Today, March 15, 2021, marks the first anniversary of COVID-19 being confirmed on our shores.
The virus has upended life on the island as it has done across the world. Here’s a look back at the arrival of the virus, its effects and the government’s response.
The initial report was jolting and left people anxious across the island: Patient number one was a 63-year-old woman who travelled from the United Kingdom at a time when COVID-19 cases were soaring in Europe.
Then days later, the second case was confirmed, a 53-year-old man who had an active travel history, with France being his last port of departure.
How the gov’t reacted
This prompted the government to implement measures to safeguard against the spread of the virus on the island.
These included social distancing measures, in addition to the suspension of nonessential commercial activity from 23 March through 5 April 2020. The government also imposed an 11pm to 5 am curfew, on 29 March.
It subsequently extended the shutdown to 14 April and adjusted the curfew to 8pm to 5 am.
March 23 also the imposition of a State of Emergency and the closure of the airports to incoming flights until April 5.
Local transmission cases
By 24 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had already reported 372,757 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 16,231 deaths. There are now 9,444 confirmed cases in the region of the Americas.
By that time, Lucia Saint Lucia had three confirmed cases of COVID-19.
On 27 March, the Ministry of Health began local testing for COVID-19 and on 29 March reported the first instance of local transmission among six new confirmed cases.
As St Lucia approaches the first anniversary in dealing with the pandemic, Chief Medical Officer Dr Sharon Belmar-George has described the journey as “transformative”.
“Managing COVID, we saw a lot of the negative impacts in relation to the person getting it, persons getting sick or dying, we saw the economic impact the sort of mental health impact, we saw the effects on the society on families on travel on trade,” Dr Belmar-George told Loop News.
Despite the negativity brought on by the pandemic, there were also gains, the COVID-19 Czar noted, such as the strengthening of the island’s health system.
“In terms of the building up of capacity from port health surveillance to training and human resource within the health sector to building laboratory capacities for testing even a wider variety of pathogens, to strengthening our public system in terms of infection prevention and control.
“I think in terms of building resilience for managing other public health events that may happen later on. It was also an opportunity for great collaborations and strengthening for systems, both within the ministry and in other agencies.
So as much as there’s a huge negative impact to it, there were also gains in terms of strengthening of the public health system for management of other cases,” she said.
February saw the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate the population.
Since the rollout of the vaccine on 17 February, 7,869 people have been vaccinated.