We need answers: St Lucian Opposition calls for details on Gov’t strategy for coronavirus

The main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) is calling on the government to inform the public of the measures being taken to protect the island from what can be an ‘impending disaster.’

The SLP said that it is waiting on whether the World Health Organization (WHO) will declare the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has so far killed more than 100 people in China, a public health emergency of international concern.

“It is worrisome that we are yet to hear from our Public Health Authorities on the plans afoot to protect our island,” the SLP said in a statement, adding, “we think it is appropriate to call on the Minister of Health or the Prime Minister to brief the St. Lucian public on government’s plans to deal with this potential crisis.

“Importantly, what steps are being taken to reassure the Saint Lucian public that we are taking all the necessary precautions and are prepared to deal with any eventuality of the coronavirus reaching our shores especially in the context of our frail and failing healthcare system.”

The opposition party said that this is very relevant given the fact that St. Lucia is a tourism-dependent economy with open borders which create the potential for real exposure to the island.

But, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Sharon Belmar-George in a statement last week said the authorities were updating the influenza preparedness plans in light of the outbreak in China.

“We are also seeking the promotion of general hygiene measures and infection control for border agencies, health care personnel and the general public.”

“Although the risk level for the Caribbean sub-region is currently classified as low and the disease is at an early stage of the outbreak, the Department of Health and Wellness is proceeding with the necessary vigilance and preparation to reduce the possible impact on our population,” Belmar-George said.

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Passengers from China are being screened at major airports across the US and Europe.

She said that the preparedness includes the education and sensitization of health workers, non-health stakeholders and the general public and the enhancement of the port health services.

“We are also seeking the promotion of general hygiene measures and infection control for border agencies, health care personnel and the general public,” she said, noting that in the interim, the public is asked to continue practising the standard health recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.