Letters & Opinion

UNITING A TROUBLED NATION: The Positive Side of COVID-19

By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

OUR nation has been grappling with several issues which create anxiety in our land. Some of those issues are crime, unemployment, poor health care, political divisiveness, hopelessness and several others. Those issues have made it difficult to unite as a nation. But alas, COVID-19 has done it for us!

Ironically, COVID-19 may leave us in a serious economic crisis and with greater health care demands. However, we are seeing in St Lucia something which we have been yearning for; a uniting of a nation. We are now demonstrating that we can put our differences aside in times of crisis and work together as a people.

I very often hear people say that our Prime Minister is stubborn. He does not listen to anyone. Not so with COVID-19! As I understand it, he telephoned the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and invited him to discuss the COVID-19 situation at a National Emergency Management Advisory Committee (NEMAC) meeting and others. Excellent Mr Prime Minister! This is a long, colourful feather in your cap. Not only that, he insisted that politicians should put politics aside and work in unison. Good, good, good!

For his part, the Leader of the Opposition gracefully accepted the invitation, and has been attending those meeting with other parliamentarians from his party. What a spectacle! Philip J. Pierre pledged to work with the government and support any meaningful issues brought to parliament which would benefit the people of St Lucia. There isn’t a better way of saying this! The Leader of the Opposition and political leader had said that he would put all politics aside and work with the government at this time of crisis.

The only place I have seen this kind of politics is in the United States of America. God bless America! I have lived in America, and I know that when there is a national crisis the Democrats and the Republicans put away their differences and work together for the benefit of the American people. I truly, sincerely, genuinely hope that this attitude continues long after COVID-19. I know that it will be in the best interest of all. Here in Saint Lucia, that unity of political leaders will not confuse the populace. When election time comes, they will decide and know exactly what to do.

Now I want to give some credit to the Ministry of Health and in particular, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sharon Belmar. She has led her team with a high level of excellence. For her part, she took on the ‘herculean’ task of providing the nation with correct and simplified information which allowed everyone to understand fully. Updates were given with a high level of frequency and accuracy. Other members of her staff were busy dealing with other related matters.

I attended a Caregivers Seminar which was presented by senior staff members of the Ministry of Health. We were all satisfied with the presenters and the general content of the seminar at which they provided invaluable information to the participants.

Now WASCO is another entity which I would like to highlight. I went to the Lanse Road office to pay a bill. On arrival, a gentleman at the door indicated to me that I had to wait outside for a little while and directed me to a notice on the front of the door. In short, the notice indicated that because of COVID-19, the company had introduced social distancing for customers. Only five customers could be in the building at a time. When one or two customers come out, then one or two go in. In addition, hand sanitizer was available in and out of the building. I thought that that was good thinking. So good for you WASCO!

WASCO, almost overnight, barricaded their staff in the Customer Service area. The company also announced that because of the urgent need for water at this time, it will no longer shut off the water to the north of the island which was originally scheduled of 25th March, 2020. WASCO, I applaud you.

Now, by the time I got to town, all the banks already had dispensers of hand sanitizers for their customers located in strategic places. I have not been to the other business places. However, it is my understanding that the business houses are making a serious effort at joining in the effort to fight COVID-19 in St Lucia.

It must be noted that the people of the nation themselves have realised that this is desperate situation; it’s a life or maybe death situation, and most have a hands-on approach for fighting the virus.

Schools have had to be closed and we do not know for how long. Teachers are resolved at aiding students in whatever way that they can. They too are standing up to the challenge! In the end, the concerted efforts at this time will redound to the benefit of our nation.

As I write, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is meeting to disseminate information to the Catholic community in St Lucia. They also have taken this matter seriously and are encouraging their following to take the necessary steps to deal effectively with the virus.

Other formal and informal groups are doing the same. Lodges, clubs, and teams are all taking steps to mitigate the threats to our lives.

There are several ways in which our Helen of the West could benefit at the end of it all. Most importantly, we would have learned the importance of working together regardless of politics, religious affiliation or family status. Indeed, we would have learnt of several hygienic behaviours which we can keep with us for the rest of our lives.

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