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Zika ‘more a health issue’

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Zika ‘more a health issue’

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THE ZIKA VIRUS will likely turn out to be a big headache for health authorities more so than a major worry for the Caribbean’s tourism industry.

That’s the assessmenet of Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Caribbean-based country economist and senior specialst Juan Pedro Schmid.

And he also said that while this year would have challenges for the region economically, there were also “opportunities for the Caribbean and Latin America”.

In a new blog published by the IDB, Schmid said “the Zika virus is disturbing if the relationship between birth defects and neurological diseases is confirmed”.

However, he added: “Zika will be more of an issue for national health authorities than the tourism industry.

“It is tremendously important to protect expectant mothers from the disease but as long as the spread does not escalate in one country or another, we do not expect a huge impact on tourism.

“Caribbean tourism is booming, partly as other destinations are considered unsafe, so demand should remain high.

“There might be shifts and some effects on prices but we don’t expect a collapse.”

Referring to the bank’s most recent Caribbean quarterly bulletin issued in January, the economist asked and answered the question about whether the IDB’s team of Caribbean economists should “rewrite the economic outlook with a focus on Zika and a [United States] slowdown and keep the part on the interest rate increases for next year”.

“We would suggest not – if anything we should have made the point stronger that we live in very volatile times,” he said. (SC)