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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The Ministry of Education is assuring that denominational school boards will be included in discussions on the way forward for review of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination and the Concordat.

The ministry gave the assurance following criticism by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) of the composition of the committee established to make recommendations on the matter.

Four women from the Ministry of National Security comforted a Venezuelan baby for hours yesterday at Piarco International Airport.

The baby girl was among 97 people gran­ted permission to be re­patriated to Caracas, Ven­ezuela, on a VO 9713 flight at 7.30 p.m. yesterday.

However, many migrants told the Express the process to get home was not an easy one.

In raising the issue of sanctions, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday called for a “reset” in US/Venezuela relations.

Addressing the Atlantic Coun­cil’s Front Page event yesterday, the Prime Minister said: “We would like to see a dispassionate, early review of the US “scorched-earth policy” here since as the United Nations assessment confirms what we always knew, and that is that the ineffective, harsh policies of unilateral sanctions are contri­buting immensely to widespread, additional, indiscri­minate human suffering in this Caribbean nation which needs help, a compassionate ingredi­ent which is not beyond US leadership.

The Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs was able to secure from the United States government in writing a commitment that the repatriation flight with 100 Venezuelans on a Venezuelan aircraft would not attract US sanctions.

In view of this, Young said he signed off on the approval for the aircraft to enter Trinidad and Tobago to take the Venezuelans back home at 6 p.m. yesterday.

Young stressed there was “no stumbling” in the manner in which the Government handled this issue.

Energy Minister Franklin Khan yesterday boasted that, under his tenure, the restructuring of Petrotrin became a “success story”.

The minister was speaking on a motion of no confidence moved against him by Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee at the Parliament sitting yesterday at the Red House in Port of Spain.