Saturday 11 July, 2020

St Lucia will not be testing incoming tourists at ports

St Lucia is on track to open its international borders on June 4, 2020, having achieved a 100% recovery rate for COVID-19 patients.

As such, St Lucia currently enjoys one of the best outcomes in the COVID-19 battle worldwide, having also recorded no deaths on island to date.

With the opening of borders to address the economically devastating side of the COVID crisis comes concern that this could cause St Lucia to have an outbreak of the virus due to imported cases.

Loop News reporter Sharefil Gaillard submitted a question during Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Chief Medical Officer Dr Sharon Belmar-George's update to the nation earlier today, Saturday, May 16, 2020, on this matter.

International travellers would need evidence of a negative COVID-19 test prior to travelling to St Lucia. According to US health officials, false-negative COVID results can and do occur. Will St Lucian authorities be administering an additional test at the ports?

Dr Belmar-George responded saying: "At this point in our collaborations with the Ministry of Tourism, it is not practical to do testing at the ports. In St Lucia, we’ve been doing the real-time PCR testing which is the gold standard for COVID-19 with a 99.9% accuracy rate… We are really hoping that by June there is a rapid test which is accurate enough that we can have it available at more sites.”

Prime Minister Chastanet answered saying: "The practically of 150 or 90 persons arriving on a plane, you’re going to say you need to wait here. We’re going to all do the COVID test on you, that takes 48 hours to get a result. If one person on that plane tests positive then whoever was sitting next to that person, it creates a problem. So that’s why the testing has to be done prior to the persons coming in."

"If a person is being tested within hours of coming to St Lucia, the likelihood of them being positive is reduced significantly… If in fact, in the first week as an example, 10 cases appear, then we would stop the program."

The prime minister noted that he does not expect a rush of tourists to come in initially because the situation remains more serious in major tourist source markets such as the United Kingdom and the United States. However, he feels it’s important to let the world know that St Lucia is ready.

“I personally believe that within the next couple of weeks that the US government will recognise that rapid testing, once there is one we believe in, will be made available at the airports and more than likely will become a prerequisite for persons even travelling domestically.”

The prime minister termed the efforts in the initial pilot tourism program to be ‘isolation vacations’ whereby visitors would not access tours and be confined to leisure and entertainment options at hotels.

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