Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday expressed his “­sincerest appreciation to the government of India and of the African Union for their benevolence and allowing Caricom countries a pathway to access much-needed vaccines”.

Speaking in his capacity as Cari­com chairman at the opening of the virtual Heads of Government conference, Rowley said: “We continue to anticipate that our many approaches, requests and orders will soon result in satisfying deliveries of approved vaccines for our anxious populations”.

Trinidad and Tobago received 2,000 doses of the vaccine from Barbados, which had received a donation of 100,000 doses from India, while Caricom has sought vaccines through the Africa ­Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).

Vaccines, crimes against women and children, and illicit trafficking in persons were three of the concerns raised by Rowley in his address to the Caricom 32nd Intersessional heads of Government meeting.

The Prime Minister commended Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley for her “ingenuity, foresight and stamina”.

He added, “The generosity of the governments of Barbados and Dominica in sharing their vaccine gifts, received from the government of India, is particularly noteworthy and commendable.

“Prime Minister Mottley’s pioneering role in securing the Community’s access to vaccines through the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) showed great ingenuity, foresight and stamina.”

Crimes against

women

and children

While much of the prime minister’s address focused on the pandemic, he also raised concerns about crimes against women and children and illicit trafficking in persons.

He said Caricom must also remain committed to addressing crime and violence as a public health issue.

“Across the globe we have seen how shutdowns have contributed to an increase in cases of domestic violence. Additionally, in the region, we continue to witness unconscionable acts of violence against the women and children of our Community,” he said.

The other issue of great concern, he said, was “the deepening sense of insecurity triggered by the scourge of illicit trafficking in goods and persons in the region.

“Such threats to law enforcement and security, specifically the illicit trafficking in persons, have been particularly disconcerting as the Community continues its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These illicit activities and their violent spill-over effects further intensify citizen insecurity throughout our region.”

Lockdowns and

travel bans

The prime minister said the region continued to be challenged with the various responses to the perilous pandemic, which has disrupted every segment of society, compounding the adverse effects of traditional threats such as external economic shocks, the existential threats of climate change and the threatened and actual blacklisting and de-risking of its financial institutions.

He pointed to the deleterious effects of the pandemic on tourism, a mainstay of many Caribbean economies.

“Across the globe, we have seen how this virus and the measures to slow its spread, most notably shutdowns and travel bans, have impacted all segments of society and completely transformed our way of life.

“The pandemic has precipitated major economic fallout, stagnation and decline, throwing the global economy into a tailspin with very little sign of early ­recovery.

“Our community, although having achieved relative success in our fight against Covid-19, has been identified as one of the region’s most vulnerable to the virus, especially when the effect that travel bans have had on tourism services in our region are taken into consideration.

“This sector is crucial to the survival of many of our Member States and Associate Members,” the prime minister stated.

Noting the pandemic had highlighted the vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States, the prime minister said: “To ensure our post-pandemic recovery, we must continue to call for the broadening of existing economic vulnerability indices that take into consideration the impact that climate change, natural disasters and global pandemics have on our development.

“This will permit Small Island Developing States access to much-needed concessional ­financing to aid our recovery and build our ­resilience.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has written to Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), proposing that a Global Summit be convened as soon as possible to address issues related to equitable access and the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

Addressing yesterday’s virtual Caricom Heads of Government conference, Rowley also expressed his gratitude to the Director General of the WHO and his team for their continued efforts to ensure vaccine availability equity.

In addition, he welcomed the commitments made by the United States, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, France and Germany to the global mechanism, COVAX and to equitable allocation of vaccines.

“As we meet here now, we are all anxiously awaiting our first shipments of the life-saving vaccines from the COVAX experiment,” he said.

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