SAINT LUCIA will be scaling down its operations as of next week to keep the coronavirus away from its shores.
The country has two positive cases of the virus both of which are said to be in the recovery stages. Both cases are imported cases. Several persons have been tested for the virus all tests coming back negative, including a test done on Prime Minister Allen Chastanet this week.
Come Monday government will put in place a heightened protocol on social distancing regimes. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet yesterday said that this programme will be in place until April 5 in the first instance.
“Depending on the success of that programme and what is taking place and through the advice of the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) and the collaboration of government we will determine whether this will be extended,” Chastanet said.
Government is presently proposing to close all non-essential commercial services, a move the Prime minister says may reduce the amount of public interaction.
“Those commercial entities that are going to remain open are going to be expected to put in new social behaviours,” Chastanet said.
Several protocols are now in place for Saint Lucians to follow in almost every business sector of the economy. Essential services like WASCO, LUCELEC and the telecoms will remain open with a revised protocol along with sanitation collection and disposal. Supermarkets, mini-marts, pharmacies, bakeries, petrol stations and the air and seaports will all remain open. The ports being open will be for cargo handling and for very limited flights from the United States.
Also, to remain functioning are bus services, banking, trucking and customs services all on a scale down version of their usual activities. Fire, police and security services will all remain operational.
“There will be a continual tightening of passengers coming to Saint Lucia,” Chastanet said.
The tourism sector is currently the hardest hit sector of the economy right now as explained by Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee who yesterday said that currently 15 hotels on the island are facing imminent closure and about 2647 employees from the hotel industry have already been laid off along with about 190 from the excursion sector.
“This brings a total from the tourism industry to some 2784 in terms of total people who have been laid off. Hundreds more have been put on rotation and several hundreds have also received pay cuts,” Fedee said.
He added, “As it pertains to the airlines, we anticipate a significant reduction in our air capacity. Although we have not received official indication yet we have received reductions from airlines – we don’t believe that the airlines will continue to keep flying at a loss so I think within the first two to three days we will see a tremendous scaling down of airlift capacity into the country,” Fedee said.