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ZIKA: FEARS FOR TOURISM

Some Bookings Already Cancelled.

Darrell Montrope
Darrell Montrope

ST LUCIA is beginning to express fears about its vital tourism industry as a result of the growing Zika virus scare in the region.

THE VOICE failed in its efforts yesterday to contact Tourism Director Louis Lewis to speak on the matter. However, a statement from the Ministry of Tourism announcing the establishment of a national health security committee to fight off the virus from entering St Lucia, noted that the tourism sector had already witnessed cancellations of some bookings due to the uneasiness the Zika virus has created around the world.

The committee is headed by Cabinet Secretary Darryl Montrope who is quoted in the statement as saying: “Once Tourism is impacted, the economic sector will similarly be impacted. It has implications for Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, so we need everyone at the table to understand the threats but more than just the threats the responses. Because, we have to breed confidence not just in ourselves but also to inspire the external environment, our trade partners that we have systems in place to respond to particular threats and challenges.”

In recent days, the serious threat posed by Zika has become increasingly apparent, especially given the international scope of the virus.

The governments of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have declared an all-out war against the Zika virus and have declared February as the month of concerted action by all stakeholders in the fight.

Chairman of the OECS, Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell said that the countries under the OECS umbrella do not intend to take lightly the potential threat the virus poses to their economies.

MITCHELL
MITCHELL

He said: “At the regional level, the air and sea ports and main means of sea and air transportation will be asked to play a key role in preventing vector transmission. The OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service will be undertaking central purchasing of mosquito control related commodities and services, such as medicated mosquito nets, repellants, foggers etc., to ensure that we are able to obtain sufficient quantities at the best prices.”.

He said that while the Communications Unit of the OECS will be working closely with the Government Information Services of Member States and the media in the OECS to provide updates and explanations of what needs to be done and how, public awareness is the most important weapon in this battle.

“We can only successfully defeat the threat of this disease if all citizens and visitors understand what must be done. We also need to communicate and demonstrate to the outside world the determined effort that we will undertake so that visitors will not be fearful of coming to our shores. This battle is foremost about protecting the lives of our people against this disease but it is also about protecting our livelihoods – our vital tourism industry on which so many rely,” Mitchell added.

Meanwhile the Caribbean Tourism Association and its counterpart the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association say they are observing national, regional and international health protocols in dealing with the Zika virus.

So far there has been no confirmed case of Zika in the OECS Member States, however this has not prevented Saint Lucia and the rest of the OECS from undertaking proactive and implement certain measures to keep the virus out of their territories.

Mitchell noted that the OECS-wide campaign will have four elements to it: Monitoring and surveillance – a close alliance of national, regional and international public health agencies to keep close tabs on the disease, and using this intelligence to attempt to keep ahead of the disease; Eradication and protection actions – by national authorities, communities, and workplaces aimed at the most rapid elimination of the mosquito by a variety of measures including fogging, removal of potential breeding sites, use of mosquito nets and skin protection sprays and so on; Care and case management – putting in place arrangements in the public health service to manage any cases that may present themselves and a widespread public education campaign to inform and educate citizens on the status of the threat and the measures that we can and should take at the personal and community levels.

“Several member states have already started to implement some of these measures, and because the efforts will be coordinated collectively, we will ensure that best practices in each national space are adopted in all of the others. The OECS Council of Ministers will be actively overseeing the campaign and we will involve the private sector (especially the tourism industry), the trade unions, churches and other civic bodies in what must be a national effort,” Mitchell said.

In Saint Lucia’s case the call from the newly established National Health Security Committee is for all Saint Lucians to be more hygienic.

“The point for us is in terms of how we respond to and ensuring that systems are in place to deal with it. So we want to encourage St. Lucians to be more sanitary, I mean how we dispose of garbage, it’s a perennial problem. We lament about flooding but it’s not just the problem it will cause for flooding but also the problem it will cause for breeding of mosquitoes. We have to manage all of those things. So, from the public health national policy perspective is to encourage St. Lucians to be more hygienic, take better precaution,” Montrope said.

Zika is said to be a strange disease in that four out of every five cases may not show symptoms, however there have been cases of children born with abnormally small heads and small brains, as well as symptoms such as muscle weakness and paralysis emerging during the Zika outbreak in countries such as Brazil, leading to concerns regarding a possible association among these conditions.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

5 Comments

  1. In all reporting so far on this “Zika” virus, no empirical evidence has been presented to support the claims made by the organizations who have raised the “hew and cry”.

    I have yet to see where the mainstream media have acknowledged that the Zika virus is patently owned by the Rockefeller foundation who, together with the other members of the CFR have a vested interest in spreading world-wide fear, to promote their stated aim of controlling the lives of “unwashed masses” towards obeisance onto their elitist dictates.

    Here is an viewpoint you will not see in mainstream media outlets:

    The Zika Virus Scam
    http://northerntruthseeker.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-zika-virus-scam-zika-freakout-hoax.html

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