Special coronavirus task force needed now—Heerah

Friday, January 31, 2020 - 12:00

The former head of the National Operations Centre is recommending that a special task force be set up to deal with the coronavirus.

Commander Garvin Heerah told Guardian Media today that this country already has a working model, based on international best practice, which can be implemented in the shortest possible time.

He points to the task force which was set up during the height of the Ebola crisis, a few years ago.

"This task force would have representatives of the State, so you would have all of your resources within reach,” he explains. “It also would involve the participation, advice and consultation of the Diplomatic Corps, inclusive of all the parties of interest, with the Ministry of Health taking primacy. This would include operators out of the seaports and the airports." 

According to Commander Heerah, it is important that any decisions made by the task force be information and intelligence-led.

He says such a task force would need to meet constantly, collating and distributing data from various sources, including from international partners, and doing so in real-time, as far as possible.

The former NOC head suggests that hotlines be established, so that the public can feed information into the task force, as well.

And he asserts that constant, open flows of communication are crucial.

Referring to the task force which was set up to deal with the Ebola crisis, Commander Heerah recalls that it constantly monitored developments and put measures in place with regard to responses. He said it identified who were the key actors and players with responsibility and functions in the event of a situation arising. He also noted that the public was kept abreast all developments—particularly the task force’s operations—with constant public awareness news bulletins and alerts.

“It is my strong recommendation that at this point, the public needs to consider the establishment of a coronavirus task force," he says. “We already have a working model, so it is a simple effort to replicate this model with new actors and personnel on the ground, to ensure the safety and security of the country.”