By Javan Flowers
Belize, as CARICOM Chair, co-hosted the second virtual COVID-19 Summit this week along with Germany, Indonesia, Senegal, and the United States as first Summit Chair.
In his opening statements, Prime Minister John Briceño noted, “Important lessons have already been learned from the pandemic, some painful and tragic, but we can also celebrate the victories like our unified collaboration and cooperation.”
Vaccination is paramount, and the Prime Minister cited that while Belize has made significant inroads, the country—like many others in the region—has yet to reach an inoculation rate of 70%. Therefore, “CARICOM heads have directed regional institutions to examine the social and financial viability to develop vaccine manufacturing capacity for the region.”
He added, “Caricom leaders are committed to improving communication messages and accelerating public education efforts to address misinformation and other drivers and enablers of vaccine hesitancy at all levels.”
As to the measures taken to bolster the Belizean healthcare system, Briceño noted that his administration has increased the “budget for health, expanding our national health insurance to cover more Belizeans and strengthen our awareness campaign.”
The objectives laid out by the Summit Chairs aim to redouble efforts made at the first COVID Summit as well as focus on four key goals: (1) “Recommitting Intensity to the Global Response,” primarily focusing on securing new resources and policy commitments to control COVID-19 in 2022; (2) “Vaccinating the World,” which focuses on both the number of vaccinations, and the quality – including providing effective boosters; (3) “Protecting the Most Vulnerable,” by ramping up testing and treatments for those at highest risk; and (4) “Preventing future catastrophes,” by investing now to secure political commitment for pandemic preparedness globally, financing country capacity, health workers, disease surveillance, and medical countermeasures.
The U.S. and the co-host nations hope that this successful second COVID-19 Summit will accelerate the international response to combat COVID-19 and advance global pandemic preparedness.