Saint Lucia is open and ready to take on the world, but in a cautionary way, mindful that the coronavirus could create severe problems for its citizens and economy.
The last vestige of the regulations that held it back from full re-opening was swept away earlier this week by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet when he announced that mass events could be staged, sporting activities could be resumed, cinemas could open their doors, yachts could now enter our marinas, in addition to the removal of the midnight to 5:00 a.m. curfew as of Friday 10 July 2020.
But all of this will take place under strict protocols, especially those relating to passengers on commercial flights, the first of which entered the country on Thursday from Miami, Florida landing at the Hewanorra International Airport with nationals and visitors onboard.
However, it will not be business as usual for air travellers. A new set of requirements will have to be met by them, as the country tries its best to keep the coronavirus cases at minimal so as to protect citizens and prevent a crash or overload of its health care system.
Hotels are slowly reopening; mainly the coronavirus certified ones, seven of them, with five others in training for certification. Other accommodations in the tourism sector are moving swiftly to get certified. Even taxis are now going through the COVID-19 certification programme and other tourism related entities. Most, if not all the protocols targeting hotels will be mandatory for visitors and hotel workers.
Government is optimistic the tourism industry will bounce back with Prime Minister Chastanet saying there is still an appetite for Saint Lucia out there and that the virus will not prevent airlines from flying into the country.
But all that is being done today to get hotels back in business and the tourism industry flourishing again could all be halted if the country is lacking in vigilance. Chastanet has been clear that the efforts today geared at restoring the accommodation sector and the tourism industry are but a pilot project, to be heavily scrutinized for the next six weeks to see if the protocols that are in place are working.
He noted that should things go smoothly within that time frame, it would serve as a confidence booster to the team spearheading the resurgence of the country as it would be a clear indication that the country is moving in the right direction.
Not only that, the recovery of the tourism product will go a long way in helping cure the social and economy fallout in the country today.
The importance of a heightened state of vigilance, demonstrated at all times by the various personnel employed to do tasks associated with keeping the virus at bay was also stressed.
Of equal importance as well is the need to find a way to operate within the context of the coronavirus now that it has been established it will remain with us for longer than expected.
Internally the country is starting to get back on its feet now that all sectors have fully re-opened, however unemployment is still crucial as thousands of Saint Lucians are still out of a job.