#Providenciales, October 27, 2018 – Turks and Caicos – Since March 2017, the World Health Organization utilized a risk classification scheme to provide interim guidance on Zika. Unfortunately, many Caribbean countries, including the Turks and Caicos Islands, continued to be listed as having ongoing transmission despite not experiencing a single confirmed case in over a year. This classification has had a negative impact on the Caribbean region, being highly tourist dependent. On October 18th, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) announced that the WHO classification scheme was no longer active.
The removal of the classification scheme comes on the heels of data released by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), giving evidence that Zika virus transmission in the Caribbean had been interrupted for over 12 months, or was at undetectable levels, thereby posing very little risk to residents and visitors to the region.
“This was matched by data shared with CARPHA by Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States of America, which showed that no Zika had been detected for over 12 months in travelers returning from the Caribbean to their countries,” CARPHA noted in a statement.
This evidence was used by the Caribbean Community to pen a letter to the WHO Director General calling for the immediate reclassification of CARPHA Member States from Category 1 — having active Zika transmission, to Category 3 — having no Zika transmission, arguing that the classification system had outlived its useful purpose.
According to CARPHA’s Executive Director Dr. C James Hospedales, the Zika classification was not only having an adverse impact on the Caribbean, but it was also against the tenets of the International Health Regulations. “This adverse impact was confirmed by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), who made a formal request to CARPHA for the agency’s intervention,” he said.
The removal of the Zika classification scheme is welcome news for the Turks and Caicos Islands. In fact, with no confirmed cases reported since January of 2017, the TCI was one of the countries which joined with CARPHA and other countries in the region in strongly advocating for a change in the Zika classification system. As a tourist dependent nation, the category 1 classification was hurting the industry unnecessarily. It is hoped that the removal of the classification scheme will have a positive impact on the number of tourist visits and that the TCI will continue to thrive as one of the fastest-growing destinations in the Caribbean region.
For more information, contact the Health Promotion and Advocacy Unit on 338-2772.