus. Within the next few months the agency is expected to host a half-day meeting for member states and health officials on managing the pandemic as well as another meeting on disaster preparedness with the threat of the coronavirus.

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