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St Lucia opposition concern government ‘delayed’ action to coronavirus, possibly exposed the island

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES St Lucia – In view of the most recent regional and international developments relating to the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) registered concerns that the Allen Chastanet – led government “delayed” its announcement on a policy with regard to travelers from China to Saint Lucia.”

A circular dated July 5, 2018, ministry of external Affairs referenced Cabinet Conclusion 292 of 2018, announced “the immediate removal of visa requirements for Chinese nationals seeking to enter Saint Lucia, whether to stay or transit,” notable, a non-bilateral visa-waiver, Saint Lucian citizens need a visa to visit China.

This was conveyed by Moses Jn Baptiste, the SLP chairman and shadow minister for health, in a statement at the Party’s press conference, Wednesday, February 5.

The World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee on Thursday, January 30, declared that the rise in new coronavirus cases outside China, now constitutes a global health emergency, calling on all countries to take urgent measures to contain the respiratory disease.

Coronavirus a global emergency declares WHO

Jn Baptiste queried, pursuant to regional and international developments, the capacity of the government of Saint Lucia and their awareness, registered the following:

  • As of Monday, February 3, 25 countries have been affected by the virus with the first death outside of China occurring in the Philippines when someone who came from China succumbed on February 1:
  • A number of countries have therefore closed their borders with China have ceased airline flights to China and have imposed travel bans and restrictions on persons travelling from China: Singapore and Indonesia, who depend heavily on Chinese tourism, have suspended visa-free travel from China;
  • Papua New Guinea has shut its borders to all travelers from Asia;
  • In the region, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have announced that all persons entering the country from China will be quarantined for 14 days while Antigua and Barbuda is not allowing entry from China. Jamaica has also placed a ban on travel to and from China.

Regional governments take measures to interrupt the spread of coronavirus 

According to Jn Baptiste: “ The SLP notes that Saint Lucian medical authorities have since made specific announcements; however restrictions on travel into Saint Lucia from mainland China were placed on Tuesday, February 4, 2020.”

“The lack of leadership by the minister for health including the prime minister in this crisis is obvious and disturbing”, Jn Baptiste continued. “Many of the ministers for health from our sister Caribbean islands were seen leading the advocacy on the deadly virus outbreak early as one week ago,” nonetheless, “the silence from our minister was deafening,” he emphasized.

The SLP shadow minister for health called on the government of Saint Lucia to “follow the advice of medical professionals, remain vigilant and implement fully, regional decisions on this deadly coronavirus outbreak.”

The SLP further called on the government to respond to the following:

  • “Is there any truth to speculation that Chinese nationals, some of whom are connected to the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) were allowed to land in Saint Lucia deliberately before the announcement of restrictions by the government?
  • “Will the government take immediate measures to assess these nationals who may have returned from infected countries even if they came before the date of the restrictions?”
Dr Sharon Belmar-George, Chief Medical Officer

‘There is nothing to worry about’, health authority contend

On Tuesday, Dr Sharon Belmar-George, chief medical officer confirmed that,“four Saint Lucians, recently returned to the island are quarantined at their homes in-line with protocols in place for coronavirus.”

Belmar-George explained: “First of all, anyone who has returned is completely asymptomatic (showing or producing no symptoms). We have twice daily monitoring. We have no symptomatic case coming from China. According to our protocol, if anybody coming from China was symptomatic they would be quarantined at a hospital and not at home. So far we are not concerned. Everybody has been managed according to the guidelines and we are following the protocol to ensure the safety of everybody.

“There’s a level of stigma and discrimination at this point given to oriental persons. We have been given false alerts that persons who look oriental are being seen as Chinese. What is important is the travel history. You can be of any other nationality and have been in China within 14 days, you will not be allowed in, except if you’re Saint Lucian,” the chief medical officer said.

Mary Isaac, Minister for Health and Wellness

Health minister silence extends to a prepared text

Following the SLP inquiry of the government of Saint Lucia, Wednesday, February 5, an assurance was given by health minister, Mary Isaac, via a prepared text.

“The government of Saint Lucia has decided that they will not allow any non-national with a travel history within the last 14 days from Mainland China, (whether in-transit or originating), to enter any local port from Tuesday, February 4, 2020. Any national returning to Saint Lucia with similar travel history will be quarantined for 14 days.

“The department of health and wellness is presently updating existing Influenza Preparedness Plans. In the interim, the public is asked to continue practicing the standard recommendations to prevent the spread of infection. My government is committed to working towards ensuring the safety of our citizens,” health minister, Isaac.

*** Dr Michael Ryan, executive director, WHO health emergencies programme said, “To date, there is no proven drug to treat the coronavirus.

Speaking in Geneva, Wednesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that latest data indicated 24,363 confirmed infections in China and 490 deaths from the respiratory disease (2019-nCoV), which was declared on December 31.

“In the last 24 hours, we had the most cases in a single day since the outbreak started (3925 new cases globally),” he said.





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