Press statement from the Ministry of Health and Wellness on Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sharon Belmar-George’s report on Saint Lucia’s response to COVID-19 (April 12, 2020)
On behalf of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Easter Sunday. As we acknowledge the Easter season for reflection, I acknowledge the many Saint Lucians who sacrificed during the last few weeks to preserve the lives of our elderly and most at risk by staying at home and heeding to the advice by health authorities. We acknowledge the notable improvements in the behavior of our citizens in relation to the prevention of COVID-19.
I also recognize and acknowledge my hard-working and dedicated team at the Ministry of Health, the front-liners, our nurses, doctors, support health facility staff, fire officers, police officers, and port control officers. They risk their lives daily to protect us.
As of April 11, 2020, the World Health Organization reported a total of 1,610,909 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 99,690 deaths. There are now 536,664 confirmed cases in the region of the Americas. The affected region includes Dominican Republic (2,349), Haiti (30), Barbados (66), Jamaica (63), Cuba (564), Dominica (16), Grenada (12), Trinidad and Tobago (109), Guyana (37), Saint Lucia (15), Antigua and Barbuda (19), Bahamas (41), Saint Vincent and Grenadines (12), Guadeloupe (143), Martinique (154), Puerto Rico (725), Saint Barthelemy (6), Aruba (86), Saint Martin (50), US Virgin Islands (50), Cayman Islands (45).
As of April 12, 2020, Saint Lucia has recorded a total of 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The first two cases were repatriated to the United Kingdom between March 24 and 25, 2020 and four of the remaining cases have since recovered and been discharged from hospital care.
Last week, the public health team at the Ministry of Health also took the opportunity to step back, review what has been put in place, assess our position in that famous curve, analyze the data so far and prepare a strategic pathway on the way forward with our national response to COVID-19.
In summary, we note that 77% of our cases are female, the majority of cases fall into the category of 45-49 years. 64% of cases report a travel history. To date, all of the confirmed cases are recovering well, with no complications. We continue to report zero deaths of COVID-19 in Saint Lucia. The contact tracing process has had significant gains in identifying people at greater risk of exposure and bringing individuals with symptoms into care in a timely manner. This success is in great measure the result of the willingness of citizens to collaborate with our teams and we at the Ministry of Health are grateful for this support.
In January 2020, during Stage 1 of COVID-19 planning, the main objective was source control. During this phase, the public health strategies included the preparation and completion of COVID-19 a national plan, establishment of the COVID-19 Coordinating Committee, regular consultation with regional public health agencies, activation of the National Health Security Committee chaired by the cabinet secretary, extensive health education, strengthening and monitoring of the ports, instituting of travel restrictions to reduce importation from high-risk areas, health care facility preparation, procurement of personal protective equipment, extensive training of healthcare workers including fire service and police and non-health stakeholder consultations.
As we moved into Stage 2, with the confirmation of imported cases and the start of community spread, the main objective was containment, to slow down the increase in cases, to flatten the curve. The public health strategies include aggressive public education, exhaustive case-finding, and contact-tracing, the establishment of local testing, the three hotel quarantine sites, the establishment of the respiratory clinics at strategic points to ensure access to care, the set-up of the Respiratory Hospital, increased medical human resource capacity with the arrival of the Cuban doctors and nurses, the use of the 311 hotline for the dissemination of general COVID-19 information, the establishment of clinical mobile phone services to support medical and psychological care. Measures which included the cancellation of mass crowd gatherings, the closure of schools, the closure of the ports and cruise industry, establishment of a national curfew and a 24-hour shutdown period.
Although Saint Lucia has not reached Stage 3, which is defined by the establishment of community spread, many of the measures related to Stage 3 are being implemented as part of a proactive approach. This includes the activation of NEMAC by the Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet, the establishment of the unified command centre from the Office of Prime Minister, the establishment of the curfew and 24-hour shutdown.
This present stage is critical as we need to keep focused on sustaining the gains made nationally in “keeping the curve flat” It is imperative that we work together to keep our population safe. Every single one of us must take personal responsibility to facilitate the process.
Our requests to you are simple but effective:
1. Stay at home. Only leave home for food or medical reasons.
2. Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer only when hand washing is not possible.
3. Cover your cough and sneeze.
4. Wear a home-made mask when going out.
5. Adhere to the rules of physical distancing which is a minimum of six feet from any other person.
6. Protect the elderly and population at risk in your community.
7. Access 311 Hotline, clinical telephone lines, respiratory centres, Respiratory Hospital for care if you develop fever, cough, sneezing, or sore throat.
8. Ensure that your information is from a legitimate source which includes the departments of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the World Health Organization and the Caribbean Public Health Agency.
Together, we can combat COVID-19.