Major lockdown would be economic catastrophe for St Lucia – Augier
Independent Senator Adrian Augier expressed extreme concern about the economic fallout that St Lucia may experience due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Augier spoke with reporters this morning, Thursday, March 12, 2020, ahead of today’s sitting of the senate.
"We have already gotten cases in Martinique and St Vincent so we are kind of bracketed north and south but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do everything within our power to keep us virus-free for as long as possible because I think if we have major lockdown it’s going to be catastrophic for us, yes we’ll get over it don’t get me wrong, but it’s going to change daily life in a way we’re simply not prepared for."
He addressed the possibility of shutting down mass crowd events like Jazz and Carnival as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus, which is not yet in St Lucia but is expected to eventually arrive.
"I’m a Carnival enthusiast, participant, competitor and also I’m an event producer, so to say the least, I’m extremely concerned. This unprecedented pandemic is changing life as we know it. Major cities, entire countries are on lockdown and these are countries who have even more resources at their disposal than we do.
What I would like to see is early definite decisions so that people can plan and those decisions should come after wide consultation because I don’t think anybody has a complete picture of how the effects of economic slowdown, cancellations, postponements are going to affect… the cancellation of say Carnival will leave people highly exposed to liability to risk to debt. As an event company, we have to consider what happens if all of the events that were lined up for Carnival are suddenly not going to happen."
"There are people who have already sourced materials, invested, entered into contracts, booked artists. What happens to all of that?"
On the subject of cancelling the Gros Islet street party, a mass crowd event attended by people from Martinique, which has three confirmed cases of COVID-19, who in some cases do not go through security checks and arrive in St Lucia via dinghies, Augier said:
"I don’t know that there’s a hundred percent foolproof net that you can cast around any country where you would have absolutely zero risk of contamination, so we have to again have a discussion and not lockdown as a kneejerk reaction but rather control the problem.
In the example that you use maybe there is greater policing of yachts and dinghies, would be preferable option to locking down Gros Islet. You have to remember there are people who earn their livelihood from the Gros Islet street party every week. When those people don’t have income and they’re business owners, what happens to their employees and their commitments to Courts, to the bank, to the mortgage to schools.
Again we have to try and imagine what the implications are of any decision before we take it. Yes, it’s easy to say lockdown but there are huge implications of that."
Augier concluded with questions that are forefront in his mind, "What’s the endgame? How does this resolve? Where do we see ourselves six months from now? Will it be all over? Will there be fewer cases? Will there be less trauma? Will it be done if we do the right things now or will we just see the crisis diminishing but we’ll still be in emergency mode?"
Health Minister Mary Isaac definiteively stated this morning that "...anything else is not a priority as much as the safety of our people.”