ON March 1st, 2020 I was in discussion with a regional colleague about the state of preparation of the region to deal with the Coronavirus. The colleague was attending the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting which was taking place. I felt it important that I be kept informed of matters relating to how this critical matter was being addressed. During the discussion the colleague indicated that the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia was not present. I responded that I thought he was attending and was surprised that he was not present. At the conclusion of the meeting I called the person to find out what were the conclusions of the meeting. Again was told that the Prime Minister was not present. I was later informed that if he was present it was for a short period at the start of the meeting but he was not there for the substantive part or the press conference.
I have never practiced the spread of rumors and lies. My reference to the absence of the Prime Minister was to highlight the lack of sufficient attention that our Government is giving at a policy level to addressing the Coronavirus. To the extent that anyone feels that I misled them I must humbly state that was not my intention. I felt and still feel that for a meeting of such importance, the Prime Minister should have been there throughout and I acted on the information that I had at the time.
However we need to move on beyond whether he was there or not. I have been bombarded with questions on the state of preparedness of our country to address the Coronavirus. That itself says a lot about our state of preparedness. I have no doubt that the medical professionals and technical people are trying their very best and are trying to achieve world class standards of preparation. Yet there are some critical policy issues which I want to address to the Prime Minister on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia. I shall focus on the children and elderly, as they are the two most vulnerable groups.
- Does Saint Lucia possess any on shore testing facilities for the virus to make informed and science driven decisions?
- Can the Prime Minister release a National Plan of Action that provides as comprehensive as possible how we will respond to any severity in cases; in particular
- What are plans for the elderly? Is there any special training for home caregivers and additional support to make sure our elderly receives that highest level priority?
- What are the plans for the homeless and people who are on the streets?
- Are the schools being provided with soap and other disinfectants and ensure there is a constant supply of water at all schools in the event of an outbreak?
- If there is an outbreak, at what point will schools be closed?
- If there is an outbreak and schools are closed what happens to students who will be sitting CSEC and CAPE exams?
- If there is an outbreak at a Ministry, what would be the response? Do we have a public service response plan?
These are some of the questions that the public have been asking me as Leader of the Opposition. I trust that as policy questions, the Prime Minister can respond.
I ask some other questions.
- Are our medical personnel adequately equipped with protective gear and other equipment?
- Have we organized adequate isolation and quarantine facilities?
- Is there adequate monitoring at all points of entry.
- Has the government prepared a substantial information dissemination plan for the public?
- How is our cruise industry being affected by the absence of testing equipment in Saint Lucia?
- Is it true that Carnival Fascination has cancelled visits to Saint Lucia for the next 2 months at a minimum?
I thank you.