Another State of Emergency (SOE) that includes a 10-hour nightly curfew and a reduction in the hours that businesses are allowed to operate, takes effect in St. Lucia on Wednesday as the country grapples with another wave of COVID-19 cases.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, announcing the move in an address to the nation with other members of his Cabinet on Tuesday night, said the measure would be in effect for a week in the first instance.
“Our country will go back to an SOE effective Wednesday, February 3, 2021, for an initial period of seven days. This will allow us to further restrict movement with a curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., effective Wednesday, February 3, 2021. The COVID-19 Act is being amended to reduce operation hours for business operations to coincide with this curfew,” Chastanet said, adding that supermarkets, minimarts, small shops and bakeries will remain so that there is no need to panic buy.
“Today’s decisions were not taken lightly as we know it will be an inconvenience to all of you,” he added.
The Prime Minister said essential services will be allowed to operate and some commercial activity will be permitted during the SOE.
A statement subsequently issued by the government listed commercial operations that would be allowed. They include financial and banking services; electricity, water and telecommunications services; hardware stores; food supply and preparation services; takeaway from food trucks and food stalls; farming/fishing activities; sanitation/solid waste management services; gas stations; broadcasting and media; manufacturing; Customs Brokerage/ Courier Services and Online Commerce/Services; Vending (Food or Agricultural Produce); construction; law offices; accounting firms; and automobile garages.
The air and seaports also remain open. However, Chastanet said that could change if the situation warranted it.
“If it gets to the point where we see that the risk to St Lucians is too great, and will put their health and safety at risk, we’ll have no hesitation in shutting down again,” he said.
Additionally, Chastanet said, visitors to the island will now require a PCR test within five days of arrival rather than seven days.
His announcements came on the same day St. Lucia recorded 68 new COVID-19 cases. The previous day, the Ministry of Health and Wellness confirmed the island’s 16th COVID-19 related death – a 61-year-old man with multiple underlying illnesses.
As of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the total number of cases diagnosed in St. Lucia since the start of the pandemic was 1,479, including 757 active cases.
Minister of Education Dr. Gale Rigobert also announced, during Tuesday night’s address, that face-to-face teaching will be suspended from Thursday.
“The sentiment is that given the recent information shared by the Ministry of Health and what appears to be community spread, it would be best to suspend face to face teaching at this time,” she said.
“We care for the safety of our students, teachers and other workers in the sector. We will, therefore, revert to online learning,” the Education Minister added.