COVID-19 mismanagement worries St Lucia opposition leader

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By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – At the press conference of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) held Tuesday, March 2, 2021, political leader Philip J. Pierre reiterated his concerns about the government of Saint Lucia continued mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday morning March 2, the ministry of health (MOH) reported 155 positive cases out of 377 tests. Late Tuesday evening, the MOH reported an additional 234 new cases out of 821 samples and one death. This brings the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in the country to date to 37 and 3,779 diagnosed cases in country to date.

“The constant increase in the number of deaths and the fact that the number of positive cases has not abated is of great concern to us. Saint Lucia now has the worst COVID-19 statistics in the Eastern Caribbean and is currently the worst in the region in the management of its COVID-19 response. This should alarm us,” opposition leader Pierre cautioned. In parliament [last month] we made the point that the R factor was important, as usual, we are not taken on. I will, therefore, once again urge the government to follow the science and best practices in the world to bring this pandemic under control.”

Pierre warned that the “government should give serious consideration to the recommendations from the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association on how to deal with what it sees as a more deadly threat to the country in the next month from COVID-19,” emphasised, “while the government, as usual, is disputing the association’s figures and its basis for its dire predictions, we all have to agree that we are in a very grim situation and that urgent, corrective action is required.”

“As I have promised before, I will take the vaccine after the frontline workers and first responders have been vaccinated” Pierre affirmed, while he acknowledged the arrival of 25,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, a gift from the Republic of India, and again, “thanked the governments of Barbados and Dominica for coming to Saint Lucia’s rescue.”

Last month, opposition leader Pierre called for the quick implementation of the vaccine programme to immunize Saint Lucians as the best defense against COVID-19; repeated this appeal and urged all Saint Lucians to register for the vaccination programme, particularly those in the most vulnerable groups.

“The government has adopted another of our recommendations, opposition leader Pierre noted, “the deployment of a contact tracing app which we called for a few months ago.”

At the last sitting of parliament, February 23, 2021, the government obtain approval to borrow another $80 million for a presumptive COVID-19 response programme.

This response programme, Pierre, said, “continues to fail to provide economic relief and support for small enterprises, entrepreneurs, self-employed persons, minibus operators/drivers, the creative industry/entertainers and those most badly affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.” He continued. “When we raised this in the House of Assembly, government members scoffed saying that financial institutions do not lend you money to give to people. However, this is exactly what those concessionary loans are for.”

Opposition leader Pierre reminded critics and the ill-logical scenarios of government on the rationale for the World Bank loan.

According to a World Bank press statement on January 14, 2021, “… this quick dispersing credits aims to help mitigate the negative economic impact on the most vulnerable Saint Lucians. This World Bank financing is expected to help the government enhance the capacity of the health sector and provide short term relief to the poor, small businesses and most severely affected workers. It supports measures to ensure business continuity and to save jobs.”

“In my several addresses on COVID-19, I have always included a plan of support for those most in need. I will continue to call on the government to do so,” Pierre emphasised. “The SLP will always put people first,” pointing to areas of diversifying the economy away from “not being totally dependent on tourism as the COVID-19 experience has demonstrated.”

Alluding to the economic opportunities in the medicinal and recreational cannabis industry, two years ago, Pierre renewed the SLP policy:

“I want to reiterate that the Saint Lucia Labour Party is fully committed to establishing this industry and a future SLP government will embark on a robust education policy programme. A robust education policy program that in the first instance, will lead to the decriminalization of marijuana with a view to legalising it, and also, to make full use of the economic benefits that can be derived from the production of cannabis.”

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