With Prime Minister Allen Chastanet hoping to have a position paper by tomorrow with the hope of presenting it to the Cabinet of Ministers when that body meets on Monday, relief may be in sight for the hundreds, if not thousands of small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus.
That position paper is expected to outline a stimulus package for that sector of the economy, which has been complaining about a severe drop in business, some of which have had to close their doors (see the March 24, 2020 issue of The VOICE Newspaper for more on that story).
“The prime minister in his capacity of Minister of Finance is designing a stimulus package for the entire economy, not just hotel workers, not just vendors, or taxi drivers or tour guides but for everyone, so that we can have a comprehensive look at our relief effort,” Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee said.
With a State of Emergency proclaimed throughout the country and a curfew in place from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am, the situation in the country has grown tense for Saint Lucians, more so with a stern warning from the prime minister that persons in violation of the curfew will be arrested and detained.
Chastanet promised to expand the curfew hours if Saint Lucians refused to adhere to them. Noting that being an authoritarian was not his style, the PM said he had to do what was necessary to protect Saint Lucians and prevent in-country transmission of the dreaded virus.
The State of Emergency will be in existence for 30 days as noted by the prime minister. This was made law by an act of Parliament Tuesday when government and the opposition met for an extraordinary sitting of the House of Assembly. The Senate also met that same day.
The purpose of the sittings was to debate two motions, one being that “Parliament approves the draft Emergency Powers (Disaster) (COVID 19) Order by an affirmative Resolution of Parliament to reduce the spread of COVID 19 to provide for – a) the declaration of a quarantine facility to isolate persons with COVID 19; b) the detention of persons with COVID 19; c) the imposition of restrictions and requirements on persons with COVID 19; d) the isolation of persons suspected to be infected with COVID 19 ; e) the screening requirements for person with COVID 19; f) the requisition of a building, ship, aircraft or article; g) the requisition of an essential service; h) the waiver of procurement rules; i) the reporting requirements; j) the revocation or suspension of permits for use of public open spaces; k) the prohibition of assembly of persons; l) the imposition of social distancing or isolation; m) the imposition of a curfew; n) the restriction of access to an area; o) the power to stop, detain and arrest a person; p) the publication of false statements; and q) the authorization for international or regional forces.”
The other motion was for Parliament to approve the declaration of State of Emergency that was published in the Gazette on March 23rd, 2020 as Statutory Instrument No. 39 of 2020 containing a declaration that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the occurrence of 2019-n CoV, an infectious disease commonly known as COVID-19.
Several of the measures that were made law on Tuesday were in place long before that time, a situation that drew criticism of the government from a small section of the population, with one attorney questioning whether a State of Emergency was the correct way to deal with the novel coronavirus public health pandemic.
Both the prime minister and Infrastructure Minister Stephenson King have fingered the bad behaviour of Saint Lucians for the State of Emergency that now exists on the island. Both men spoke of the way in which Saint Lucians conducted themselves in terms of not taking the necessary precautions to avoid the community spread of the virus as reason/s for the grim situation in the country today.
While non-essentials businesses have been ordered to close and Saint Lucians told to assemble in groups of ten people or less, with a space of about three to six feet between each of them, many nationals are not adhering to the new restrictions with the incident of a man at a quarantine location in the north of the island escaping being the case in the forefront. He was later brought back to the facility by his parents who themselves had to be quarantined.
Chastanet says public participation is needed if Saint Lucia is to avert the spread of COVID-19, and he has called on Saint Lucians to stop disregarding each other.
“Understand that your actions are not only putting other people in jeopardy but are putting your family and most importantly yourself in harm’s way,” was Chastanet’s appeal to Saint Lucians.
Noting that it only takes the irresponsible behaviour of a couple people to jeopardize everything that government is attempting to do to protect Saint Lucians, the prime minister made a special appeal to Saint Lucians to stop their selfish bahaviour as the virus is no respecter of persons, and can infect any one irrespective of that person’s station in life.