Vincentians are being urged to keep an eye out for persons who are entering the country illegally from neighbouring islands and flouting the country’s COVID-19 protocols.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said he has asked fisherfolk to be cautious when interacting with Grenadians, St. Lucians, and Barbadians at sea in light of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries.
“Look at St. Lucia and Grenada now. We don’t have community spread, we don’t have anybody hospitalised, we don’t have anyone dying from COVID thus far but there are challenges.”
Grenada is currently experiencing community spread of the COVID-19 virus after a cluster of 26 cases, originating at the Sandals Resort, was discovered. The cases included guests, employees, and their contacts.
In recent weeks, St. Lucia experienced a spike in cases in a number of communities across the island.
Speaking during his weekly appearance on NBC Radio on Wednesday, Gonsalves said giving accommodation to persons who have entered the island illegally is placing the health of the Vincentian population at risk.
“I’m asking everyone to be on the lookout for people who want to come in here illegally from neighbouring countries, it is not a situation of border security, it is also a situation of health,” the prime minister said.
“There was somebody in Fancy who gave support for someone who came in from St. Lucia. You have to be very careful. It is not just simply the immigration offence but it is the question about health and safety. If there is a fella that coming in from St. Lucia, you know if the fella have COVID? You taking a chance with your family, with your children, your wife, your partner? That is why we have to be careful.”
The prime minister’s words are a stark contrast to what said in April when he encouraged residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique to look to Union Island if they require assistance in securing food and cooking gas.
Gonsalves comments did not sit well with the Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, who accused him of encouraging Grenadian citizens to break the law.
Commenting on travel between Mustique and St. Vincent, Gonsalves said strict testing protocols have been implemented for workers and that Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache has been working closely with Mustique Company to ensure visitors and workers stick to the guidelines.
“You know Mustique is a bubble, you have to be very careful that everything is done properly, that people are properly tested when they enter because people are coming in to enjoy their homes, it is Christmas,” Gonsalves said.
“The workers have all got to be tested too and the movements of the workers have to be controlled and monitored. We never lockdown but we have to put appropriate restrictions in place. We all have to be vigilant. Help us to watch the border. It ain’t that yo telling comess, you protecting yourself. Let us all be very responsible.”
A large number of visitors are in Mustique for a wedding celebration there.
“I spoke to the Chief Executive at the Mustique Company, the CMO has spoken to everybody down there and the Coast Guard is doing a good job monitoring the yachts that are coming in. It is so easy for weaknesses to come into the formal system.
“Problematic as those weaknesses may be, it is the informal slippage: people coming in illegally. A person working at Mustique say, ‘I not testing, I get my holiday, I going St. Vincent there has to be proper controls and regulations.”
The prime minister said that he had been invited to the wedding on Mustique this weekend but he has declined the invitation so as to avoid having to quarantine when he returns to St. Vincent.