Prime Minister of St Lucia, Philip Pierre on Wednesday night rolled out new COVID-19 measures, including a curfew, amid a significant spike in cases, even as he also announced that his administration would decriminalize protocol breaches.
In an address to the nation that came on the heels of the announcement by health officials that active cases had almost reached 400, he said: “Persons who have been previously arrested, charged and convicted for COVID-19 protocol breaches will have their records expunged.”
“For now, we need to persuade and encourage citizens to comply with the protocol guidelines, not threaten and punish them to do so. I understand that for many of us, we have been called to do what does not come naturally and so there must be compassion and empathy,” Prime Minister Pierre added.
New protocols take effect on Friday and will run until August 31, as the government tries to significantly reduce and control the spread of the virus.
The measures for the two-and-a-half-week period include: a 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew; an 8 p.m. end to all business operations and commercial activity; and a restriction on social gatherings to immediate family and households to a limit of ten individuals.
No allowance is given for gatherings and special events and neither vaccinated nor unvaccinated people are allowed to host or attend any social activities, including parties and boat rides.
“We must act now individually and collectively to reverse the high incidence of COVID-infection,” the Prime Minister said.
He also addressed the issue of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, as he noted recent anti-vaccine mandate protests in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda.
“We as a government wish to categorically state at this time that we have no intentions of going down the road of government mandatory vaccinations. We continue to encourage our citizens to follow the public health protocols and to get tested and vaccinated, thereby reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the newly installed St Lucian leader said.
Meantime, Pierre also announced that in support of his government’s policy of following the science, there will be a structural change in the COVID-19 Command Centre to allow it to be headed by a health expert, not a minister of government or a politician as the law currently requires.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness received confirmation of 33 new cases of COVID-19 from 273 samples taken on Monday and Tuesday.
“All of these new cases were seen at various community respiratory clinics where they were assessed and tested for COVID-19. In keeping with the COVID-19 testing protocol, these individuals were placed in home quarantine by healthcare practitioners while awaiting the return of their COVID-19 test results. Arrangements have since been made to place them in isolation. The contact tracing for these new cases is currently underway,” the Ministry said in a statement.
The new cases bring the total number of active cases to 396, with four of those requiring critical care at the Respiratory Hospital. The total number of cases diagnosed in St Lucia to date is 5,982.