Oct 08, 2019 News
Aimed at improving health and safety for foreigners is high on Guyana’s agenda. As a result, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), under the Ministry of Business, along with the Ministry of Public Health and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) met to chart the way forward for an on-going project. The project is aimed at improving health and safety of locals and visitors, tourism resilience and reputation.
The meeting was hosted at the Roraima Duke Lodge, in Kingston.
This programme, which was launched in 2017, is about improving a country’s capacity to provide cost-effective, quality health, food safety, and environmental sanitation (HSE) solutions to the HSE threats impacting on sustainable tourism in the Caribbean. This would be executed through real time early alert and response monitoring system for tourism based health issues, training and certification, HSE standards, and multi-sectoral regional and international partnerships.
Participating countries will now have an enhanced capacity to fight HSE threats.
This integrated multi-sectoral programme is the first Caribbean-wide and global effort of its kind, setting an international precedent for improving sustainable tourism. Stakeholders emphasized that there is no better time than now, as new threats to health and travel in the region emerge and in this era of real time, instant information flow, for creating mechanisms for monitoring and responding to tourism health and safety threats.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, stated that, “The programme today provides training for some hospitality workers, such as tour operators and facilities operators. They are going through some of the standards they need, in terms of health and safety- food safety standards, but we are also piloting a new initiative where we would be partnering with the association to allow for easy notification if any health issues arise among tourists.”
The CMO went on to say that in the past, foreigners who visited the country had only reported cases of illnesses to their health agencies, only after they would have exited the country. “Maybe weeks or months after, then we hear about it through the media. You know, that can have a devastating impact, especially if the country decides to impose travel restrictions or advisories,” he added.
Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control at CARPHA, Dr. Lisa Indar, related that, “We have something called a Caribbean Corporation in Health; it is a document that sets the health agenda. So for instance, what are the health burdens for the region and then we implement by having specific programmes. So we have a health information unit, we would have a disease surveillance unit.
For that we would work with each member state to know what their issues are and then we set a plan in action—these are two years’ plans of action where we work towards implementing.”
Indar emphasized that these health plans have to be aligned with global, national and regional practices.
“We don’t have a specific number that says that 10 tourists came from the UK got sick. This is why we have our tourism and health programme where we are trying to implement a system that captures illnesses very quickly. It is a real time system, it is electronic and wide based, if someone is sick, we are asking the facilities to report so that you would be able to pick up something quickly. Hopefully as soon as that is implemented you would have better data,” Dr. Indar explained.
Furthermore, a workshop was hosted to teach regional guidelines, response and capacity building component, together with certification with food safety, training and sanitation.
The Director states that this would lead to Guyana becoming branded and recognized as a health care safer destination. “So it is really your marketing tool as a better tourism product,” she concluded.
The programme has been executed thus far in only 10 Caribbean countries, it is expanding this year to the rest of the Caribbean.
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