Former Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
A DAY after health officials confirmed three additional cases of the Zika virus in New Providence, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said his ministry has ramped up its marketing machinery to convey the message that The Bahamas is doing all it can to guard against the spread of the virus.
There are four confirmed cases of the virus in the country, all of them in New Providence
The West End and Bimini MP said his office is working closely with both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment to ensure that extra screenings are being carried out across New Providence and that those that test positive for the virus are receiving treatment.
Mr Wilchcombe said tourism officials have to assure the world that the country is doing the best it can to get the matter under control.
“Visitors will still travel, they will still come to the destinations as we are seeing in the United States, Florida in particular, we are also seeing in the rest of the Caribbean that they are still coming, but they want to have the self assurance,” he said.
“We are out there making sure that the message gets out. Our tourism officials, our marketing and public relations teams in the United States and throughout the world are getting the word out from the ministry and working closely with the Ministries (of Environment and Health) to make sure that the world knows that we are on top of this situation as best we can.”
He added: “We are talking to our partners all over the world, we are talking to the airlines, we are talking to the cruise lines, we are getting information out as best we can. But, of course, you have to realise that this is an issue that is very difficult in the sense that you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow; you don’t know what is going to happen next; you don’t know where the mosquito has been.
“And so I think the general travelling public understands that because many are not allowing the mosquito to get in the way of their travel. They are still going to travel to the places that they want to go, but when they get to the destination or before they come, they want to be assured that the country is not widespread with mosquitoes and that mosquito bites are not prominent.”
Last night the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Control (CDC) was reported to have added the Bahamas to the list of countries for interim travel advice regarding Zika.
Canada and Taiwan have already issued Zika related travel warnings for persons coming to the Bahamas.
In advice that was posted last Friday on the Canadian government’s official website, the Bahamas was added to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s list of countries to avoid as a result of the Zika virus.
The Canadian government recommended that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling to affected countries.
“Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to the Bahamas,” the post read.
On Monday, Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) issued a level two alert for persons travelling to the Bahamas.
Under Taiwan’s three-tier system, a level one travel warning urges vigilance and health precautions, while level two calls for a high degree of caution and strong protective measures, and level three advises against travel to or from a specified destination.
Health officials have gone on record with expectations that more travel advisories are on the way, as the work continues to curtail the local transmission of the Zika virus.