firefighter disinfects

Sanitising: A firefighter disinfects a traditional shopping centre to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran, yesterday. A health ministry spokesman warned authorities could use unspecified “force” to halt travel between major cities. —Photo: AP

THE Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) has upgraded the risk of coronavirus disease (­COVID-19) transmission in the region from “low” to “moderate to high”.

The upgrade has come as another Caribbean island reported the first cases of the virus.

Two cases were confirmed posi­tive in Martinique on Thursday evening. This brings the total of positive coronavirus cases in French territories to ten.

There are five cases in French Guiana, two cases in St Martin and one in St Barts.

Carpha said it is working together with Caribbean leaders and health sectors to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 ­virus throughout the region, and is implementing readiness and ­response measures.

The agency, however, noted there has been no local spread of the virus in the Caribbean, as all were imported cases.

Most were said to have recently returned from France, which has reported close to 600 cases to date.

Carpha executive director Dr Joy St John urged health authorities to “shift their mindset from preparedness to readiness and rapid response”.

A COVID-19 Caribbean Tourism Task Force has been developed, comprising representatives from Carpha, the Caribbean ­Hotel and Tourism Association, the Carib­bean Tourism Organisation and the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.

The task force said it was concerned about the “high level of misunderstanding” about the virus which has caused panic and the spread of misinformation.

The task force said it will focus on raising awareness and sharing accurate information, strengthening monitoring at airports, seaports and hotels and accommodations; improving coordination among stakeholder organisations and ­locally between tourism and health officials, sharing best practices, training, education and ­capacity building, and conducting tourism impact research.

Meanwhile, T&T’s Ministry of Health has again reported this country remains free of the virus.

To date, 32 samples have been sent to Carpha for testing after people presented to various local hospitals with flu-like symptoms.

All the tests have been returned negative, the ministry advised.

Confirmed cases globally have now surpassed 101,000 with a ­reported 3,461 deaths as of yesterday evening. 

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