The new Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration has indicated that it will not implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
“There will be no mandatory vaccinations, the Prime Minister has indicated that our government will not , I repeat, our government will not propose mandatory vaccination,” the Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs, Moses Jn Baptiste, told a press briefing on Tuesday.
He disclosed that it was one of the decisions coming out of Monday’s inaugural meeting of the country’s new cabinet of ministers at which the COVID-19 pandemic and health care in general featured prominently.
“Addressing the current health care crisis is the number one priority of this government,” Jn Baptiste explained.
He said cabinet received a presentation from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sharon Belmar-George and other members of the Command Centre.
In outlining other decisions made, the Health Minister said that Prime Minister, Philip J. Pierre, will address the nation following a meeting of the National Emergency Management Advisory Committee (NEMAC) on Wednesday.
In addition, Jn Baptiste said there will be measures to help slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus and help contain and stop the current spike.
Over a three day span, Saint Lucia announced a total of 200 new infections.
The Vieux Fort North MP indicated that a ‘robust’ education programme is being planned to encourage testing and to urge Saint Lucians to get vaccinated, while resources will be provided to increase access to testing.
“Strategies to incentivise people to get vaccinated will be employed, the Minister added.
He also said that further announcements will be made by Prime Minister, Philip J. Pierre.
Regarding the long-running issue of St Jude Hospital, Jn Baptiste told reporters that cabinet had extensive discussion on the subject of the reconstruction of the medical facility.
“Our priority is to transfer the people, the patients and staff who are at the St Jude Hospital, out of the stadium within the shortest possible time. The cabinet has decided to engage a small team of professionals to provide expert opinions on the best option moving forward,” he revealed.
He stated that advice from the group of experts should come before cabinet within four weeks, after which the cabinet will proceed to implement the advice.
The Minister said that in the meantime, the new SLP administration is seeking to ease the suffering of the people who are at St Jude Hospital – patients, staff, visitors and people who go to the medical institution for attention.
“The cabinet has also decided that the St Jude Hospital reconstruction site will be visited by the cabinet of ministers and other invited guests. A day for this visit will be provided to the people of Saint Lucia and to the press,” Jn Baptiste said.
He disclosed that in his capacity as minister, he has already visited St Jude Hospital and had cordial discussion with the doctor in charge of the management of the institution, as the CEO is on sick leave.
“We discussed what is generally termed the low hanging fruits and a list of very important items and very important issues was sent to me,” Jn Baptiste explained.
He said the government will look into those issues with a view to assisting the hospital with basic items to make life easier for the doctors, patients and Saint Lucians who visit the institution.