CMO Explains State of Emergency as Country Enters Phase Five of Reopening

The Government of Saint Lucia continues to monitor the way forward as the nation prepares to move into Phase Five of the framework to reopen Saint Lucia’s society. Balancing lives and livelihoods and navigating a safe path towards coexisting with COVID-19 was the overarching focus of the Update to the Nation which was broadcast live on NTN July 6th 2020.

Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet, Minister of Tourism, Information and Broadcasting Honourable Dominic Fedee, together with Tourism Permanent Secretary Donnalyn Vittet and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar-George addressed the Nation, reflecting on the policies and making new pronouncements moving forward.

The Prime Minister made several announcements with regards to re-opening of cinemas, Early Childhood Development Centres, allowing of tournaments, sporting events and contact sports with protocols for each activity. The yachting sector will also be open with strict protocols and the curfew is completely lifted as of Friday July 10th, 2020.The country is also preparing to welcome its first set of commercial flights this weekend.

“We must remember the fluidity of what is happening. We are now heading into a phase where we are going to be taking on substantially more risk. We are going to do everything that we can to mitigate against the risk, but there is risk,” cautioned Prime Minister Chastanet as he responded to the question posed on the importance of the State of Emergency.

The State of Emergency was instituted on 23rd March 2020 to respond aggressively to the public health emergency due to the increased cases of COVID-19 on island.

“The state of emergency has allowed us to make decisions in a very timely manner in the management of COVID-19,” stated Dr. Belmar-George. “In my role as the Chief Medical Officer, it gives me some power under the Public Health Act and also the Quarantine Act. The State of Emergency gives and has given us the possibility of putting measures  in place within a short time, for example, zoning, the restriction on movement of people, the institution of the curfew,  allowing us to put protocols in place that we won’t usually have to do.”

The State of Emergency is expected to end in September and has also been utilised to allow one hundred and thirteen (113) Cuban doctors and nurses to assist local medical teams amidst COVID-19, specifically at the new respiratory hospital.

The CMO went on to explain: “To be able to practice medicine in Saint Lucia, you would have to be registered by the Medical and Dental Council. They are the authority to ensure that specialists coming in are thoroughly processed, and this may take some time. When we realised that we needed the Cuban Doctors to provide support for our respiratory hospital, quarantine sites and clinics, we realised that we needed to get them registered in a very short period of time. The Health Practitioners Act which governs the role of Medical and Dental Council, under Section 39, gives you leeway where you can as the CMO, through the Governor General make the necessary recommendations. If we were to go through the normal process of registering the Cuban medical team, it would have taken months and we did not have months to wait.”

Even as Saint Lucia continues to reopen, citizens are encouraged to continue to adhere to protocols and to remain vigilant.

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