CASTRIES, St. Lucia, May 27, 2020 (CMC) – The St. Lucia government has defended its decision, to seek a four-month extension — from June 1, to September 30 — of the state of emergency (SOE), saying it allows for the authorities to move, swiftly, between phases, especially as the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus evolves.
“This would not be possible, under normal circumstances. We can plan and be prepared for COVID-19, but all of us, who watch the international news, will observe that this virus is ever-changing, and we need to adapt, accordingly. Therefore, our state of readiness today, may be very different next week, depending on the effects of its impact,” Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, told legislators.
The Prime Minister noted that having examined the actions of countries in the Caribbean and internationally, it is clear that a SOE is the best mechanism to secure timely and seamless execution of protocols and guidelines.
He said that a SOE “is no small matter”, and comes as a result of a declaration, by government, in response to an extraordinary situation, posing a fundamental threat to the country.
“In our case, we face two fundamental threats: a pandemic and, secondly, the risk of a financial/economic crisis. It remains one of the most, if not the most, effective mechanisms in dealing with events, which pose a fundamental threat to a country, and it reminds us all to remain vigilant.”
Chastanet likened the virus to a hurricane, “like no other that we have faced in this region”.
“It has the potential to wipe out entire nations and cripple economies, if not managed properly. Like a hurricane, the best chance of survival is to prepare. A state of emergency, for the next four months, will allow us to continue to implement and adequately monitor the effectiveness of the measures, we have put in place, and to make quick adjustments as required,” he posited
He explained that the government has been responsible in its actions, under the Emergency Powers Act, elaborating that, “every time we amended or adjusted any part of the Act, every single time, we put a new measure in place, we reported and informed the people of St. Lucia”.
“We explained why, every step of the way. The recordings, videos and constant reporting is available for all to see,” adding that the government has confidence in itse five-phase approach, to reopening the society.
“The simplicity of this plan is that, it is designed to remain fluid, to allow government to respond to COVID-19 and its impact, in a very methodical way. The foundation of this phased-approach is structured on the preservation of our physical and mental health, safety and the general wellbeing of our people, through robust, social healthcare; security; and economic measures,” the Prime Minister proffered.
But, he cautioned that moving, from one phase to another, or reverting to a previous phase, would depend on key, identifiable triggers.
“Through the state of emergency powers, this would allow the government to adequately implement measures and protocols, under each phase. Currently, we are at cycle 3 of phase 3, our metrics are to be reviewed this week, to finally determine whether we are on track to move into phase 4.”
Chastanet said that last week, the authorities, having satisfied themselves that St. Lucia had met all the triggers for moving to the next phase of reopening the country, allowed all businesses to resume operations, and the necessary protocols were put in place.
“After much deliberation, consultation, and review of available data, a decision has been taken, to open our borders, come June 4, 2020. Our government is currently in discussions with key stakeholders, as it relates to the repatriation of St. Lucians from overseas, in particular the United States,” he said.
But, he said he wanted to reassure St. Lucians, locally, that the decision to open the borders and to repatriate nationals from overseas, has many conditions attached to it.
“We have engaged the airlines and are relying heavily on them to be very robust partners, to ensure that there is a contaminant-free corridor, between when a passenger leaves their country of origin to their arrival in St. Lucia.
“All people coming into St. Lucia will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, within 48 hours of travel, and strict measures of physical distancing will be enforced. Further, there will be enhanced monitoring at our ports, as well as mandatory quarantine measures for people arriving.
“We, however, remain cautious that with such a reopening, comes the dangers of possible spread of the virus. The entire world is grappling with how best to reopen. Economies are crashing, businesses are closing, thousands have become unemployed.”
Chastanet admitted that the island has not been spared from this economic fallout.
“We cannot remain stagnant. We must be vigilant in our preparation for a new-normal, but must also be cognizant of the risks that lie ahead. We must have the capacity to trigger, quick and appropriate responses, in the implementation of new protocols and guidelines of operation, within all sectors of society. To achieve this, we need to have effective monitoring and enforcement capabilities.”
But he also warned that as the government strives to reopen St. Lucia, under a phased approach, “we are guided by the rest of the world”.
“With many countries in the world moving to reopen their borders, and the waves of recurring infections, it is important that St. Lucia is able to react, quickly, by implementing the necessary measures, to reduce and contain the spread of this virus. Essentially, time to implement, review and react is of the essence.
“Despite our success, thus far, and St. Lucia standing out as a leader in the region and the world, we cannot rest easy. As we look toward the future and our new normal, we must remember: what was effective in getting us to this point; and what is needed to continue to stay the course to keep our communities and our loved ones safe.”
He insisted that by extending the SOE, it would allow for the competent authority to act, with immediate dispatch, on the advisement of our health officials, resulting in the need to declare operational, necessary measures.
“As a result,…this further extension of the State of Emergency, is being sought to facilitate a quick response, if another outbreak of COVID-19 occurs. The extension will also permit the continuance of the assistance, provided by the Cuban Medical Team, who is authorized to work, only during the state of emergency, thereby strengthening the personnel capacities of the health sector, during this volatile period,” Chastanet pointed out, adding that the SOE would be extended, from June 1, to September 30.
“As a government, we reassure the people of St. Lucia that we will constantly scrutinize the situation and our performance, with the view to reducing the time-frame, if we continue to see positive trends. As we have been doing, throughout this crisis, we will keep you informed, always, of any amendments.”