The St. Lucia government says it has no intention of shutting down the country, as the island recorded yet another case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Friday.
“We have no intention of shutting down,” Prime Minister Allen Chastanet told reporters after his Cabinet met in an emergency session on Friday.
Speaking during a televised news conference, Chastanet said that shutting down the island is not an option, adding “can the situation get worse? Yes.
“We do not want to get to the point where we have to close down. If we have to become more draconian we will do it,” said Chastanet, who said people were still not adhering to the various protocols and measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Chastanet said he would not be intimidated by persons claiming that their rights were being taken away and warned that the letter of the law will be imposed on anyone who does not comply with COVID-19 protocols.
“I make no apologies. We are not trying to oppress anyone but we have a responsibility to protect the people of this country,” Chastanet said, reiterating an earlier statement that unless every St. Lucian observes COVID-19 protocols, the situation would be ‘catastrophic.’
“I have indicated that if in fact we have to close down the country it will be a huge burden to us and to everyone,” Chastanet said.
He said that at the emergency meeting, recommendations were made by the office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), the Ministry of Education and other ministries.
The Ministry of Health announced late Friday that the island had recorded yet another case of the virus, pushing the total to 33.
It said that the individual is a 62-year old female who works at the educational institution where the previous case of the virus had been detected.
“This individual presented with respiratory signs and symptoms and was tested for COVID-19 and placed in isolation awaiting results. Upon receiving confirmation of this case of COVID-19 arrangements were made for her transfer to the Respiratory Hospital for care.
“Given that this new case resulted from the investigations of the recently diagnosed secondary school student, the Ministry of Health will continue its efforts with a focus on preventing the spread of the infection within communities.
“The Ministry of Health once again wants to assure the public that we are undertaking the necessary interventions to protect the health and safety of all,” the statement said, urging persons to strictly adhere to the measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Mary Isaac has criticised one of the latest persons who have tested positive for the virus, saying the 48-year-old bus driver, is not cooperating with the authorities.
“Case number 29 is the most problematic, because now, as you may have heard, he is not cooperating. He is not giving out information in terms of where he may have contracted COVID-19 because he has no travel history,” she told the news conference.
Isaac said that many persons were going about life as if it is business as usual, adding that she did not know whether it was because the government and frontline workers have done such a good job in containing the virus that people do not recognise the danger.
But she warned that St. Lucia does not have the resources or the finances to manage a large community spread and that some government departments have had to close because people are panicking.
“We need to contain this virus,” Isaac said.
The Ministry of Education has announced that it held discussions with various stakeholders and it was agreed “in the best interest of all our …as a precaution, to keep all schools island-wide, closed for one week and the Castries Comprehensive Secondary closed for two weeks.
“During this period the Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue to conduct its necessary screenings, the results of which will help determine the way forward. In keeping with our commitment to continuously engage stakeholders, we will continue to rely on guidance from the Office of the Chief Education Officer and by extension the Ministry Health and Wellness, in the best interest of all.”
The ministry said it was advising parents and guardians that instruction will revert to the multi-faceted approach of online learning and safe distribution of instructional packages from teachers, adding “during the period students are at home. Parents and Guardians are also asked to note that all necessary information to you on this matter will be communicated by the school of your child or ward”.