CARICOM health ministers plan to tackle misinformation about coronavirus

Amid coronavirus fears, passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high-speed train station in Hong Kong in January. (Photo: businessinsider.com)

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) health ministers on Monday agreed to draft an “aggressive communications strategy” to combat misinformation regarding the novel coronavirus ((2019-nCoV).

The Council for Human and Social Development (Health) held an emergency meeting via video conference, and according to a statement issued following the talks, the “ministers and officials agreed that the comprehensive communications strategy would address misinformation about the virus, as well as provide citizens with correct information on how the situation is being addressed.

“The strategy will target various audiences and include information about the ways in which the virus can be prevented, transmitted and controlled,” the statement said.

Regional response

It said that the meeting, chaired by the Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Molwyn Joseph, had been provided with updates in relation to a regional response and guidelines for action on the virus from representatives from the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Trinidad-based CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).

The ministers were also addressed by officials from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) regarding the measures they have implemented to minimise the transmission of the disease.

“It was also recommended at the meeting that the region agree to a coordinated, standard approach for handling of entry to air and sea ports. Issues such as the roles and functions of personnel at the ports, transporting of samples for testing, dialogue with airlines and cruise lines, and action to be taken before, during and after an outbreak were all discussed,” the statement said.