With the knowledge that COVID-19 will be around for a while, government is looking at new ways to see how best it could bring the country’s number one foreign earner – tourism, back to the place it was prior to the virus’ entrance.
But while this is easier said than done, government is pressing on, pleased that Saint Lucia has a low rate of COVID-19 cases, 26 to be exact, with no deaths and travellers on-island protocols.
Adding to travellers confidence in Saint Lucia is the report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) which reduced Saint Lucia’s Covid-19 rating to Level 1, meaning that new COVID-19 cases in Saint Lucia decreased or stabilized.
With tourism accounting for 65 percent of the island’s GDP, it makes sense for innovative thinking in efforts at returning the industry to pre-COVID times. Caution is therefore needed in the phased re-opening programme. Satisfied that the virus has been managed successfully to date, government has announced further easing of certain restrictions for visitors and has added even more ways for them to enjoy their island vacation.
Visitors are now permitted to stay in up to two Covid-19 certified properties for the duration of their stay, which will offer varied experiences across the island. According to government, guests staying at Covid-19 certified properties can take part in various water-based activities like scuba diving and sailing, in addition to the protocols put in place at their hotel.
Today more hotels are Covid-19 certified. The full list includes Anse Chastanet, Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa, Bay Gardens Hotel, Bay Gardens Inn, Caille Blanc Villa & Hotel, Cap Maison, Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, Jade Mountain, Ladera, Marigot Bay Resort Spa and Marina, Robot Eco-Escape, Sandals Grande St. Lucian, Sandals Regency La Toc, Serenity at Coconut Bay, Stonefield Villa Resort, Sugar Beach – A Viceroy Resort, Tet Rouge Resort, and Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort. Several other hotels and resorts are on track to receive certification and will be opening soon. Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay Marinas are also open.
“We are encouraged by the figures that currently show Saint Lucia is leading the way in the Caribbean region with the lowest number of Covid-19 cases per capita. We are certainly not complacent, and the measures we have put in place have helped us to achieve such a positive record. These results will show potential visitors that our responsible approach to re-opening and providing a safe environment for a holiday is a good reason to choose Saint Lucia. We have safely welcomed more than 4,000 visitors to Saint Lucia since reopening July 9, and to know that they have had a positive holiday experience here gives us optimism for the future. Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we continue to closely manage the situation, which is why we have been able to ease some of the restrictions at this time,” remarked Minister of Tourism, Honourable Dominic Fedee.
But the good news coming from outside about Saint Lucia’s management of COVID-19 does not sit well with one opposite member of parliament, Castries South representative Dr. Ernest Hilaire who has accused government of seeking to score cheap political points as a result.
Hilaire, writing on his Facebook page, called government’s comments about Saint Lucia’s world ranking for COVID management “pathetic and low.”
“Why would a Government stoop to such low levels to seek to engage in a competition on a public health issue? Who does that? While you are free to say to the world that you have managed the pandemic very well, it should never be about gloating at the expense of our fellow brothers and sisters of the Caribbean and other countries. It is like saying to the world, do not go to Dominica because they had a devastating fatal hurricane. A caring Government would never promote its Country while gloating about the misfortunes of other countries. When it comes to issues of public health and disasters, we have to be sensitive and show empathy and not seek to mislead and distort the reality,” Hilaire wrote.
Hilaire then went on to examine the CDC ranking claiming that the CDC has a number of categories to guide Americans when deciding to travel.
“There is a category described as ‘no data available’ which means that these countries have not reported any COVID data and the CDC does not know what is the COVID risk. Accordingly, the CDC advises Americans not to undertake any non-essential travel to these countries.
“There is also a Level Three category – ‘COVID Risk very High’ for countries where travellers are asked to avoid any non-essential travel. Persons who travel to some of these countries within the last 14 days are prohibited from entering the US.
“Then there is Level Two – ‘COVID Risk is moderate’ where older people and people at any age with underlying illness or at risk of severe illness should avoid any non-essential travel.
Then there is Level One – ‘COVID Risk is low’ where ‘CDC recommends that older adults, people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions, and others at increased risk for severe illness talk to their healthcare providers before travelling to these countries’. There are eight countries listed of which Saint Lucia is one.
“Then there is ‘No Travel Health Notice – COVID Risk very Low’. The CDC basically says anyone is free to travel to these countries once necessary precautions are taken. There are 22 countries listed. Yes, 22. Of which five are from the Caribbean – Anguilla, BVI, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis. If you had to compare and rank, surely these countries are better ranked than Saint Lucia. But only if you had to rank.
“Now from the above, how does that make Saint Lucia no. 2 for COVID management in the world? Does that mean the CDC ranks us among the best eight in the world? More importantly, why does the Government and Ministers at this time think it is necessary to mislead the people of Saint Lucia about COVID management and CDC rankings. What is the Government hiding from us?,” Hilaire asked, adding it is distasteful for the Government to distort information on such a critical public health issue such as COVID for cheap political points.
Meanwhile cases of COVID-19 have more than doubled in the region of the Americas in the past weeks to 12 million reinforcing how important contact tracing and data management are now that countries are reopening their activities.
“Primary health care should be at the center of the response: identifying cases, acting to contain transmission and providing timely care in the community,” said the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne said during a press conference.
“We can’t stop all transmission, but if countries stay vigilant and expand testing and surveillance, they can better identify spikes in cases and act quickly to contain them before they spread out of control,” Etienne added.
According to the Director, despite the rise in COVID-19 cases, countries have gradually relaxed restrictions, resumed commerce and some are gearing up to head back to school.
“In far too many places, there seems to be a-disconnect between the policies being implemented and what the epidemiological curves tell us. This is not a good sign. Wishing the virus away will not work, it will only lead to more cases, as we’ve seen over these past six weeks,” Etienne said.
According to her “This virus is going to be with us for a while. Without a vaccine, it’s going to be with us for years. This will not be a fight we win once – but one that will go several rounds. That’s why we need to apply lessons from places that have controlled the virus and let data guide our actions,” Etienne added.