St Lucia endures twenty COVID-19 cases in one day, response helpless

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Prime Minister Allen Chastanet (L) and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sharon Belmar George

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – On Thursday, November 19, the ministry of health (MOH) received confirmation of 20 new cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of cases diagnosed in the country to date to 203.

“Out of the 20 cases of COVID-19 reported [today] Thursday, ten of them are Saint Lucian nationals,” and “ten of the cases are non-nationals. Two of these cases are visitors to Saint Lucia,” according to the MOH press release.

“On Sunday, November 15, a cargo ship arrived into Saint Lucia carrying 11 crew members. After reports of respiratory illness among some of the crew members, they were all assessed and tested for COVID-19 and were placed in quarantine on the vessel. The MOH received confirmation that eight of the crew have tested positive for COVID-19,” the MOH said.

Last Sunday, opposition leader Philip J Pierre called for improved testing, amid COVID-19 island-wide stating, “a proactive approach to fighting COVID by doing screen testing in all communities and called on the government to embrace the latest technology that will reduce the results of testing to minutes rather than days.”

Meantime Saint Lucia’s prime minister assertions live-up to ‘lies and illusions’ to convince himself that there are “no case of tourists affecting locals with COVID-19” putting preference economics and his political needs ahead of dealing with COVID-19.

Perhaps the politics of ‘front door’ and ‘back door’ will be put to rest as data and science are irrefutable; and according to the prime minister, “You can’t argue with success”.

As the government continues to struggle to contain COVID-19 and to provide better care, with results through a collaborative model – the next best option announced is stringent measures to employ 200 wardens to enforce a  ‘mask mandate’ with powers of arrest.

While still in its early stages the government continues to demonstrate remarkable weak responsiveness to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ideally, the combined use of health care providers and organizations to work as one coordinated team can help to break the transmission cycle and improve public health. But, notable, the MOH and the government of Saint Lucia are ‘broke’ and under-resourced, makes it improbable to increase capacity at health instructions, including mobile field station island-wide.

A global chronic under-investment in public health has been exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, which must now lead to a major re-think in how all societies value health, said the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Tedros told the Assembly that that time has now come to think of healthcare as an investment, not a cost, “that is the foundation of productive, resilient and stable economies. To start building that narrative, [today] I am proud to announce that we are establishing a new Council on the Economics of Health for All, to focus on the links between health and sustainable, inclusive and innovation-led economic growth.”

Similar, Saint Lucia needs a ‘new brain trust on health economics’, that is widely available on the island. However, the status-quo and quasi-political/economic enclave look to inexperience/immaturity and easily manipulated figureheads. This includes enabling the further expansion of an ill-defined model of care, access to the coordination of services, essential not built and connected to data and science, for clear-minded decision making.

Strong partnerships and integrated care need to be established to manage COVID-19 and deliver services to the vulnerable population of Saint Lucia.

And before a ‘Recover Saint Lucia’ cliché currently being banded around – the adaptive answer should be directed at COVID-19 response and management systems, and critical new approaches to health care, building a connected system.

Meantime, the economic framework should be development centered on climate change adaptation, agri-business, science and (green) technology, and an actionable plan that creates the foundation for future economic growth, [the new world of work, human resource development and future investments].

While the government of Saint Lucia should be well advised to invest more effectively to the current global pandemic and build a better-focused health care system for the future, conversely, the island COVID-19 response framework tailgates:

“For us, we prefer to stick to the 14 days, which is the incubation period, and keep our strict protocols within the sector. We have allowed some sites and attractions through a very structured and scheduled way, so the need to put in that measure has not been a part of our policy and to date, it seems to be working, we have not had outbreaks from guests in the accommodation sector so we don’t see the need to change it at this point,” chief medical officer, Dr Sharon Belmar George.

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