Tourism Minister Says Countries Can No Longer Ignore Threat of Pandemics

Photo: Derrick Scott Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett (left), addresses the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank forum on the ‘Tourism Industry and Pandemics’, at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., on October 13. Others (from second left) are: Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw and Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Fayval Williams.

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says countries can no longer ignore the imminent threat of pandemics, as world tourism could face a myriad of global challenges in the event of such occurrences.
  • The Minister pointed out that experts have also warned that the world is nowhere near safe from the next pandemic, noting that the number of new diseases per decade has increased nearly fourfold over the past 60 years.
  • The Minister emphasised that there needs to be active networks involving all major tour operators, airports, cruise liners, attraction parks and other service providers, reserve human resources personnel with the skills and training to manage emergency cases, regular simulation exercises that include private and public sector participation, and strong participation of international organizations.

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says countries can no longer ignore the imminent threat of pandemics, as world tourism could face a myriad of global challenges in the event of such occurrences.

Addressing an International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank forum on the ‘Tourism Industry and Pandemics’, at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., on October 13, Mr. Bartlett said among the threats are the possibility of location quarantines; fear to use airports and other centres of mass gatherings; fear of not knowing what to do in case of illness in a foreign land; the need for speedy diagnosis; and cross-border medical insurance.

The Minister pointed out that experts have also warned that the world is nowhere near safe from the next pandemic, noting that the number of new diseases per decade has increased nearly fourfold over the past 60 years.

He said that since 1980 outbreaks per year have more than tripled, with the 2003 SARs outbreak, which started in Asia, quickly spreading to more than 24 countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia; and the 2009 H1N1 or Swine Flu outbreak that spread to 120 countries and territories in about eight weeks and was ultimately responsible for over 284,000 deaths.

The Minister added that there was the Ebola outbreak in 2014 which accounted for over 11,000 deaths; the HIV/AIDS pandemic which has affected more than 75 million people since its detection in 1981 and has resulted in over 35 million deaths; and more recently there have also been deadly outbreaks caused by migratory insect carriers, such as the Chikungunya and the Zika viruses transmitted by the mosquito.

Mr. Bartlett suggested a number of measures to counter the threat of pandemics, including the development of a comprehensive knowledge management and response system; conduct targeted communication; factoring the direct cost of medical care; surveillance and diagnosis; public education; financially sustainable basic research to strengthen preparation, mitigation, response and rebuilding; and a real-time, consistent, reliable and accurate flow of information.

The Minister emphasised that there needs to be active networks involving all major tour operators, airports, cruise liners, attraction parks and other service providers, reserve human resources personnel with the skills and training to manage emergency cases, regular simulation exercises that include private and public sector participation, and strong participation of international organizations.

Mr. Bartlett urged delegates and members of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have a vested interest in both human and healthy security, free movement of human beings across borders, a sustainable tourism sector contributing to economic, social and political stability and a healthy ecosystem and a disease-free world, to support the tourism sector’s initiatives to enhance its response capabilities to pandemics.

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