The Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Monday urged regional countries to be fully prepared for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season even as they grapple with the impact of COVID-19, and in the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the La Soufriere volcano.
The six-month hurricane season gets underway on Tuesday, and while meteorologists have predicted that the season is expected to be an above-normal one, CDEMA acting executive director, Elizabeth Riley said Caribbean countries must still be prepared for other weather situations occurring within the period.
“The message is really one of preparedness and we say this every year and the national disaster offices reiterate the message and we want to repeat it.
“The forecast is a guide that gives us insight as to what could possibly happen in terms of the number of systems for the season. However, we always make the point that it can take only one system to have a devastating impact on any of our CARICOM states. So preparedness is absolutely critical,” Riley told the virtual launch of CDEMA’s annual hurricane season press conference.
But she acknowledged that with the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in thousands of people in the Caribbean being infected and killed since last March, preparedness would also have to take into consideration the various health protocols put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
“This is really about the reality that we live in, the environment, the space in the Caribbean where we have multiple factors. This is a Caribbean reality and …it is really about keeping yourselves safe.
“We have received a multiplicity of messages of the things we can do to keep ourselves safe from COVID-19, the physical distancing, hygiene and also various other measures that have been promoted,” Riley said, adding “what we are giving as our message this year with respect to COVID-19 is similar to what we did last year, that we very much have to respect the health protocols associated with COVID-19, but we address them within the context of the actions that we normally take during the hurricane season”.
She told reporters that people making their way to various shelters “have to give due consideration to those requirements related to COVID-19.
“So as you are packing your supplies to go to a shelter, you have to integrate personal protective equipment, you have to have your mask available, gloves available, hand washing liquid, etc to be able to practice those protocols in the shelter,” the senior CDEMA official said.