Castries, Saint Lucia, September 19, 2021:– Saint Lucia continues to reap the grim harvest of the Delta Variant since it landed in July, earlier this week passing the 10,000-mark in registered cases and some 150 deaths.
The island has long led the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) in the numbers of cases and deaths, but it’s certainly not alone in the Eastern Caribbean, where vaccination rates differ between 58.7% in Bermuda and 0.1% in Haiti.
During a special CARICOM leaders’ summit on September 13, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) highlighted the latest surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
It reported there’d been more than 100,000 new cases and 1,400 deaths between July 1 and September 12. But by then, the region had also already registered over 300,000 confirmed cases and 6,700 deaths since the pandemic was declared.
Citing the high levels of vaccine disparity, CARPHA Executive Director Dr Joy St. John said no country was close to Herd Immunity (70%) and called for increased vaccinations regionally.
The CARICOM leaders also agreed to harmonize regional travel protocols — including for cruise ships — as well as to share vaccines, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and COVID test kits.
They approached international friends for further assistance, including the USA and the UK.
Meanwhile, apart from Saint Lucia’s growing anxieties, there’s also increasing panic in the region about Grenada, after Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Shawn Charles intimated last week that scientific projections were that, at current rates, half the population could be affected in two weeks.
Another under-reported Caribbean problem is that Saint Lucia and Dominica are also open to illegal Delta variant landings from neighboring Guadeloupe and Martinique, respectively, where vaccine hesitance and refusal levels are extremely high and infections and death rates are beyond crisis stage.
Saint Lucians and Dominicans have a heavy presence in the two French islands. But with both virtually shut-down by anti-vaccination protests while deaths continue to rise among the unvaccinated, many of the neighboring guests are scurrying back home, many suspectedly opting for illegal cross-channel speedboat trips to evade immigration and avoid quarantine.
France continues to airlift severe cases to Paris while dispatching volunteer doctors, who meet hostile welcomes from islanders in its two ‘Overseas Territories’ – a pair of European colonies located smack in the middle of the OECS and CARICOM.
Saint Lucia’s Coast Guard had been unable to properly secure the island’s coastline due to US sanctions.
But the US State Department recently softened the sanctions to allow for assistance to the Saint Lucia coast guard to enable it to better monitor the short marine space between the island and Martinique.
Meanwhile, Saint Lucia’s Health Ministry last week received an ISO tank of liquid oxygen from Martinique to assist with the surging demand for oxygen at the island’s Respiratory Hospital.
The transfer was made possible through the cooperation of the Saint Lucia Government, the Martinique authorities and Saint Lucia-based Windward Islands Gases. (end)