COVID-19 has brought life as we know it in Saint Lucia to a screeching halt. A reality that many had seen unfolding over the past weeks was punctuated Tuesday evening by an announcement by the prime minister that the country would be shut down for seven days – from April 1, to April 7, for 24-hours a day.
If anyone had doubted the seriousness of the virus which has brought even the first world to its knees, that would have changed with the strong words issued by the prime minister and the island’s chief medical officer highlighting the dismal state of affairs at is relates to containing the spread of coronavirus locally.
During an address to the nation aired live on NTN, and also on the Government’s social media pages , the Prime Minister announced that the Government had determined there was need to shut down the country with almost immediate effect. He noted that this was due to an escalation of cases of coronavirus on the island, and the confirmation of community spread. The island’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Sharon Belmar-George supported the announcement by the prime minister, for her part noting, “The Ministry of Health is actively directing persons to testing and care. This trend in confirmed cases is of concern. Apart from indicating that local transmission is established in Saint Lucia, it also indicates that the required infection prevention measures are not being adhered to as recommended by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).”
She said the priority of the Ministry of Health at this point was to “significantly slow down and contain community spread of the virus to protect the health and safety of every individual.”
“As such, more drastic measures are necessary to reduce the impact at this stage,” she noted.
After the prime minister announced the details of the 24-hour lock down which began at 5 am this morning, some Saint Lucians watching the live feed went into full panic mode.
“What will we eat?!” an alarmed commenter put forth. “These lines at the supermarket were so long, I didn’t have time to go…”
“Mr PM, you got this wrong,” said yet another. “Children need food. I know our people were hardheaded but shutting down suddenly without food is a bit harsh.”
The comments were incessant, persisting even after the prime minister announced that Saint Lucians in need of supplies could dial 311 to receive assistance in relation to food supplies and other needs.
““I understand the measures, but people need more time,” a female viewer wrote. “The supermarkets refused to sell items in bulk, and now people are without food. What are we supposed to do?”
Another commenter opined that it was not just the poor and vulnerable who needed supplies, but average Saint Lucians who may not have had enough time to shop.
“Thing is, we are not a rich nation. Seven days would be nothing for those who can afford, but for those who live below the poverty line, or from paycheck to paycheck, what about them? I know some people who got paid tonight, and they will have no opportunity to get anything for themselves.”
In less of a steady supply as compared to the comments of those caught off guard, were those of encouragement, filled with advice to Saint Lucians on how to prepare and cope from people near and far.
“Now is the time to ration,” one woman offered with a hint of humour. “If you were using one teabag for yourself, stretch it to make tea for everybody in the house. In fact, go outside and pick some bush to make tea.”
“It’s a sad situation, but just stay indoors and have patience,” a male commenter responded.
Elsewhere on social media, once the live presentation was over in both English and Creole, the conversation carried on with a poster to a group titled ‘I Love Saint Lucia’ stating, “You cannot be saying to me not to stock up, don’t panic buy, and then turn around and say stay inside for seven days. It cannot be right… I would strongly advise the government to reverse that decision, reduce the curfew to three days in the first instance… as this decision may cause more chaos, fear, and panic which are not required at this time.”
A contrary opinion also posted to social media last night: “Lockdown or death. It’s that serious people, stop trivializing this. For weeks medical practitioners have been urging persons to ‘stay at home’. Many artistes, influential persons and so on and so forth have lent their voices in an effort to educate and limit the spread of COVID-19. It’s a global crisis. This virus is so dangerous it has the potential to cause mass genocides. It is not a movie, this is reality, and all our lives are at stake.”