My Fellow Citizens and Residents:
I address you today to announce new Regulations to come into force in our continuing fight against COVID-19. The current Regulations, No. 16 under the Emergency Powers Act, come to an end tomorrow, Saturday 23rd May, and further Regulations for the next three weeks, from Saturday 23rd May to Saturday 13th June, will be published under SR&O No. 19 of 2020. I am very pleased to hear that our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, announced earlier this week that the last of fifteen (15) individuals who were confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 is now fully recovered. It was on the 25th of March, some 58 days ago, that we in St. Kitts and Nevis were informed that two of our citizens had returned from a short visit to New York with the Coronavirus Disease. We have progressed very well since then. My Government has received tremendous praise over the manner in which we have handled this disease up to this time. I, in turn, must commend our citizens and residents for their recognition of the seriousness of the times and their compliance with the Regulations.
7 DAYS NOW OF LIMITED OPERATIONS
The new Regulations to take effect tomorrow will continue the process of gradually opening up our Federation to more economic and social activity. This weekend, on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th May, we have put in place an extension of the days of limited operations to the seven-day week. It will be the end of the 24-hour curfew (a total lockdown). While tomorrow Saturday, the day of limited operations will begin at 6:01am and end at 7:00pm, from Sunday the day will begin at 5:01am and end at 7:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. From Monday to Friday, hours of limited operation will remain at 5:00am to 8:00pm daily. We are now operating near normal every day, save for the nightly curfews. I must remind you that the nightly curfew remains in place and it must be adhered to. It will start at 8:00pm and end at 5:00am the next day Monday to Friday, and it will begin at 7:00pm and end at 5:00am on Saturday and Sunday.
WE MUST BE ON OUR GUARD
Our Medical Experts continue to urge our citizens and residents to take every precaution. We must continue to build our immune system. They advise us to get more engaged in exercise routines such as walking, as this is one of the ways we fight COVID-19. They recommend that beaches should be opened for swimming and exercising only between the hours of 5:30am and 10:00am. A physical distance of at least six (6) feet must be maintained between individuals unless they are members of the same household. There should be absolutely no beach parties nor picnics allowed. These events are prohibited to protect you. The very life we save could be yours. While some of us may yearn for more social interaction at bars, restaurants and party establishments in the evenings and on weekends, our medical experts still advise strongly against this. Restaurants are allowed to provide takeaway meals and/or to deliver them. Let me now turn to our Churches and religious organizations. Over the past two weeks, members of the National COVID-19 Task Force have been meeting with the Christian Council, the Evangelical Association and faith leaders across St. Kitts and Nevis. They have had discussions on the manner in which religious freedom, public health and infection prevention can work together. Yesterday, Cabinet received a report on the consultations. We learnt that the consultations have all been very productive and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Laws and her Team are satisfied that, if protocols were to be adhered to, we can return to worship safely in our Churches. I am so happy about this, as Churches are crucial to our lives. We believe in God. COVID-19 required restrictions be put in place to protect the Church membership and the wider society. I thank the Churches for their outstanding cooperation to date.
I am therefore happy to announce that our Churches will open their doors to their congregations for worship on Saturday and Sunday this weekend between the hours of 7:00am and 5:00pm. There will be conditions, of course, as we continue to seek to protect our people. I am advised that the conditions and protocols surrounding the resumption of corporate worship have already been conveyed to the Church leadership.
We have listened to the concerns of our fisher folks. These Regulations will also allow our fisher folks, those who are snapper fishers and long-liners, to go to sea to fish from 9:00pm during the night curfew. In extensive meetings between fishers and the Ministry of Agriculture, and endorsed by the Task Force, there has been agreement on a number of conditions to keep them safe while they work to help keep our food supply adequate.
Finally, I want to say a word about the upcoming General Elections that will be held on June 5th and COVID-19.
My Government is committed to keeping our people safe. Indeed, that has been our first priority. But we have also been a Government that has been committed to the Rule of Law. Our Constitution requires us to hold an Election to choose Representatives to sit in Parliament and form your Government once Parliament is dissolved.
COVID-19 forced us to adjust the way we are accustomed to campaign and bring our ideas and vision to influence people to select the candidate of their choice. Our Medical Experts have strongly advised against mass gatherings, which are fertile ground for the transmission of the disease by asymptomatic persons. And so, those vying for seats in the Parliament are resorting to innovative ways to bring their programmes to you. Virtual campaigns, social media, and other innovative and creative ways are the new normal. When we visit residents in constituencies, we ask that candidates, campaigners and supporters follow the social distancing protocols. That is good for all of us.
I urge all of us to pay attention. Our people must continue to behave responsibly. We have to be mature and keep the Peace at all times. I expect that the Supervisor of Elections and the Electoral Commission will be advised by the Medical Experts and thus ensure that registered voters will be safe when they go to vote.
The strict guidelines that we initiated some weeks ago have so far proven to be effective, and they have allowed us to flatten the curve. Our borders will continue to remain closed to international commercial flights and visitors so as to prevent and/or delay the possibility of importing any new cases. We are concerned that our ally the United States of America has become a hotspot for COVID19. Many of us are concerned about the rate of infection in New York, in New Jersey and Florida.
There is a procedure that has been established and is in practice, which must be followed if requests for entry are made. Anyone entering our Country must go through a mandatory or a compulsory quarantine period up to a minimum – I stress, up to a minimum – of 14 days, after which they must be tested and, if found to be negative, they will be reintegrated in the community. If they are found to be positive, they will have to be isolated until they are fully recovered as per World Health Organization’s guidelines.
My heart grieves for those of our citizens there and everywhere who have contracted the virus and who have died after contracting COVID-19. We must do all we can to keep safe, avoid spreading the virus by adhering to well-established protocols. Lives are at stake. Let’s not take COVID-19 lightly.
My Government has a solemn duty to protect our population from all harm. All that we are doing is about you and for you – your health, your wellbeing, your lives and livelihood. Kindly cooperate with the Government, its NEOC, its HEOC and security forces for our collective good. We must continue to protect our people. Danger still lurks and we must all remain vigilant.
My fellow citizens and residents, we are living through a most trying experience, one which none of us has ever had to go through before. My Government is committed to keeping all of our citizens and residents safe. The health of our nation and its people is our number one priority. We know that we are all in this together, and in Unity, we as a people will overcome this challenge.
God bless each and every one of us, and may God Bless our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis. I Thank You.