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Oct 21, 2016

Regional Program to Monitor Tourists with Health Concerns

Belize, through Ministry of Health and local tourism agencies, officially launched the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s tourism health and safety program to ensure the health and safety of visitors. It is a part of planning for tourism based illnesses which can have major negative economic impact on the region’s tourism dependent economies. The new system will help to stop the spread of diseases that are preventable with good systems of surveillance, training and standards.  CARPHA calls this new program the region’s best solution to health, safety and environmental sanitation challenges being faced by Caribbean tourism. News Five attended today’s launch and Andrea Polanco tells us more on how this program will work locally:

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Health and Tourism Program is a new initiative between the Ministry of Health and the B.T.B.  It is part of a wider regional program.  Visitors to Belize will complete a standardized form at their registered place of accommodation if they are not feeling well or showing symptoms of an illness. The Minister of Health says it is a simple but effective way to monitor and alert the central health region to help Belize avoid a crises:

 

Pablo Marin

Pablo Marin, Minister of Health

“It is more to monitor any person coming in, the tourists. I think you all know we have health inspectors in the different areas, the airport and the ports; but we cannot look at the person who is coming in. We cannot monitor them at that particular point. So, now at the hotel settings, now they will have a checklist of all individuals. You know, if you have fever or you have stomach problems then you can do that checklist and that will be sent directly to Belmopan to the Central and that supposed to trigger some kind of information to us and say you know what, we have this problem and then that will be sent to CARPHA which will have different regions also.”

 

Reporter

“For what will the data be used?”

 

Pablo Marin

“The data will be used like, well, like how Dr. Lisa mentioned; if you have one case of Zika that is supposed to trigger and say that is an alert. Then our team is supposed to go and monitor that alert. In the case of fever, if you have one or two cases, it depends, they will give the numbers. But that is supposed to trigger an alert and that is where our health inspectors and doctors will go and see that hotel or facility.”

 

The end goal is to improve the health, safety, quality and sustainability of the local tourism industry and, by extension, the region’s. All hotels are encouraged to join the programme for which they need to be certified. But will it become mandatory?

 

Pablo Marin

“Well at the moment we don’t have any legislation to do that, but we are hoping that they will sign off without the legislation. As you can see a lot of the hotels are already signing on because they want their hotel to have that standard.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What pushed the Ministry of Health to implement the program; I understand that perhaps it is one of the first in the region?”

 

Pablo Marin

“It is actually six countries doing it. We were the first one to sign in. It is to monitor the health system and to make us look good out there. Because it will be certified and if the country is certified internationally, people will have that confidence with us to come in. It is just like our clinics and hospitals. We are trying to improve them because, tourists the first thing that they do is that they check the country and how the health system is working in that country. So that is how it will help us improve our tourism.”

 

David Grant

David Grant, Director of Business Development, B.T.B.

“As the registrar of hotels, I will be actively encouraging people to join in. There is a process of certification for people to join on that will take some time for the hotels to go through. But you can consider it launched today and we will be bringing hotels on over time.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What will that certification process be like for these hotels? What will they need to do?”

 

David Grant

“Well, there is a few things, just to name a few, would be food safety certification. There would be an understanding of the program and process that they would have to undertake for the monitoring. It is a going to be very structured process that they will need to address to become certified.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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