Minister Lawrence wants regular monitoring and surveillance on the regional front burner

GEORGETOWN, MOPH – Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence wants regular monitoring and surveillance on the Regional front burner to help protect the health of nationals and  visitors to the Caribbean.

“For many of us in the Caribbean, tourism contributes substantially to the economic wellbeing of our countries. In order to keep Tourism sustainable, it is imperative that constant monitoring and surveillance are prioritised so that we keep a firm grip on the safety and security risks to health of both our locals and visitor populations,” as the influx of our the latter from various destinations arrive in increasing numbers, Lawrence said.

Lawrence was the keynote speaker at a two-day Guyana Tourism and Health Stakeholder Meeting and Training Workshop, jointly undertaken by the Ministries of Public Health and Tourism in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

It was sponsored by the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB).

The Caribbean has been attracting visitors in increasing numbers with some 247,330 travelling to various destinations in 2017 according to Ms Carla James, Deputy Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA).  This was a 5 percent increase over 2016 figures, James said.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shamdeo Persaud noted that more than 80 flights into the country’s interior take place daily from the Eugene Correira Airport at Ogle on the East Coast Demerara corridor.

“We want to improve our hospitality service by ensuring safe foods,” Dr Persaud said.

With bourgeoning tourist arrivals Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean must improve their capacity to respond to public health threats transcending national boundaries, thereby improving the health and safety of nationals and visitors, Lawrence observed.

She said the 2017 launch of the Tourism and Health Programme (THP) was a pre-emptive move in a bid to make the Guyana and the wider Caribbean “a healthier, safer, secure tourist destination”

The two-day workshop is part of a wider Caribbean tourism sector plan to re-sensitise key stakeholders on issues connected to THP, as well as train them in the use of the Tourism and Health Information System (THIS) and Regional Guidelines for those operating in the lucrative sector.

THP Lawrence noted, is a novel, innovative and integrated program with components of early warning and response tourism surveillance system, food safety, environmental sanitation training, standards and multi-sectoral partnerships.

“The monitoring system is unique in that it involves new non-traditional health information, that is, it will encompass tourism/visitor based illnesses, new clients/data users, which include private sector, hotels, cruise ships, visitors and new partners such as the Ministry of Business, Tourism Authorities and Agencies,” Lawrence explained.

She reminded the gathering that “the onus is on the Resource facilitators to ensure that stakeholders become familiar and buy in to the Regional Tourism and Health Programme, the Tourism and Health Information System and the Regional Guidelines.”

Guyana’s commitment to sustainable touristic activities was reiterated by Lawrence during her address when she reminded participants that this South American country is “well positioned to offer an enriching experience with its stimulatingly rich and unique cultural fusion, diversity and untouched, pristine rainforest and natural wonders waiting to be tapped.”

Nevertheless, “we cannot close our eyes to the realities of the world; it is riddled by illness and disease, so even as we implement strategies to boost our tourist industry, we must pay careful attention also to the health aspect,” the Minister counselled.

The IDB-sponsored two-day THP event will revolve promoting the health, safety and security of visitors and nationals in an effort to help enhance the quality, competitiveness and reputation of Caribbean tourism.

It will be an opportunity to help bridge existing gaps between the health and tourism sectors since a negative health event does affect even the flow of business  Dr Lisa Indar, Head of CARPHA’s Tourism and Health Programme and Food borne Diseases, reminded the audience..

“We want to promote better quality tourism (and) everything is to your advantage,” Dr Indar said.

By the end of Monday’s programme, a draft Plan of Action should be available outlining all relevant aspects for implementing THP in Guyana.

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