The World Health Organization (WHO) recently removed Zika-the mosquito-borne virus that can cause severe birth defects during pregnancy-as a high-level threat for the Caribbean, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) announced.
According to data released by CARPHA, Zika virus transmission in the region had been interrupted for more than a year, reaching undetectable levels and thus posing little risk to residents and visitors.
The evidence was backed up by data from all over the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, which showed that no Zika had been detected for over 12 months in travelers returning from the Caribbean to their native countries.
CARPHA reached out to the WHO Director-General calling for immediate reclassification for Caribbean countries amid complaints from the region's tourism industry. The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) confirmed the classification was having adverse effects on tourism and made a formal request to CARPHA for assistance.
"The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. It is also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations worldwide and ongoing cancellations due to the classification of most Caribbean countries as Category 1 is hurting the industry unnecessarily," Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales said in a statement. "Therefore, CARPHA felt compelled to provide the evidence and to advocate for the removal of this WHO Zika classification system."
"Sandals Resorts is deeply rooted in the Caribbean and the removal of the Zika virus as a high-level threat means that residents and guests alike can experience the beauty of the region worry-free," said Adam Stewart, Deputy Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, in a statement.
"Tourism is integral to the Caribbean and we're excited to continue welcoming brides and grooms, honeymooners and couples simply looking to get away at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world in some of the most luxurious and romantic suites."
The next step will be for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to reduce or completely eliminate its travel advisories for Caribbean destinations.
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