Open letter to prime minister of St Lucia on closing supermarkets

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8 April 2020

Hon Allen M. Chastanet

Prime Minister & Minister for Finance, Economic Growth & Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service, 5th Floor, Greaham Louisy Administrative Building Waterfront, Castries

Dear Prime Minister

I have been observing the impact of recent government decisions, in particular the limited operating hours of supermarkets and pharmacies and the vital need to minimize social interaction so as to reduce the spread of the virus across the country. This is a trade-off all countries have had to struggle with and will continue to as they seek to find an acceptable balance: of reducing the spread of the virus and maintaining the health and well-being of the majority of citizens.

The closing of supermarkets and pharmacies during the shutdown period has invariably led to large numbers of people flocking to the supermarkets in a manner that makes it very difficult to maintain social distancing. I believe it might be this very experience that continues to influence the decision to restrict the opening hours of supermarkets.

The practice of leaving supermarkets open even during a shut has been successfully applied in other countries.

It is reasonable to assume that the lines and congestion are because people are uncertain that in the event of another sudden shutdown supermarkets and pharmacies will be closed.

The need for citizens to feed and care for themselves and their families will always be a source of anxiety in an environment of uncertainty regarding availability and access to food and medicine. I strongly recommend that the Prime Minister makes a clear statement that in the event of a shutdown supermarkets will remain open for five days of the week, coupled with a statement from the supermarket operators that there is sufficient food to feed the population for the foreseeable future.  By extending the window for purchasing food and medicines there will be reduced lines at supermarkets and a reduction in anxiety among the citizens about having access to food and medicines during the shutdown.

Other conditions of the shutdown would continue to be in effect and the observance of the required protocols would be enforced.

I note that you have not got back to me on the issues raised in my last letter to you.  I was under the impression that I would hear from you on Monday as you promised.

If it is your decision to accept the foregoing recommendation, I am willing to discuss with you its implementation and shall lend public support for this initiative.

Yours truly,

Philip J. Pierre

Leader of the Opposition

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