WE welcome the focus of the new government, under the leadership of the Hon Philip J Pierre, in its attempt to arrest the rapid rise in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Saint Lucia.
We accept and fully endorse that swift action is needed if Saint Lucia has to make any headway with the virus, especially in the context of what we will mildly describe as our callously irresponsible behaviour last month, in the days leading up to election day. We all now must pay for the frolicking en masse, without due care of the virus, at the multiple motorcades of the two political parties – face masks and social distancing be damned.
With active COVID-19 cases increasing exponentially in Saint Lucia on a daily basis, (now it’s in the hundreds) and with health personnel lamenting the stupid unwillingness of too many Saint Lucians to heed the call to vaccinate, the country is staring down the barrel of a gun, from a health perspective.
It was, therefore, with much relief that we received the news that Prime Minister Pierre would on Wednesday address the nation, specifically on the issue of the spike in COVID-19 cases and measures to contain that spike.
It must be noted that even as we write, countries within our region are either in lockdown mode or have implemented some very strict measures, all in an attempt to restrict the increasing spread of coronavirus cases that they too have been experiencing. For instance, Dominica, this weekend is in lockdown, so too is Martinique.
While Prime Minister Pierre did not deliver at the time advertised, after all there are times when the best of plans do go awry, we expected him to come out fighting, throwing punches that would at best hurt the advance of COVID-19 as this would be in the best interest of all Saint Lucians, even those who consistently argue for relaxation of the protocols.
Alas, the Hon Prime Minister seemed more concerned with empathizing, sympathizing and persuading – which, after all, is his character and why he was elected with such a powerful mandate – than with grasping the nettle of governance. After the Prime Minister’s speech we were left in something of a tail spin, trying to grasp the full import of one particular announcement by him.
We refer to the Hon Prime Minister’s statement that COVID protocol breaches will be decriminalized, and that persons previously convicted of breaches will have their records expunged or if not yet tried will have the cases against them dropped. The first part of that sentence is clear: “COVID protocol breaches will be decriminalized.” What is, perhaps ambiguous, is whether the decriminalization applies only to past offences or whether it is to apply in the future.
We urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his stance, if it is his stance, on decriminalizing breaches of the protocol in the future. A law, and the protocols are laws, without sanction for its breach is no law at all. What are the police to do when they see a bar or restaurant plying its trade after the permitted 8.00pm or persons on the streets after 9.00 pm in clear defiance of the protocol. Hon Prime Minister, you were elected to govern. Not all of your actions will be generally popular but if they are seen as in the interest of the general good, you will be popular.
Whichever way, a simple clarification/explanation by the prime minister, if not by himself then via his office, would suffice in making crystal clear what exactly he meant by the words “COVID protocol breaches will be decriminalized.”
We are sure that this being Prime Minister Pierre’s first public policy statement on COVID-19, he would not want any ambiguity associated with it.
As the Prime Minister himself said on Wednesday night, “this virus is too serious a threat to our lives and livelihoods to be left to the whims and fancies of uninformed personal opinions.”