(CMC) — The St Lucia Cabinet is meeting in an emergency session on Friday as the island deals with the latest cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Education Minister Dr Gale Rigobert has since announced that all schools will be closed on Friday.
“Out of an abundance of caution please note that all educational institutions will be closed …Friday, October 16, 2020. The Department of Education continues to advocate for the strict adherence to the existing health and safety protocols,” she said.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, speaking on a local radio talk show on Thursday, said that the Cabinet will be briefed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Sharon Belmar-George and the police, to make a determination as to whether it is necessary to make changes to the island’s COVID-19 protocols.
In a statement on Thursday, Dr Belmar-George said that the island, which has now recorded 31 cases of the virus, is at a critical stage in the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Undertaking an effective response on all levels will determine our success in quickly identifying, treating and managing of cases and preventing possible complications and deaths.” she said, adding “I would like to make a particular appeal to all community leaders: gatekeepers, political representatives, constituency councils heads, heads of community based organisations, faith based organisations, sports clubs and all persons in positions of leaders and influence within our various communities, to add their voice in the request for the adhering to healthy habits within communities to reduce the risk for being exposed to COVID-19.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness is committed to ensuring our systems are prepared to manage the detection and management of this infection,” the chief medical officer said, adding “we anticipate and are preparing for an increase in cases within communities.
“To do this we need everyone’s support to protect the health and safety of our entire nation, particularly our most vulnerable including the elderly and people living with chronic conditions.
“At this point, to maintain the gains we achieved so far, and given the increased risks introduced by these new cases, and maintain public health and safety, it is necessary that each and every one of us recognise we are needed to be part of the solution to this health threat.”
Chastanet told radio listeners that apart from the emergency Cabinet meeting “we’re also going to be having a National Emergency Management Advisory Committee (NEMAC) meeting”.
He said he is hoping that by the time the meetings are held “we would’ve gotten the results from a lot of testing that the CMO’s office has been undertaking [in relation to the three new cases.
Chastanet indicated that a “significant lockdown” can be avoided if the current protocols are adhered to. Commissioner of Police Severin Moncherry recently stated that the police will be “enforcing the law fully” as it relates to the wearing of masks in public.
Under the COVID-19 (Prevention and Control) Act, a person who fails to wear a mask in public commits an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding EC$1000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both.
“So we’ve got to go back to a very strict adherence to social distancing, putting our masks on, hand sanitising, all of these things. If we do that— and even if we have community cases right now— we can beat this thing without having to go into a significant lockdown,” Chastanet said.
“If persons are not going to adhere to these basic rules and we see a significant number of cases, it possibly could lead to a shutting down of the economy…I’m making this appeal to Saint Lucians, let us continue to control our own destiny.
“We cannot have 99 per cent of the population adhering to the rules and one per cent not because that one per cent has the opportunity of derailing the country from succeeding. I want to give everyone the assurances that we’re meeting our bills, we’re fine.
“The question here is, if in fact we have to shut down this country again— which I do not want to do— then it’s going to be a very painful process both health-wise and also economically. I’m really saying to everyone, please, we can resolve this problem together. We need strict adherence: wear your face mask, sanitise your hands and social distancing,” Chastanet told radio listeners.