By Carlena Knight
Former Chief Health Inspector Lionel Michael believes that the region needs to make its own assessments in relation to the continued safety of the cruise industry.
Michael was speaking on the Observer AM show on Tuesday following a recent announcement from the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which called on persons to avoid cruise travel “regardless of vaccination status” because of the spread of Covid-19.
The health agency based its advice on the outbreaks that have been reported aboard cruise ships as the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus has helped drive up infections.
But Michael was adamant in his stance that the Caribbean region needs to make its own informed decisions.
He said that although he understands the position of the CDC, the region should “not take their word as gospel” but, instead, implement whatever measures it may deem fit to attempt to minimise the risk of the virus.
“The CDC has that responsibility to advise its citizens about health issues throughout the world that they think may affect their citizens, and it’s an obligation that they take seriously. The CDC is the Centre of Disease Control for the US and not the World Health Organization (WHO); not the PAHO; they are not CARPHA — they are the US and so we have to be mindful of that and what advice they give. People tend to latch onto them and hold them as gospel, but they are not to do those things. They are to use them as guides and to help them make decision,” Michael said.
One of those measures he believes that needs to re-implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, however, is the cruise bubble.
“I would support that because as a public health measure, as a public health intervention, the bubble tours is a good one. Anybody who wants to free flow, who are not part of the bubble on the cruise ship, will present a negative antigen test and then they can free flow, they can interact,” he explained.
Michael, who is currently the Chief Environmental Health Officer for the British Virgin Islands, also spoke of the importance for persons who work in the tourism industry to abide by the relevant protocols.
“People who are working with tourists, who are working at ports, who are working in stores, have to protect themselves by getting vaccinated, by adhering to the public health measures of hand hygiene and wearing masks, especially with wearing a mask.
“These people have to protect themselves from these diseases by adhering to the public health measures, and so while we are taking a lot of measures against cruise ships ,and they have complied, we need to do the same for people who the cruise industry serves,” Michael said.