By Elesha George
Health chiefs are being urged to reconsider allowing travel between Antigua and China to continue as normal, as cases of the deadly novel coronavirus (nCoV) continue to spread across the globe.
Former chief health inspector, Lionel Michael, thinks the “strong relationship” between the two countries could put Antigua and Barbuda at risk.
On Tuesday, officials at a Ministry of Health press conference announced they had no immediate intentions to issue travel restrictions between the twin island state and the Asian nation.
Health Minister Molwyn Joseph reasoned that there are no direct flights to and from the two countries and that transit destinations like the United States and Canada were doing their own screenings and had their own trusted preparedness plans.
Taking that into consideration, he said the protective measures that the local health authorities have implemented should be enough to ward off any cases of the virus.
However, Michael said perhaps the response should remain consistent with viruses like Ebola, H1N1/swine flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
“In 2016, when we had Ebola, we had to write a paper on this and submit to WHO, but nevertheless we banned people from Africa at that time and so I think they have to look at the China situation because we have a strong relationship with China,” he shared with OBSERVER media.
Nonetheless, Michael said while the World Health Organisation (WHO) is the United Nations agency tasked with overseeing international public health, they have no authority over the decision of any sovereign country.
“One thing about banning or restricting travel from affected countries, you have to justify it under the international health regulation and tell WHO why your stringent measures is more protective of public health than theirs,” he said.
Michael however does agree with the Ministry’s decision not to repatriate students studying in China.
He said, “They should abide by the Chinese authorities’ recommendation and a lot of stringent measures are in place to curb the movement and to curb the spread and you have to give them the credit this time around.”
He added that Antigua and Barbuda and the region are doing a lot more to implement measures that will stop the virus from entering its shores.