Tue | Mar 31, 2020

St Lucia to prosecute persons who spread fake news about coronavirus

Published:Monday | March 2, 2020 | 1:57 PM
St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet - Contributed photo

CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC – The St Lucia government says it will prosecute persons who spread false information about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as the island moves to adopt measures to prevent any occurrence of the virus that has killed nearly 3,000 people globally.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, speaking with reporters after a meeting with stakeholders, said that St Lucia is beefing up border controls to deal with the situation.

“My government is exploring every single thing…I don’t want anybody to believe we have a corona case, but the fact is it is in the neighbourhood and the likelihood is that we are susceptible and therefore we must prepare our country.”

Chastanet said that the government has adopted the practice where the Chief Medical Officer and her delegates are to speak on any technical issue relating to the virus.

“There are phone numbers available to people, so anybody who has any information, before you make it public, please confirm it if you have doubts.

“So the mechanism to be able to clarify information is there. Anything you getting overseas and you are not sure, call up the Ministry of Health to get it clarified, and because we are doing that and because we have narrowed our point of dissemination of information, we are going to be using cyber technology in order to be able to track anybody who has put out any information that’s erroneous, and in particularly, to create panic in our country.

“What we don’t need is panic and we will prosecute anyone who is doing that and we are going to continue to articulate that position,” Chastanet said while reiterating that all official information will come from the Ministry of Health.

He said the Prime Minister’s Office will also be used to keep the public updated on the virus for which there is no known vaccine.

Chastanet also announced that his administration is considering using Rat Island, located off Choc Beach, as a quarantine zone in case there is a confirmed case of coronavirus.

The government-owned island was a quarantine centre for smallpox victims.

Last weekend, three Caribbean countries including the Dominican Republic confirmed they had recorded a case of the virus that began in China, where most of the deaths have been recorded.

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