The novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is severely testing the capacity and resolve of Saint Lucians when it comes to keeping it at bay as is evidenced by a series of events in the past few days and the 25 cases recorded to date.
First it was a wrongful diagnosis which sent Saint Lucians into a panic, raised fears of a community spread, and pushed the country’s health team into adrenaline pumping action by testing and quarantining all employees (154) of a call center. The health team also launched a contact tracing exercise that cost money and time.
The ripple of fear and anxiety in the community and the monetary damage to the call center and the government caused by this wrongful diagnosis, underscored the importance of how error-free the handling of the virus tests should be.
It began when Vincentian health officials tested a Saint Lucian woman who entered that country Sunday, 19 July. The woman was informed that her test result was positive. About a week later Vincentian authorities informed her that the test was negative.
This was followed by the deportation of a visitor who reportedly infringed coronavirus protocols. The visitor was placed in a government operated state quarantine facility on Thursday July 23, 2020 after spending several nights at a certified hotel. The following day the visitor was escorted to the Hewanorra International Airport and departed on a flight to his/her original jurisdiction.
“These actions were taken as there were repeated reports of protocol infringements on the part of the visitor. These infringements were flagged by the management of the hotel. Though travel protocols were made public internationally from May 2020 and were introduced to the visitor on arrival into Saint Lucia on more than one occasion. Subsequently, law enforcement stepped in and reiterated the protocols, but the individual continued to disregard and flouted the prescribed protocols,” stated a release from the Ministry of Tourism.
So far three visitors have violated coronavirus protocols since the tourism sector was opened three weeks ago, part of over 1200 persons who visited the island since then.
Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee said these violations have been causes for alarm and that visitors who breach coronavirus protocols will be penalized.
With regards to airlifts, Minister Fedee said drop-offs in airlifts are being seen and there have been indications from airlines that they will be scaling back a bit now that they have a realistic understanding of what the demand is.
“Some of the airlines are tending to adjust their capacity to Saint Lucia in an effort to better align their supply with the current demand for travel at this time,” Fedee said.
However, despite the return of jobs in hotels and other tourist facilities, the management of the virus on island continues to be a top priority of the Department of Health and other agencies of government.
For instance, all arriving passengers must have a negative result from a PCR test done no more than seven days before travelling to Saint Lucia. All Arriving passengers must complete the Pre-arrival Travel Registration Form prior to arrival in Saint Lucia and adhere to all protocols relevant to airports. All arriving passengers will also be screened (this includes temperature checks). All symptomatic passengers will be immediately isolated and tested. If test result is positive for COVID-19 the passenger will be transferred to the Respiratory Hospital for treatment and care at the passenger’s cost.
According to the Department other passengers will be transferred by certified taxi to approved COVID-19 accommodation, a government quarantine site or home quarantine.
Over the last few months, people who have been granted home quarantine have not been adhering to the protocols governing home quarantine, therefore as a result, further restrictions on home quarantine have been instituted with immediate effect by the authorities.
According to the Department of Health, anyone found in breach of home quarantine will be immediately taken to a government quarantine facility to complete their time. The Department said police officers have a duty to enforce compliance and arrest without a warrant any person whom he or she has reasonable cause to believe has committed any offence.
The public is asked to cooperate and encourage family members and friends who have returned from overseas and are presently in quarantine to remain at home for the 14-day duration.
Meanwhile anyone entering Saint Lucia without a negative PCR test for the virus will have to pay US100 to take that test.
The latest COVID-19 case in Saint Lucia was announced Thursday. The individual is an 86-year-old male patient with a history of diabetes and high blood pressure with a history of surgery two weeks ago. He was transferred to the Respiratory Hospital on July 26, 2020 with fever and shortness of breath. He is presently in the Intensive Care Unit at the Respiratory Hospital for management and care. The team has commenced investigations and contact tracing to establish the source and contain transmission. Updated information will be provided as received according to the Department of Health.