There’s good and bad news for Saint Lucia today, the island squeezing through a small entry corridor for persons entering the UK by air as of Friday, but the government continuing to come under intense pressure from teachers at home for reopening school without consultation.
The good news from the UK came with an announcement yesterday that pre-departure COVID-19 testing will be required for everyone travelling to the UK from 4am GMT on Friday.
The UK Government announced that “people arriving by plane, train or boat, including UK nationals, will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country they are in.”
In light of issues with testing availability and capacity, the BBC reported yesterday, “some countries will initially be exempt” – including travelers from St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda — for six days.
This puts Saint Lucia among the only three CARICOM member-states afforded that small open door, which is definitely good news for the island’s tourism sector and persons stranded here wishing to return home to the UK.
But the Education Department is surely worried by the loud complaints by the Saint Lucia teachers Union (SLTU) and Early Childhood teachers that schools were reopened without consultation – and at possible risk to teachers and students.
SLTU President Don Howell told reporters his union joined the early childhood teachers in the complaint because both sets of teachers also feel there are lapses in the sanitization processes at schools that needed clarity before students were sent back to classrooms.
Department officers deny the claims of no consultation (off the record), leaving parents and guardians largely uncertain as to who to believe as classes resumed island-wide yesterday, as earlier indicated by the Department.
Meanwhile, travelers wishing to take advantage of the short window of opportunity opened by the UK government’s announcement are happy it stated that “all forms of PCR test would be accepted, as would other forms of test with 97% sensitivity and 99% specificity.”
The announcement came after a further 529 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported in the UK on Monday.
There were also 46,169 cases reported.
According to the BBC yesterday, more than 32,000 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus across the UK today.
On Monday, U.K Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak told MPs the UK economy would “get worse before it gets better” as the country battles the pandemic.
He said the new national restrictions recently imposed were necessary to control the spread of coronavirus, but they would have a further significant economic impact.
With preparations for the 2021-2022 national budget also under way, Saint Lucia government and Finance Ministry officials are still assessing the full impact of COVID-19 on the Saint Lucia economy in 2020, which will determine the government’s approach to national economic reconstruction during what’s left of an election year.