So what now? Just four days after the first AA flight from Miami bore around 150 intrepid travellers to the super-sanitised set-up at Hewanorra International Airport, multiple reports describe tourists wandering around Gros Islet looking for jet skis and bar opening hours.
I’m not sure what we were promised, but the stunned ripples across the community indicate that’s a widespread condition. The returning Saint Lucians went straight into the state-enforced fourteen day quarantine, featuring a room service diet of lentils and ground provisions delivered three times a day. The visitors to an all-inclusive somehow wandered off unnoticed, claiming they didn’t know they weren’t allowed.
Sounds like Floridian logic to me, but I’m just jumping to conclusions. Perhaps these fleet-footed travellers aren’t from the same state that produced a record-shattering number of Covid-19 cases just yesterday – a Sunday, for the love of god. Perhaps the fact that the Miami-Dade area is is the worst scenario in the state is just more fake news, as the Unmasked Self-Avenger would have us believe. Perhaps not a single passenger will test positive in the next ten days.
Or perhaps the worst case scenario will occur. A non-symptomatic carrier will saunter off to a local bar, mask and much-needed US dollars in pocket, where the local lime has already evolved to a new-normal and there’s a predictable complacency due to our hard-earned Covid-death-free status. It’s the return of the tourist dollar, so the laid-back desperation of micro-businesses in the fourth month of little or no income is undeniable and understandable, but the results for our public health sector may be shattering.
When the government expeditiously shut down Saint Lucia’s borders, I was happy to scrape through the almost-closed gate into quarantine for two weeks. I concur with many who say ‘we’ve handled the pandemic very well’, but my observation is that they are referring to the shutdown, and not the reopening.
For that, we have no data as yet, other than hearsay that the virus could be replicating exponentially as we speak, emanating from badly-managed enclaves hosting visitors who neither know nor care what effect their walkabout may have on this rock of ours.
And if they get sick while they are here? You’d better believe that the world’s greatest litigation nation will be all over us like a Covid-related rash for money we don’t have now, and are unlikely to see in the next few years.
For our dedicated hospitality front-liners, that Sword of Damocles swings heavy. They take a massive chance by re-entering their resort to look after the first guests to take a chance on Saint Lucia as a safe place to travel, even if their very presence threatens to erode that reality. Families must be fed, school starts in six weeks and without tourism, the near future is bleak.
Sandals was always going to be the corporate canary in this Covid-19 crisis, so it’s particularly easy to throw mud at what’s being described as “fixed” in the local media by a slightly embarassed-sounding Ministry of Tourism. I say let that one ride, and let all citizens be on the lookout for clueless wanderers straying into our midst, so that we may assist them back to their quarantine zone, I mean resort.
If the travel gods are smiling on us, my mission as a Cassandra will be in vain. Thankfully, I love to be proven wrong. But joined-up thinking shunts me forward to a point in time when, just perhaps, Covid-19 will be back in the community, and our achievement since March 23rd will be wiped off the scoreboard.
So let me ask you one question, my friends.
Are you ready for Lucian Lockdown 2020 – The Sequel?