Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Bartlett calls for emergency funding to rein in coronavirus

Published:Monday | February 3, 2020 | 12:28 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

As the novel coronavirus outbreak threatens global economic and health security, co-chair of the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre, Edmund Bartlett, is calling for public- and private-sector funding entities to support emergency initiatives now.

Jamaica imposed a ban last Friday on all travel to and from China amid the spread of the virus to more than two dozen countries, with deaths topping 300 and infections closing in on 15,000 worldwide.

The United States and Australia joined a number of other nations, including Russia, Italy, and Pakistan, in red-flagging China travel, but the World Health Organization has chafed at the restrictions in international traffic, saying that those hurdles might lead travellers to use illegal modes and ports of entry.

Bartlett, who is Jamaica’s minister of tourism, told The Gleaner that the coronavirus threat constituted a global emergency that required “a coordinated, foolproof global response to contain this looming pandemic”.

His call comes as the travel and tourism industry faces the risk of significant economic fallout from the emerging global health crisis.

Coronavirus fears could test Jamaica’s year-on-year 10 per cent spike in 2019 tourism earnings and 1.7 per cent rise in stopover arrivals and threaten global arrivals of 1.5 billion visitors.

Tourism is one of the biggest human capital employers in the world.

“At this point, the main focus of the global response to the coronavirus threat is to prevent further exposure beyond the currently affected areas as well as to isolate infected persons from uninfected populations,” said Bartlett.

“Accomplishing these two targets will require the mobilisation of significant human, technological, and financial resources to establish reliable systems to monitor, evaluate, and isolate risks, especially at the various points of entry.”

Against this background, Bartlett is calling on the global travel and tourism industry to play a pivotal role in shaping response efforts.

Large investments, he said, were urgently needed to procure modern health technology to screen risks, conduct vaccine research, develop public-education campaigns, and ensure real-time information sharing and coordination across borders.

He applauded the swift action of the Chinese health authorities who constructed a 1,000-bed coronavirus hospital in four days and who have demonstrated cooperation with other countries to stem its global spread. But the Chinese government officials have been criticised in some quarters for a tardy response to the crisis, which first emerged in December 2019 but which has swirled out of control.