The National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago, the NCCTT, has been hesitating on 2015’s carnival plans.

Why?? EBOLA

Chairman of the NCCTT Allison Demas is of the opinion that threats of an Ebola outbreak are becoming too real and they are very concerned. On Friday she posted this statement on the NCCTT website:

“The deadly Ebola virus which has ravaged several countries in West Africa and already claimed the life of one person in the United States and infected many others in Spain and Australia have rightly so, created concern and panic amongst the population of Trinidad and Tobago. Carnival 2015 was launched earlier this year and all our Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and stakeholders have begun preparations for staging of the festival.
Moreover, the National Carnival Commission (NCC) is reassured by the Ministry of Health’s proactive approach in preparing to deal with this situation, should it unfortunately reach our shores. However, the NCC in the coming days will meet with the Ministry of Health to understand their approach in handling this global epidemic. The NCC is a major stakeholder and partner in Carnival, both from a public health and disaster preparedness perspective and we are prepared to go the distance to ensure that Carnival 2015 is celebrated in a risk free environment.
As the agency charged with the responsibility of presenting and managing Carnival activities held under the aegis of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, we have taken an active role and will work alongside our partners to spare no effort in ensuring that Ebola does not reach our shores or that if it does, it is contained.”

A press conference was also held at the health ministry’s office yesterday where Dr Fuad Khan, chief medical officer Dr Colin Furlonge, other senior medical personnel and executive director of the National Operations Centre (NOC) Commander Garvin Heerah, spoke about the Ebola action plan.

“Do we or can we put visa bans on certain countries,” Khan said, “where there is an Ebola epidemic.” He said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, “has approved it in principle, pending comments from the Minister of National Security (Gary Griffith) on the travel card as well as that of the Attorney General (Anand Ramlogan) on the possibility of looking at visa restrictions.

The ministry have stated that persons arriving in Trinidad from a country/city where Ebola is present but does not exhibit any symptoms, will receive temperature checks “twice daily” until the 21-day incubation period has passed to ensure they do not pose a threat to locals.

Additional space is being allocated at both airports to allow for proper screening and isolation of suspected Ebola patients. The Health Ministry is also looking at TT nationals who work in West Africa, where the outbreak began and where the overwhelming majority of cases have been recorded.

In the coming weeks, health centers and hospitals across TT will have posters and pamphlets educating locals on the signs and symptoms of Ebola, and what can be done to reduce the risk of contracting it. Furlonge noted that an informed public was key to reducing panic in TT.

Chairman of the National Carnival Bands Association David Lopez said his organization would follow the ministry’s guidelines on Ebola. “We cannot discount the fact that Ebola is at our doorstep. However, unless instructed otherwise, we will continue to prepare for Carnival 2015,” Lopez said. He added that it would not be the first time this had happened, as Carnival was postponed in 1972 because of a polio outbreak. Several bandleaders also said it was too early to say whether Carnival should be cancelled because of Ebola.

Trinidad carnival is one of the biggest Caribbean carnivals in the world and sees the involvement of musicians, artistes, producers and media from throughout the Diaspora and beyond. The cancellation of carnival in Trinidad would serve as a huge blow to most of these stakeholders who have already made investments in the season.