Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has declared that this country is ‘coming back’ amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we continue to manage this pandemic, the costs will continue to rise. I know a lot of you are still suffering but our country is coming back,” he stated.
But the Prime Minister asserted that “we must stay the course.”
“Our tourism industry is back on the rebound,” he disclosed Tuesday in an address to the nation.
According to Chastanet, leading into January 2021, over 5000 hospitality workers, over 1000 taxi drivers, tour company operators, had returned to work.
He expressed the view that this was due the fact that Saint Lucia led the way in the strict protocols for arrivals and its global advocacy for pre-testing.
“I share your concerns as visitors come in from high-risk countries,” the former Tourism Minister said.
” However, I want to reassure you that we continue to monitor, change and adjust our protocols to keep you safe,” Chastanet stated.
He recalled that his administration took a phased approach to reopening the tourism sector, recognizing the need for airlift to facilitate the return of nationals and for citizens, who had to travel abroad for special medical treatment not available here.
Chastanet noted that Saint Lucia also had to keep its borders open to allow much needed medical supplies to come in and to facilitate technical and medical support.
He cited the the Cuban medical brigade as an example.
“In terms of the visitors, we put in the strictest protocols,” the PM said.
“Our policy is that when they come, they stay in their hotels and are not allowed to roam around and mingle because the safety of our people will always remain paramount,” he explained.
” After much consultation and adjustments of the protocols we only allowed visitors out of the bubble on organized COVID-certified approved tours. They were not allowed to venture out nor rent vehicles and drive around. In keeping with ensuring your safety, we pulled back on these protocols and suspended all tours for the last 10 days.”
He said one of the strategies employed throughout the past year in dealing with the effects of COVID is that of regular consultation with stakeholders.
The PM noted that the decision to keep borders open was made in consultation with the SLHTA, Airlines, other tourism sector agencies and the Ministry of Health and with good reason.
“The people who work in the hotels want to work to take care of themselves and their families,” he asserted.
” All the other people involved in the tourism sector, from restaurants to suppliers of goods and services, have been consulted and they approved our protocols in keeping the sector open. If it gets to the point when we see that the risk to Saint Lucians is too great and will put their health and safety at risk we will have no hesitation in shutting down again,” he said.
Headline photo caption: Prime Minister Allen Chastanet (Stock image)