By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – Political leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and leader of the opposition, Philip J Pierre, has called upon the Saint Lucia government to deliver “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.”
Delivering his address at the opening session of the SLP annual conference of delegates, Sunday, November 15, 2020, political leader of the SLP further advised: “In light of the rising levels of infections, the government should allow for an increase in the country’s testing capacity by permitting the use of the forensic lab and private labs with established PCR capacity. An increase in testing capacity will lead to a more effective system of testing and tracing.”
The recommendation comes as Saint Lucia is experiencing a major surge of in-country transmission through all communities. On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, the ministry of health announced 178 cases of COVID-19 inclusive of 116 active cases. There are two reported COVID-19 related deaths.
The opposition leader advise comes amid the prime minister Allen Chastanet attempts to attribute [without evidence] ‘back-door’/ illegal entry from neighbouring islands as the source of COVID-19 upsurge. The prime minister also suggested, absent of any statistical and/or science-based data with the protection of parliament last week, that an SLP protest march in early October may have been the cause.
The prime minister, however, remains blinded and nonchalant from the real origins of COVID-19 as the island ‘front-door’ remains open to tourism from the USA, UK and Europe.
Meantime nationals and residence are mandated to wear a mask in public – a viral video of tourists reportedly from Florida, were out in public without wearing masks.
“We’re on a boat,” the male visitor adds when asked whether they were staying at a local resort.
Tourism minister Dominic Fedee responded by stating: “What you have to understand is that people in the yachting sector would be here for about 14 days, so there’s a quarantine experience on the vessels,” he explained. I want to make that clear as well – a lot of the individuals who are here on yachting experiences are also coming from safe countries that are within the bubble.”
In the interim, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) has announced plans for 200 COVID-19 wardens, once appointed will be given powers of arrest.
Saint Lucia realised a lock-down during the first wave of COVID-19, however, many argue in the face of an upsurge, the merits of a second lock-down to better control the spread of the virus.
“We cannot continue to choose lives over livelihoods,” adding that people can be healthy and still starve. “We have to pay bills, we have to maintain jobs, we have to keep the economy running, we have to keep people fed, housed and clothed and the only way for us to do that is to do the necessary things so we can stay safe together. I don’t think that shutting down the country is an option right now because we will go more broke than we say we are broke already so we need to see how we can keep the economy turning over,” said, Independent Senator and economist Adrian Augier.
Addressing the SLP annual conference of delegates, political leader Pierre outlined policy options, to assist fishers and farmers in the context of food security, stated:
“A future Saint Lucia Labour Party government will not require the fishing community to pay the additional $1.50 fuel excise tax which the Allen Chastanet government imposed in 2017. We will provide to farmers assistance in the provision of inputs, fertilizer and irrigation. As part of the support to farmers, the $1.50 additional fuel excise tax implemented by the government, for road rehabilitation, will be removed for fishers.
“The Saint Lucia Labour Party believes that food security must be a priority area on Saint Lucia’s development agenda. We have noted the negative effects of COVID 19 on the economy and are firmly committed to providing Government incentives and opportunities for farmers and fisherfolk to avoid continued disruption to their livelihood,” the SLP political leader added. “COVID-19 is a national challenge that should concern all Saint Lucians. We have repeatedly called for a non-politicization of this health and economic issue because this virus affects everyone. We do not desire that anyone fall victim to the virus”
Opposition leader Pierre reminded Saint Lucians to observe the protocols in place to combat the disease. “We once more ask all Saint Lucians, as we have repeatedly done, to comply in the interest of their health and that of their neighbours and follow the established protocols.”