St. Kitts-Nevis: Prime Minister Harris’ Address to the Nation on April 15th, 2020

St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Harris' Address to the Nation on April 15th, 2020

Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris

St. Kitts-Nevis – Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris on the State of Emergency Wednesday, 15th April 2020

My Fellow Citizens and Residents:
I want to remind you that there is a State of Emergency in force in St. Kitts and Nevis. This State of Emergency goes until 18th April and was necessary because of the threat of COVID-19, this infectious disease which has taken effect on a pandemic scale throughout the world and which now threatens the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Yesterday, Tuesday, 14th April, St. Kitts and Nevis recorded two (2) additional cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases of this dreaded disease to fourteen (14) since the first case was reported here on Wednesday, 25th March. All fourteen are under strict isolation. Additionally, some 111 persons have been quarantined at home. While 234 persons have been tested, 187 have had negative results and the results of 33 persons are still pending.

Yesterday, too, the Cabinet of Ministers met for an extended period of time and received presentations and recommendations from key members of the National Working Group on COVID-19, including our leading Health Professionals. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws and our Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson made an extensive presentation on the health issues confronting our Country in which they reported on the spread of COVID-19 and the implications for the way in which we live here in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Chief Medical Officer has advised us that there is no known cure for the virus at this time.  There is no vaccine.  However, we can control the spread of the virus and protect our people through non-pharmaceutical measures such as social distancing and if we practice proper health guidelines such as washing our hands regularly and not touching our faces, our mouths and our noses. We must continue to strengthen our immune systems and comply with all other health guidelines.

Their evaluation of the evidence is that, because of the strict measures taken to date to have our citizens shelter in place under extended periods of curfew and the hard work done by our healthcare workers, the security forces and all those engaged in the work of the National COVID Task Force at the National Emergency Operating Center (NEOC), the spread of COVID-19 throughout the land has been slowed.  That is, there has been no spike in the number of new confirmed cases, which is of course a good thing. If there is a spike in new cases, this could overwhelm our healthcare system and put us all at risk.

The medical team is satisfied that there has been no community spread and has advised us that we must continue to be vigilant. They recommend that we keep in place Regulations for the immediate future to reduce the risk of transmission and that we must still be mindful to practice social distancing in everything we do.

STATE OF EMERGENCY TO BE EXTENDED

The Cabinet of Ministers has therefore determined that it is necessary to extend the State of Emergency currently in place and to extend Regulations made under the Emergency Powers Act in order to continue the fight against COVID-19.

The St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution provides that a declaration of emergency shall lapse after twenty-one (21) days unless it is approved by a Resolution of the National Assembly. Saturday, 18th April will be 21 days since the State of Emergency was proclaimed on the 28th of March.

As a result, there will be an Emergency Sitting of the National Assembly on Friday, 17th April at 10:00am. This sitting has been called to debate and pass a Resolution to extend the State of Emergency. Further Regulations would be made to come into force once the current Regulations expire on Saturday, 18th April. My Government is deeply concerned about the spread of COVID-19 throughout our Federation as it has done in other countries throughout the world and which would cause significant harm to the health and wellbeing of our people and could even result in deaths among our population.

LOCKDOWN WEEKEND

The new Regulations that will come into force this weekend will extend from Saturday morning at 6:00am to the following Saturday at 6:00am. They will provide for a 24-hour lockdown, a total lockdown, from 6:00am Saturday 18th until Monday 20th at 6:00am. The Team has recommended that there be a gradual relaxation of the limited or restricted curfews on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st and on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th between the hours of 6:00am and 7:00pm each day. There will be nightly curfews from 7:00pm each evening to 6:00am the following morning. Please note that in the middle of the week, from Tuesday 7:00pm to Thursday 6:00am, there will be a further 24-hour lockdown or total curfew.

ZONING IN PLACE

I must remind you that tomorrow (Thursday 16th) and the next day (Friday 17th), when the partial curfew days are restored, that the Shelter-in-Place Regulations are still in force. Only essential workers are allowed to leave their homes or, if you must, you can leave your residence to buy medicine, food or other necessities.  The Police will continue to enforce the zoning plan that was introduced last week. On Thursday (April 16th), persons living in Zone 1 (East Side) will be allowed to travel to Basseterre to attend at banks and other money service providers, pharmacies and supermarkets and food outlets. All persons in Zone 2 (West Side) should remain in their residences. On Friday (April 17th), it will be the turn for persons living in Zone 2 (West Side) to leave their residences, if they must, and for Zone 1 to remain at home.

Zone One (East Side) will comprise all those areas East of a line through the center of Fort Street, continuing North through Victoria Road and extending all the way to the Roundabout on the FT Williams Highway at the RLB International Airport just west of Taylors Housing Development. Then East along the FT Williams Highway to the Island Main Road and including all those areas traditionally known as the East Basseterre Constituency. Then continuing in a northeasterly direction along the Island Main Road from Conaree and Needsmust and extending all the way to Saddlers and Lavington.

Zone Two (West Side) will comprise all other areas on the island of St. Kitts, from Parsons traveling via Sandy Point, to Basseterre and including all other areas in the Basseterre Valley such as St. Peters, Central and West Basseterre but of course excluding East Basseterre.

In Nevis, Zone Three will comprise the parishes of St. Pauls, St. Thomas and St. James. Persons in these parishes will be allowed to leave their residences on Thursday, 16th April between the hours of 7:00am and 5:00pm.

Zone Four comprises the parishes of St. John and St. George and persons there will be able to leave their residences on Friday, 17th April from 7:00am to 5:00pm.

Remember, on any day when one zone is active, the other will be locked down.

If you need to buy your food or medicine, we encourage that only one member of a household leave the residence to do so. We encourage you to prepare a list of your food items and avoid both unnecessary shopping and frequent visits to the supermarket. This of course is for your own health and indeed for the benefit of all of us.

FOUR SHOPPING DAYS NEXT WEEK

Next week, there will be a gradual relaxation of restrictions and the zoning plan will be discontinued. Four days will be made available for you, if you must leave your home, but the Shelter-in-Place Regulations will still be in force. This will allow you to better plan how to shop for food and other necessities.   Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday will be available for shopping and other essential elements to be taken care of with a partial curfew in place.  Wednesday will be a full 24-hour lockdown.

I know that there has been much inconvenience to our people. We recognize that it may well have been frustrating for you when you had to spend a considerable amount of time at home or in lines to get the basic food necessities. Many of you would want to go to work to make a living to feed your families, but this has been absolutely necessary to protect you, your family and our Country. Your health and your safety have always been our priority.

As we go forward, we recognize that changes will have to be made in the way in which we live at this time. As there is a gradual relaxation of the limited curfews next week, we will now consider having some less essential businesses open their doors. If and when this happens, we would appeal to all our citizens to remember that we are still working to control the spread of the COVID virus.

I urge all residents of villages and settlements in our rural areas to utilize those establishments, those village shops in your area and so reduce the congestion in Basseterre and Charlestown. Many of these village shops have goods you need. This will allow you to avoid the restrictions that are being imposed at this time and protect you from the transmission of the virus in crowded spaces. To ensure availability of supplies in our rural villages the NEOC working with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce has made arrangements with the Police for these shops to receive goods from wholesalers.

FOOD SECURITY

Food security is critical to life and living.  We have listened intently to the views of our farmers and fisher folks.  We note that while adequate food and beverage come to St. Kitts and Nevis weekly, it is in our national interest to have adequate local produce, including supplies of fruits, vegetables, etc.  We have noted the advice that farming in small islands generally involves a small number of persons on each farm, making it easier for social distancing to apply.  In this regard, farmers and fishers will be allowed to engage in their trade during the period 6:00am to 4:00pm on partial curfew days and on such terms and conditions as the Commissioner of Police may determine during the 24-hour lockdown.

Restaurants and food outlets will still only be allowed to supply cooked or prepared meals only on a takeaway basis.  No meals will be served and eaten inside restaurants by patrons.  This is of course to preserve social and physical distancing and minimize the risk of transmission of the coronavirus which has left many dead across the world.

Our NEOC has a task force which will examine and advise on how other entities not now deemed essential can operate with minimal risk.  We expect by next Monday to get their report and to advise the Country on how we will proceed.

Based on the advice of our Health Professionals, schools will not reopen on Monday, April 20, 2020. A further announcement will be made by the Ministry of Education on this matter.

Even as we proceed, we must be careful not to reverse the gains made so far by swift, timely and decisive action by our Government based on the advice of our outstanding, patriotic health experts led by our CMO and our broader body of patriots working in the NEOC headed by the National Disaster Coordinator.

I must therefore warn that, should our people fail to act honorably and responsibly, we shall impose stiffer measures to preserve public health, prevent the undermining of our health system and prevent the spread of the virus and death to our people.  As we extend opportunities for persons to move with more partial curfews and less 24-hour lockdowns, we insist that:

Everyone going beyond their shelter must wear a mask or other article that properly covers their nose and mouth.  This simple act will minimize human-to-human transmission.  Masks are now readily available for purchase from Sun Island Clothes Ltd, Mrs. Lynette Bonaparte and Kiwie Dan.

Entities allowed to transact business must provide their employees and customers with hand sanitizers at the point of entry and in due course will be expected to do temperature checks using thermometer guns.  Those with elevated temperatures i.e. temperatures above 99 degrees Fahrenheit should not be allowed access and they should be encouraged to visit their health practitioner.

As we extend opportunities for persons to move with more partial curfews and less 24-hour lockdowns, we insist that:

  1. Social distancing and physical distancing must be practiced.
  2. No crowds will be allowed to loiter in any public space.
  3. There must be strict observance of the curfew.
  4. We encourage special consideration of our elderly and vulnerable members of our community by every business place.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the national community for their cooperation and support for the strong measures we have been implementing together to save lives.  COVID-19 is an existential threat. Danger still lurks. We are still in a war to save our people.

My Government will be agile and sensible in our policy-making and how we respond to this threat.  We have always proceeded thoughtfully based on the best advice available to us, while taking ownership of our decisions.

I call again for an all-of-society response.  This pandemic is a serious threat to our way of life and life itself.  Let us not be ignorant of this fact.  Let each of us take all proactive measures to minimize risk to ourselves, our family, our community and, by extension, our beloved Country.

Let me again thank our socioeconomic partners – the Evangelical Association, the Christian Council, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Diaspora groups, citizens and entities – for their support and encouragement.  Certainly, we are in this fight together – and together in Unity we shall triumph.

May God Bless the Wonderful People of St. Kitts and Nevis, and May God Bless Our Country!

I thank you.

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