Strengthening of the COVID-19 protocols for the New Year's weekend
Thursday, December 30, 2021
by Ministry of Health

I trust that you had a safe and enjoyable Christmas and that this statement reaches you in the best of health and spirits.

The thrust of my statement today is to seek even stronger cooperation from you in the coming days, weeks, and months as together we seek to contain the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. It pains my government to have to make this request of you, yet again after all that you have done to help our country to overcome the 4 th Wave of the pandemic.

The reason I must again ask for more cooperation from you is because our country, like others all around the world, are facing a severe threat from the Omicron Variant of COVID-19, that we have not witnessed before.

We have good reason to believe that the surge in infections that we have had over the past 7 days and the symptoms being reported are linked to the presence of Omicron in country. While we have not yet confirmed this through gene sequencing, from the transmission rate and disease profile that we are seeing, we believe it is best to assume the variant is here. To assume otherwise is to ignore the significant impact that the Variant can have on health and safety and work.

If we are to go by what’s happening in the United States of America USA and the United Kingdom UK, the higher the number of infections, the higher the likelihood that more people will be hospitalized. Over the last 7 days, we note an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 patients at the Respiratory Hospital. Consider this: Today for the first time, the number of daily, new COVID-19 cases worldwide crossed one million, with over 300,000 of these cases in the USA alone. Emergency departments in hospitals across the USA say they are overwhelmed. Over the past 7 days, more than 7 million Omicron cases were recorded.

Over the past week, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, the National COVID-19 Management Centre NCMC and the Cabinet of Ministers have been locked in almost daily consultations to devise protocols that are proportionate to the threat posed by Omicron, first for this New Year weekend and for at least the first quarter of next year.

I can tell you that the measures being considered for first quarter of the year were far easier to agree than those for the upcoming weekend. Early next week, I will be sharing with you Cabinet’s decision regarding protocols for the longer term. But for the moment, I wish to focus on our thinking and decision for this weekend.

Many of us would have seen pictures and video clips disregarding the protocols over the Christmas weekend in various parts of the country. All things considered, we believe the majority of Saint Lucians did the right thing and celebrated Christmas with family in the safety of their homes or in dine-in restaurants.

The collective desire of the Ministry of Health, the NCMC and the Cabinet has been to develop protocols that would facilitate safe New Year’s Eve celebrations, while discouraging high risk and illegal behaviour. The feeling is that it ought not to be that case where those who observe the protocols are penalized because of the behaviour of those who don’t.

Cabinet has therefore decided to keep the current protocols in place until January 7, 2022. This includes a 1:00am confinement time on the morning of January 1, 2022.

However, Cabinet has decided on the following containment measures:

1. A person shall not host or attend a mass crowd event nor a competitive or high contact sporting activity, including indoor and outdoor training and local competitions.

2. A person can host or attend a social event or recreational activity that does not exceed 35 persons of his or her immediate family at his or her residence.

3. In accordance with the Criminal Code no loud music will be permitted at a social event or recreational activity and anyone who breaks this law shall be prosecuted under the Criminal Code.

4. A faith-based organization may hold a special religious ceremony including baptisms, weddings, and funerals only if there are no more than 100 people in attendance and providing also that physical distancing guidelines are strictly observed.

5. Beach picnics, river parties will not be allowed.

The Commissioner of Police has assured the Cabinet that his Police Officers will be out in sufficient numbers to ensure strict compliance with the measures that I have just outlined.

Fellow Saint Lucians, throughout our struggle with the COVID-19 Pandemic, one thing that has been clear is that there are no easy or quick decisions. At every point my government has made a point of consulting with key stakeholders and has tried to make balanced and informed decisions that prioritize the protection of the public’s health. We have had to weigh the desires of those who wish to spend precious time with family members who have traveled from afar; we have weighed the concerns of restaurant owners and their workers who wish an opportunity to recover a little bit of the heavy losses they have suffered over the past 2 years; and we have heard the voices of those who are calling for tighter controls this weekend so that we may all enjoy better tomorrows.

Cabinet has decided; but it boils down to the future we wish for our country. We are often reminded that tomorrow belongs to the children. Let’s conduct ourselves in the proper manner this weekend and beyond so that our children can return to a safe school environment on January 10, 2022. I wish you a safe and happy New Year’s Day and a healthy and fulfilling 2022.