My fellow citizens and residents:
Over the past few weeks, our beloved Country has been faced with an outbreak of a cluster of cases brought on by the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused so much havoc across the world. As a result of this outbreak, certain restrictions had been introduced in our Federation to curtail the transmission of the virus, such as a limited curfew and regulations governing public transport.
Our Ministry of Health and the Medical Team, made up of Nurses and Doctors here in St. Kitts and Nevis, have worked very hard to bring it under control. Our Health Professionals have worked around the clock to combat this outbreak and had taken aggressive action to identify, through contact tracing, robust testing and diagnosis, quarantine and isolation procedures, those who would have come into contact with, or who had actually been infected with, the disease. The virus continues to spread in our communities, for the numbers of new cases have not peaked and they continue to persist.
Yesterday, Thursday, June 10th, 2021, at an emergency meeting of the Federal Cabinet, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, informed us that the number of positive cases continue to grow. It was reported that there were eleven (11) positive cases on Wednesday and that on Thursday we have recorded another twenty-five (25) positive cases. This brings the total number of cases to one hundred and fifty-five (155), an increase of one hundred and eleven (111) cases in a few short weeks.
This is of deep concern to me and my Government. Our number one priority in this fight against COVID-19 is, and has always been, to keep our people safe and we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. Thankfully, sixty-one (61) of these cases are fully recovered while ninety-four (94) remain active, with four (4) hospitalized and one (1) being very ill.
We have listened carefully to the Health professionals and have been guided by the science. That is precisely why we took tough measures early to contain the virus.
After a thorough evaluation of the situation on the ground, the Cabinet has agreed that we needed to restrict the movement of people, to contain the movement of the virus. We will therefore place the Country under lockdown as of Saturday, 12th June from 6:00pm for fourteen (14) days to Saturday, 26th June in the first instance.
Under this lockdown, the Cabinet has determined that people should stay at home over the next two weeks. There shall be a curfew daily from 6:00pm to 5:00am.
It is anticipated that this will break the virus transmission cycle and cause the cases to fall. It should also give our health care workers and contact tracers time to get ahead of the virus and control its spread.
Our approach to lockdown takes into account our experiences of the past year and the reality that we have one of the best vaccination rollout programmes so far in the region. As of yesterday, we had sixty-five (65) percent of the target population having received their first shot and twenty-nine (29) percent of our target population fully vaccinated. These significant results must be consolidated and expanded.
We understand the challenges of a lockdown, including its impact on people’s lives and livelihoods – in particular on the self-employed, on persons working in the entertainment and hospitality sectors, and within other areas of the private sector.
A lockdown may result in lost earnings, early business closures and in consequential psychosocial implications. These are some of the things we intend to mitigate as we seek to balance the consequences of these measures against the imperative of “life first.” Our response has always been and will continue to be a “Life First Strategy.”
The new measures will give us respite that should allow for effective control in containing and restricting the spread of the virus.
The alternative to not tightening up, not restricting movement, would result in more infections, more stress on our health system, on our people, on our overall economy, and the greater likelihood of deaths.
The following measures will be implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19 within our communities. The measures become effective from Saturday, June 12th, 2021.
- All essential businesses and offices may continue their business operations by allowing their employees to work remotely from home, utilizing virtual means, unless those employees are permitted to work under special exemption or are designated as being essential workers. Where a business is unable to continue its business operations by its employees working remotely from home, the business shall cease its operations for the next two weeks in the first instance. All persons employed within the Public Service, a Statutory Body, a State-owned Enterprise or the Courts shall work remotely from home, except as may otherwise be directed by the Cabinet Secretary.
- All gaming establishments will be closed.
- Absolutely no mass events.
- Beaches are to be used for the purpose of exercise only during this period.
- No street vending for the next fourteen (14) days in the first instance. Vending will only be allowed at the public market with controlled spaces, where strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols must be observed.
- There will be no in-person dining at Restaurants and Bars. However, take-out and delivery will be permitted.
- Security officers will be enforcing protocols with respect to social distancing and mask wearing. Persons not in compliance will be penalized.
- Ferry service operations will be subject to heightened restrictions to curtail non-essential inter-island travel.
The details of all measures will be formalized in the Statutory Rules and Orders.
These are deliberate measures to contain the spread of the virus.
I appreciate that these measures may cause some inconvenience, but the alternative may well be many more infections, serious illness and, God forbid, maybe even death to a member of our family, a friend or a loved one. This is not an alternative we would want to experience.
We have a chance to contain the spread of the virus, and we will do just that working together.
As we seek to contain COVID-19, we all have a role to play.
That role is to comply with the non-pharmaceutical protocols and be vaccinated.
The World Health Organization has said this about COVID-19 vaccination, and I quote:
“…There is a reduced risk of developing the illness and its consequences. This immunity helps you fight the virus if exposed. Getting vaccinated may also protect people around you, because if you are protected from getting infected and from disease, you are less likely to infect someone else. This is particularly important to protect people at increased risk…”(end of quote)
Persons with increased risks include our elderly, children under the age of 18, and persons with underlying health conditions. They are relying on us to protect them – and we must not disappoint them.
Immunization continues to be our path out of COVID’s shadow.
Unfortunately, there are still some in our Country who want to cast doubt on the validity of our Country’s Immunization Programme.
While some persons have genuine concerns, there are others who – for their own selfish and political gain – have been discouraging persons from taking the vaccine, knowing full well that the experience everywhere in the world is that mass vaccination is the most effective way to protect yourself and get countries back to normalcy and out of the shadow of the pandemic.
I urge you to actively support vaccinations, actively support the Federation’s vaccination programme and encourage your family, friends, and loved ones who should be vaccinated to do so now. Tomorrow, Saturday, vaccination sessions will continue at our Health Centres. Please take advantage of this opportunity to be vaccinated.
This outbreak shows that, in the fight against COVID-19, you cannot be complacent.
I pledge that we will continue to do all that is necessary to protect your health and that of your family and loved ones.
May God bless and protect the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
I thank you.