IN the midst of an uptick in COVID-19 cases on island, Prime Minister Phillip Pierre has called for a holistic approach to manage and curb the spread of the virus.
Pierre said government will advocate strongly for a thorough vaccination drive, education, and an intensive public health campaign to stem the influx. To better address the situation, a press conference was convened on Thursday, involving the Prime Minster and Health and Wellness Minister to discuss the matter.
Cognizant of the need for a rigorous effort to combat the virus, the Prime Minister noted that people from all levels in society must be involved in the process.
“We believe that people must take responsibility for their actions. We think that by education and discussion and that if we follow the science, we will bring this scourge under control,” noted Pierre.
Citing the need for a scientific approach to the process, he said, this would involve an increased vaccination awareness drive.
“The science has shown that vaccination, plus the public health matters are the only way for now that will stem the scourge of COVID,” Pierre declared.
He stressed that the first approach will be “to get people vaccinated”, while adding that further discussions on vaccination will be held to address this delicate health issue.
“We cannot force people to be vaccinated, but we can tell them that vaccination may save their lives,” Pierre added. “So, it’s going to be constant education, and constant discussion to try to get people to understand that they have to vaccinate for their own good and the good of their families.”
The Prime Minister said that getting more people vaccinated and increased testing measures would play a critical role in helping combat the COVID-19 scourge.
To allow easier access to vaccination, Pierre said, people will be given a choice as to their preferred choice of vaccination.
He said over the past two weeks more people are coming forward to be tested and should persons test positive for COVID, there would be no need to panic as this is not a ‘death sentence’.
“We are making the decision to make isolation more comfortable …and since they have it, we are going to make it more comfortable for them; even if they are at their homes or at the hospital,” said Pierre.
While urging people to take more responsibility for their lives, the prime minister reiterated that persons in isolation will be monitored.
“The science has shown that COVID is dangerous, COVID can kill you …so people must take responsibility for their own actions,” he stressed.
Pierre added: “We will be increasing monitoring, we will increase contact tracing, but the theme of this government is education, education, education. Education on vaccination, education on the public health issues that we have to follow.”
Taking a more critical look at the current health situation on island, the prime minister asserted: “We urge people to wear their masks…and again they have to understand that it is for their own good. Nobody wants to get COVID, so wear your masks, vaccinate, sanitize and get tested.”
Stating that government will be allocating more resources to combat the virus, Pierre said, “we believe and we have confidence in the people of St Lucia that they will understand that the government cares about them, the government cares about people and we need to get our economy going. We do not need to have another outbreak or worse outbreak to put the country into many more problems.”
Health and Wellness minister, Moses Jn. Baptiste, also informed reporters at Thursday’s press conference that members of the Command Centre were undertaking serious discussions in an effort to deal with recent developments.
He disclosed that over the last 14 days, from August, 8 to 18, a total of 497 cases of the COVID-19 virus were reported.
He noted that the prime minster has deemed this crisis as “the most important health concern …and it has been the #1 priority of the prime minister and the people of St Lucia.”
According to health officials, a total of 6, 857 cases has been diagnosed in St Lucia, from March, 20 to August, 19; and 97 COVID deaths have occurred.
To date, as of August, 19 a total of 1.128 active cases have been reported in the country.
Jn. Baptiste asserted that it was his responsibility as the Minister of Health, “to ensure that actions of this new government are brought to bear on all aspects of the general healthcare crisis in St Lucia, and over the last two weeks the following actions have been taken or initiated to both stem the surge in the COVID-19 cases and to strengthen the capacity of our healthcare workers to provide care to those who have been affected.”
Consequently, he noted, the following measures have been implemented to address the situation. These will include an announcement from the Command Center, ongoing consultations with government ministries, mini-bus drivers and also with hotels.
Jn. Baptiste adds that, “MEMAC has met and there is a national consultation on vaccination policy …and this national consultation will be addressed by several experts, and the main concern here is vaccine hesitancy and we will get explanations, and contributions from many experts about this phenomenon.”