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Chastanet, Pierre Debate COVID-19 in Parliament

By Reginald Andrew

Criticisms continue to be levelled at government and health authorities from opposition political forces and other groups within civil society concerning their competence to manage the complexity of the COVID-19 crisis.

At a House of Assembly sitting, last week, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet stressed that the biggest setback in the fight against the coronavirus is a result of deviant social behaviour.

Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

He noted that the contact tracing meter also indicates that most of the contact cases resulted from “breaches in the social sector.”

While the COVID-19 virus has reportedly been spread over several communities – official reports from the health authorities indicate that the more populated areas such as Castries, Gros Islet, Babonneau, and Vieux Fort has a larger number  of confirmed cases.

In contextualizing the issue, can it be ascertained that the spread at this time, is a result of deviant social or domestic consequences in contrast to commercial activity?

“The spread coming off the Christmas season was indeed social/domestic. And that filters into the work place and can create spread there,” stated a ministry official, attached to the COVID-19 Recovery Unit Command Centre.

“Also, shoppers who are infected and not know can indeed spread if the protocols are not being adhered,” the official added.

Another issue of concern, is whether persons recovering from the virus are still susceptible to transmitting the virus to other people. It has been observed that at the time with the 200+ number of cases there was a lot of tracing new cases to those already infected with the virus?

The official admitted, “Yes, people recovering from the virus can still transmit, which is why they need to do the second test that the Ministry administers before clearance is given.”

An now, there is new twist to the ‘COVID-19 saga’ as an official of the Castries Constituency Council (CCC) has    said that the CCC is  going to take steps to stop gathering at funerals , and also  at the cemetery.Will the health authorities be in position to provide guidance and assistance to the CCC, in dealing with that matter?

“Yes, the Protocol Wardens are enlisted in assisting to ensure adherence, however, guidance is being given to the CCC by the Ministry of Health,” said the official.

Meanwhile, PM Chastanet has stated that while over the last few weeks the country has pulled back from social activities, however, “there is still mounting evidence of social events taking place, especially in the evenings at private locations.”

Chastanet declared: “This is amongst the biggest threat in our fight against COVID-19, and hence the need for the curfew, which now will allow the police to better manage and contain these illegal activities by restricting movement at those times.”

He said the health system has begun to feel the full impact of the rising numbers and “although we have not been overwhelmed, if we continue without stringent measures, the effect could be dire.”

He added, “The State of Emergency will assist our frontlines and contact tracing team immensely in their task of managing the spread and tracing persons, movement and whereabouts.”

Being cognizant of the huge task that law enforcement officers have to undertake in the face of the pandemic, the prime minister, urged citizens to be more compliant and adhere to the protocols.

“There is no denying that law enforcement has been stretched at this time,” he continued. “Our police have not been spared from the health impact of the coronavirus and in some cases we’ve had to close down police stations and keep cleaning work areas, even while some officers were awaiting test results.”

In addition, he said, the police have to deal with the breaches of COVID-19 protocols and as well “to manage their daily crime fighting activities.”

Chastanet lamented that this issue has taken its toll on the country, and therefore “as a parliament our responsibility is to assist law enforcement in coping with this pandemic.”

Image of Philip J Pierre
Opposition leader Philip J Pierre

However, Leader of the Opposition, Phillip Pierre, in a rebuttal to the government’s proposal said that despite all of the pronouncements “we are in a position of lack of trust, where the people are asking: Why a State of Emergency for 90 days?”

Pierre opined that it was because “they do not trust the government, they do not believe that the government will stick to its word and the State of Emergency will be only for COVID.”

He said that deaths through COVID is being referred to as “social murder”, with St Lucia at the latest count having recorded 23 deaths.

He said that while the government is spending more than $20 million to repair two miles of road in the Rodney Bay, Gros Islet small businesses are in trouble.

“What is the benefit of spending $20 million on the road now, in times of COVID, when the people of this country are telling you that their small businesses are in trouble,” Pierre said.

Pierre recalled that while the opposition supported the government with instituting the SOE to fight the coronavirus, the government abused its authority and “did not show any equity, good faith …as the people of the country are suffering.”

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