St Kitts-Nevis closes schools, implements curfew to curb spread of COVID

The St Kitts-Nevis government has announced a series of measures, including a curfew, in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 after the twin island Federation recorded a recent cluster of cases of the virus.

The island has so far recorded 60 cases of the virus since the first case was detected in March last year. There have been 45 recoveries.

Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris in a radio and television broadcast on Tuesday night, said that he was appealing to the public to be sensitive to those who had become affected by the virus in the last week.

 “We should avoid naming persons, circulating photos and or disseminating any information on the affected individuals. Ultimately we will have to live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future and the most effective way of doing this will be to get yourself and your loved ones vaccinated,” he said.

Harris said his priority now is to ensure the health, safety and security of every citizen and resident and in order to contain the spread of the deadly virus, Cabinet has accepted several recommendations from the country’s health professionals.

He said a curfew will be imposed with immediate effect from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am (local time) daily starting for the next 14 days in the first instance to decrease the possibility of the continued spread of the virus.

In addition, Harris said that the number of passengers on public transportation including ferries will be reduced to 50 per cent of established capacity, adding “this is to facilitate physical distancing and a resultant reduction in the risk of transmission of the virus.

“Strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical measures that is mask-wearing, sanitizing and physical and social distancing must be observed in the public and at places of business and worship. Remember your personal responsibility in this fight is of utmost importance,” Prime Minister Harris said, adding that all contact sports are suspended for the next two weeks.

He said schools will remain closed for two weeks in the first instance to facilitate contact tracing, testing and other necessary precautions consistent with the COVID-19 Prevention and Control Act.

“No local examinations will be administered during this period of school closure. The Ministry of Education has already begun to engage CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) to discuss alternative arrangements for any examinations scheduled during this time.

“Students, teachers and parents will be subsequently informed of the relevant decisions taken by CXC. Teachers will engage students from grades 3 and higher via the established online modality of MS Teams,” he said.

Prime Minister Harris said there will be no mass events allowed and funerals must adhere to COVID-19 protocols and be mindful of capacity in the church.

He said effective May 29, only fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed entry into St Kitts and Nevis until further notice and that exemptions will be considered for citizens and residents.

“Given the importance of vaccines in the protection of persons from the worse effects of COVID-19, and in the interest of public health, we have extended the hours for administering vaccines,” he said, adding that “vaccines are a scarce commodity globally but my Government continues to work behind the scenes to secure extra doses of vaccines so that we would have sufficient to reach a herd immunity threshold.”

Harris said that vaccination is important to avoid “clusters like these” noting that as of May 24, health authorities have administered 22,278 doses of the vaccine.

“This means that 49 percent of the target population have already received their first jab. I wish to at this point to commend all who stepped forward and did the right thing not to protect themselves but everyone else in this blessed Federation through vaccination. We are getting closer to our target but we need you who have not yet done so to come forward and be vaccinated. Now is not the time for hesitancy. Now is the time to be vaccinated.”

Prime Minister Harris said regarding the return of the vital tourism industry, he was encouraging all stakeholders and others to get vaccinated.

“For our businesses to have certainty so they invest and create jobs,  I encourage you to get vaccinated now. For our bars and places of entertainment, DJ’s, nail and hair technicians, etc to thrive, I encourage the patrons and employees of these establishments to get vaccinated now.

“All of us want to see an end to COVID-19. To come out of the shadow of COVID-19 we must all get vaccinated sooner rather than later. Now is the time to support – not slow down – our immunisation programme.”

Prime Minister Harris said that the new infections show how quickly and far COVID-19 can spread. “We see how it can disrupt our schools, traumatize unsuspecting families and create anxiety in many workplaces and the broader society. I strongly urge you to keep updated. Please get your information from official government channels or reputable sources such as the World Health Organization.”

Harris acknowledged that the next two weeks will be challenging, “but with God’s grace, we will get through them working together constructively and responsibly.

“Until our immunisation rates reach critical levels, we will continue to be vulnerable to such clusters. That is why we all need to play our part to get us closer to herd immunity. That way we can have a greater sense of security and a return to normalcy,” Harris said, adding “we must work together to contain the transmission of the virus. Our most powerful weapon in this regard is vaccination.

“In this war to defeat COVID-19, all we have are ourselves working and supporting each other in doing the right thing to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The more people immunised, the less vulnerable we will be to the events like those of the last week.

“Now is the time for us as a nation to stay together, and for each of us to play our part to protect each other and to work together to see this virus off our shores,” Prime Minister Harris said.

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