Curtailment of freedoms, civil liberties amid death and COVID-19 in St Lucia

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By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – The ministry of health (MOH) issued Statutory instrument, 2021, No. 67 that continues to cause frustration by the curtailment of freedoms and civil liberties. The new instrument expires May 16, 2021; however, mandates from April 19, that “an educational institution shall operate with the hours specified under the Educational Act, Cap 18.01.”

Further reading: Extraordinary Vol. 190 • Issue 22 • Friday April 16, 2021 –extra ordinary gazette april 16, 2021

As of April 16, 2021, a total of 23,664 individuals have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 37 individuals have received the second dose.

On Saturday, MOH reported two COVID-19 related deaths bringing the total number of deaths in the country to date to 67. The total number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the country to date is 4401. The total number of active cases in the country to date is 91.

Facing a challenging year and response to the public health crisis, prime minister Allen Chastanet presented a 2021/ 2022 budget. And, notwithstanding record projected financing of $559.9 million ‘instituted the following measures:’

  • We secured technical support from the government of Cuba to strengthen and assist our local medical personnel, and a total of 110 doctors and nurses was added to our complement of staff;
  • We secured grant aid from UNDP, Japan and Republic of China (Taiwan) for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical equipment and supplies;
  • We established seven quarantine facilities;
  • We facilitated the initial transition of the OKEU hospital;
  • We facilitated the conversion of the Victoria Hospital into a respiratory clinic;
  • We expanded our testing and contact tracing capacity;
  • We initiated the rollout of the vaccination programme. […]

According to the prime minister, budget address 2021/2022, “we overcame that challenge by persevering.”

The social stabilization reads: “An Income Support Initiative to provide financial relief to persons who lost their income due to COVID-19 was executed jointly by the government of Saint Lucia and the National Insurance Corporation (NIC). The Income Support Programme, which was implemented by the government, provided much needed financial support in the amount of $1,500 to just under 5,000 non-contributors to NIC. This was designed to cover a $500 allowance for three months per individual and resulted in a total expenditure of $7.2 million. This programme complemented the Economic Relief Programme (ERP) administered by the NIC to its contributors in which 11,800 individuals benefitted at a total cost of $66.5 million, during the period April to September 2020.”

The prime minister budget address continued:

  • “The distribution of agricultural produce packages to over 1,000 vulnerable households island-wide on a weekly basis;
  • Tax relief measures and deferment of tax filing requirements for individuals and businesses;
  • Vertical expansion of the level of support provided in respect of foster care, child disability and persons living with HIV;
  • A national feeding programme, which involved the distribution of over 19,000 meals across the island during the early days of the restriction on commercial activity;
  • “Under the Education Assistance Programme, we provided support for back to school expenses, disbursing over $3 million to eligible households in every constituency.”

According to the ministry of education back to school strategy, to the physical setting, from Monday, April 19, 2021, “after consultation with stakeholders,” noted “ of paramount importance is the health and safety of students and staff,” added, “Some schools will adopt a whole school approach, based on physical infrastructure and school population. Thirty- four schools will operate using the Alternate-Day system. A six-day cycle will be used, thus providing at least three days of face-to-face instruction to students. Mass crowd gatherings are not permissible at this time. Sporting activities are limited to small group physical engagement and non-contact sporting activities.”

Meanwhile, having a plan and institutional framework says the prime minister: “It is no coincidence that in the context of the pandemic, it assumed greater relevance as a framework for quick action. […] These deliverables are the product of an institutional framework that includes diverse, committed and proactive representation. These plans are the basis for continued dialogue by all stakeholder interests with respect to relevance and impact. This framework represents a forum where a single conversation on resolving conflicts and challenges can be had. And this is in real-time,” he claimed, as written in the budget address.

Considering COVID-19 community spread, new variants, ‘Saharan dust’ and volcanic ash, the reopening of school is instructive amid MOH precautionary measures:

  • Stay indoors as much a possible especially people with respiratory conditions;
  • If you have to go out, ensure you are wearing a face covering preferably mask or damp cloth;
  • Protect your eyes to avoid irritation;
  • Keep your windows and doors closed where possible;
  • Secure your water storage facilities to prevent contamination from volcanic ash;
  • Ensure you have an additional supply of water in the home to last for least three days;
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming;
  • If you have sensitive skin, cover where possible to prevent irritation.

“During a volcanic eruption, gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, combined with water vapor in the atmosphere to form Sulphurous and Sulphuric Acid which can form a toxic mixture compromising that the air quality which when inhaled can be harmful to humans and animals,” the MOH advised.

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