BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph N. France Hospital, said that it is in the best interest of the Federation that it exits the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Bubble.
Dr. Wilkinson said that a number of countries within the bubble are experiencing an increase in their COVID-19 cases with possible community spread. The countries include Barbados, Antigua, Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Dr. Wilkinson said that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Agreement clearly recommended that countries should have no new cases or less than 20 cases per 100,000 in the last 14 days to be eligible to be in the CARICOM Bubble.
“It also gave member states the flexibility to reintroduce travel restrictions for a specific country if the criteria are no longer met,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “The agreement also gave member states the flexibility to refuse entry to the non-national traveller presenting a threat to public health or national security even coming from a country from which the restrictions are lifted.
“Once we continue to have different entry requirements across CARICOM countries, we will have different levels of risk and exposure to the virus. Our low-risk status that we currently hold will be jeopardized by any country with a less stringent protocol for entry than we do.”
The Medical Chief of Staff said the negative PCR Test prior to arrival, the14-day quarantine, and vacation in place are what have kept the Federation safe thus far and made it a preferred destination on the tourism map.
“Once we keep the health and safety of the nation as our primary focus then every decision thereafter is made much easier,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “That is why after revaluating the situation with regards to the increasing spread of the virus in some of the countries in the regional Caribbean Bubble, we came to the decision in the best interest of the nation to exit the Bubble.”
He said that all visitors to the Federation will therefore be considered high-risk and subject to the same protocols for entry.
Dr. Wilkinson said that the Federation will continue to work with its CARICOM neighbours to develop protocols uniformed to all, so that, “we will all have the same level of protection of our borders from the virus and eventually move freely in our common space.”
“Until such time, the Task Force is in full support of our removal from the Caribbean Bubble,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “As the borders are now open, people need to remember the essentials in fighting COVID-19.
“First, we need to prevent amplifying events by avoiding the three Cs –Crowds, Close Spaces, and Close Contact,” he said. “Second, we need to protect the vulnerable among us, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. Third, we need to continue to educate, empower, and enable communities to protect themselves and others using every tool at their disposal. Fourth, we need to continue to get the basics right as we have done to find, isolate, test, and care for cases and trace and quarantine their contacts.”
Dr. Wilkinson said that until a vaccine becomes available, an essential tool in the fight against the virus is the face mask. He asked everyone to continue to wear it.