By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – Following a new strain of coronavirus discovered in the UK thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original virus, most of Europe, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia, Asia, OECS/CARICOM and Canada temporarily ban arrivals from the UK.
But according to a press release dated December 22, 2020, “We can confirm that our borders remain open to international visitors including arrivals from the UK,” says, Dominic Fedee, minister for tourism, Saint Lucia.
The commonality here and the knockoff effects form the majority of these source markets are tourism and trade. The rapid chain of events within four days in the UK, from Tier 3 – Tier 4 may have caught many off guard – ‘a day late and a dollar short’ – at the chaos that ensued Sunday, as more destinations have followed suit around the world.
The concentration of flights to the Caribbean from Europe and Britain in particular in the last few weeks, and leading up to present may be too late to stop the new COVID-19 strain in the Caribbean. It has been found in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia, and accounts for more than 60 percent of new infections globally.
A joint statement from Saint Lucia Tourism Authority and Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association, December 22, confirms the fears of many.
“Following the UK government’s announcement that a new variant of coronavirus is now spreading across the four Home Nations, the government of Saint Lucia has reviewed its protocols. We can confirm that our borders remain open to international visitors including arrivals from the UK,” Dominic Fedee, minister for tourism, Saint Lucia.
The statement continued: “For now, entry protocols remain the same which are; pre-authorisation to travel, a negative PCR test result taken within seven days of travel and booking into a COVID-certified property. All our protocols continue to be reviewed regularly and we will update immediately with any changes. We want to thank our people, partners and visitors for their resolute and effective commitment to maintaining our protocols. The adherence to the strict pre-arrival and in-destination measures have enabled us to continue to welcome thousands of people safely.”
Karolin Troubetzkoy, chair of the Saint Lucia Hospitality and Tourism Association (SLHTA) adds: “This has been and continues to be the most challenging year for everyone. All of our members have had to adapt to the many required changes to mitigate the risks of COVID- 19 and they have done so responsibly. We continue to work with the Saint Lucian government and the Saint Lucian Tourism Authority (SLTA) to monitor and maintain the necessary protocols in all of our various tourism sectors. We want to thank all our guests, staff hospitality & tourism team members and suppliers for their continued support. We are committed to continue to host our visitors warmly and safely.”
The indecisiveness and ineptitude of the government of Saint Lucia to put the health and safety of Saint Lucians first is nothing new, albeit acceptable practice and profession advice.
In fashionable attributes of a self-important little man [ the minister for tourism] the joint statement above calls to reference Saint Lucia’s tourism minister who accused opposition leader Philip J Pierre of having bribed the SLHTA.
In a release yesterday, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) reiterated “that the interest and wellbeing of every Saint Lucian must be protected first and foremost. Therefore, we call on prime minister Allen Chastanet and his government to implement the advisable and responsible protocol in banning arrival travels to Saint Lucia from the United Kingdom. In addition, we remind the government that its responsibility is to the people of Saint Lucia and that it cannot continue to gamble with lives by risking the health and safety of citizens for tourist arrivals.”
Experts consent to the reality that Saint Lucia continues to remain exposed to COVID-19 and the new strain of the coronavirus, more apparent, as flights “remain open to international visitors including arrivals from the UK,” says Fedee.
This is very concerning to a similar and erroneous policy, fast-forward to the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic, December 2019. They never took COVID-19 issue seriously.
This is problematic to the unescapable that COVID-19 is an imported commodity into the island, and the variant SARS-CoV-2 strain may already be on island undetected. Given the reporting methodology of the government and the ministry of health experts await identification among samples that have been gathered but not yet analyzed, by month-end.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH): “As of Monday, December 21, 2020, Saint Lucia has recorded a total 287 confirmed cases of COVID-19… We have a recorded a total of 261 recoveries and a total of five COVID-19 related deaths. Currently, there are 21 active cases and no critical cases in care.”
“There is no indication at this point of increased greater severity or harmfulness associated with this new variant or any challenges it shall pose to the effectiveness of the vaccines currently available. Preliminary guidance has been received from PAHO/WHO and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The public health team at the ministry of health and wellness is reviewing all information in relation to this new threat, in consultation with international and regional public health agencies to guide the way forward in reducing possible impacts to our country.”
In brief the MOH is communicating that there is not yet enough data to know the patterns, transmission, and severity of the disease, given the capacity of the island health services, tracking and tracing, and the non-availability of the COVID-19 vaccines well into 2021.
Moreover, evidence suggests that the government of Saint Lucia is less adaptable to the truth, facts and levelling with the people of Saint Lucia; and is more comfortable being a pond to foreign and personal interest.
In a statement EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said:
“Given the current uncertainties and in light of the precautionary principle, Member States should take coordinated action to discourage non-essential travel between the UK and the EU. At the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes. While precautions are needed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus variant, with today’s Recommendation, we, therefore, ensure that the restrictions are coordinated and provide for the necessary exemptions for citizens and residents returning home and other essential travellers.”