NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Health Emergencies Department Director Dr Ciro Ugarte said yesterday that as the upcoming hurricane season approaches, Caribbean countries, particularly those which remain vulnerable, have a unique challenge. “What we want to ensure is people and the communities and the government update their plans; adjust their plans to the current situation and maintain the social distancing and other protective measures — and also ensuring the health services are fully operational, so they can cope both with COVID-19 and the potential impact of the hurricane season,” he said. “We have to recognize that there are certain populations as the director mentioned — vulnerable communities inside the countries that need to be prioritized, including persons with disabilities and others who may not be able to respond in times of social distancing. And when hurricane season comes they may be more in danger or they may need additional, specific response.” Ugarte said countries must consider the unique situation and plan appropriately. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1. Tropical Storm Arthur formed off the coast of Florida on Saturday. A named storm has developed in the Atlantic for the sixth consecutive year ahead of the season. In a statement Monday, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said: “A hurricane season is a season we cannot ignore. Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic or not; we must prepare for it.” Last week, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis told Eyewitness News while the government was not 100 percent prepared for another hurricane were one to impact the country today, extensive preparations were being made with new protocols at the forefront to deal with the unique situation. This including using school classrooms, which were being prepared with amenities, to double as shelters to ensure social distancing for evacuees. Meteorologists predict there could be as many as 16 named stores, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. The Bahamas, particularly Grand Bahama and Abaco, which were pounded by Hurricane Dorian last September, have yet to recover.