PM Chastanet talks handling COVID on BBC
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet
While the world continues to feel the impact of COVID-19, the Caribbean has felt a major blow, losing millions of dollars in the process because of a lack of visitors.
Saint Lucia, which depends heavily on tourism, has seen a massive decline in its tax revenue as well as an increase in unemployment since the closure of the tourism sector in April and May.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet joined Matthew Amroliwala — the main presenter for BBC World News’ flagship news and discussion programme 'Global' — to speak on how Saint Lucia has managed the pandemic to date and what holidaymakers can expect in the phased reopening.
“It has been devastating economically. Our tax revenue is down anywhere between 50 and 60 per cent. Unemployment — which we had being reduced from 25 to 16 per cent — now it's right back up again. We have now seen a slight recovery in those numbers that we recorded,” Chastanet told the host.
Since the June 4 reopening of the borders, Saint Lucia has welcomed some 6,000 visitors while successfully keeping COVID-19 at bay. The prime minister commended the implementation of the pre-testing protocols for the island’s success containing the virus.
He said: “We took a decision very early that we had to learn to co-exist with COVID so the idea of staying in a permanent state of lockdown was not an option that was available to us. We developed some pretty interesting protocols that work and that’s the benefit of being a small island, we’ve seen immediate success.
“Some of our neighbouring islands decided to test on arrival but Saint Lucia chose to stick to our initial instinct which was to test before people came and since then none of the tourists which have arrived have exposed any of our locals to COVID.”
With the majority of the tourist arrivals on island being from the United States — which has an exceedingly high number of COVID infections — the PM says welcoming them into Saint Lucia has posed no threat to the country as per the pre-testing protocols.
The PM said: “And so, with the protocol of pre-testing before they get on the plane, I mean it only makes sense causing persons to get pre-testing before getting on the plane I think brings confidence back to the tourist themselves as well as protecting the state.
“I also heard the idea of people being pre-tested before they go back in order to not have to do the quarantine. I want to say that Saint Lucia supports that policy strongly.”
Meanwhile, from an export perspective, the prime minister said COVID-19 has not affected the island’s banana industry.
To date, Saint Lucia has recorded 26 cases of COVID-19 with a 100 per cent recovery rate and no deaths.