The Zika virus has had no known negative effects on tourism arrivals to Barbados as there have been no reports of cancellations, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy said this morning.
Sealy also said health authorities and tourism officials would continue to work closely to combat the virus.
Some airlines, cruise lines and hotel chains have waived cancellation and change fees for customers who have booked to travel to destinations on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of Zika-infected virus.
“The tourism and health sector have been mobilized to ensure that we minimize the effect of the Zika virus. You would have heard three cases have been confirmed, but our efforts are firmly fixed on staying ahead of the Zika and reassuring our visitors that their health and safety and that of Barbadians are still of paramount importance to us,” the Minister told a
news conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
He added that “immediate steps” were being taken to prevent the growth of the mosquito population and that the Ministry of Health was utilizing international standards to control the viruses spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.
“Chikungunya and Dengue have not disappeared either, but the vector . . . we are trying to keep it under control.”
Sealy said that the preventive steps being taken included continued country-wide fogging, increased inspection of residences and improved capacity to test for the vector-borne illnesses at laboratories and a national awareness campaign.
He also promised that his Ministry would continue to work with the Ministry of Health to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
“The Ministry of Health is sharing all relevant information with us and we are working diligently with our global airlines, tour operators and travel agents to make sure we get the most up-to-date advice on the Zika [virus]. The Ministry of Tourism will continue to monitor the situation and we will provide any relevant information that is needed,” he said.
According to Sealy, one of the issues brought to light by the virus was the need for a sustained programme to eliminate Aedes Aegypti once and for all.
“For as long as I can remember since I was at school, as soon as the rain comes or a few people get a little Dengue, you bring out the fogging machines, and when it died down, you go and pack them back up again. That doesn’t really make any sense,” the Minister noted. He contended that a sustained campaign that included education, prevention and fogging on a sustained basis, were required to ensure the mosquito “is brought down”.