NEMA, March 17th, 2020 -- As the nation continues to prepare to respond to the impact of nCOVID19, the National Working Group, led by CMO Dr. Hazel Laws, has been readying stakeholders, partners and the public for their role in reducing the impact of the virus on residents and citizens.
Since January of this year, the Group has been engaging both public and private sector agencies and departments on the global outbreak which has been impacting the economies, health and education sectors of more than 100 countries world-wide.
“We saw the potential for extreme disruptions throughout all systems of life and livelihood from the inception of this journey,” said Abdias Samuel, National Disaster Coordinator, “and I commend the actions of CMO Laws and her Team of health care providers, who have stepped up to the plate quite courageously and with little or no down time, since this quest to protect our nation from the Coronovirus, began.”
NDC Samuel and Dr. Hazel Laws have been attending meetings most days for the past 2 months, including weekends and late nights. Because the management of nCOVID19 entails presentations to civil society via businesses, schools, government ministries and training for health and frontier workers in self-protection, which includes the proper way to don protective garments and gear, the Team has been forced to re-assess the approach, to better manage the process.
According to NDC Samuel, response to the Corono virus will take a multi-pronged, proactive approach:
1. Public Health:
The Chief Medical Officer receives daily updates from the W.H.O. comprising global tolls of infected persons, regions impacted and actions taken, including travel advisories and cancellations. The document allows for informed decisions and amended strategies as necessary. Awareness campaigns have been ongoing all schools, (public, private and early childhood) all of which are expected to be apprised by Friday, 20th March; the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) was visited on Monday 16th March, by NDC Samuel to inspect for readiness for activation upon the confirmation of the first case (The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) will also activate, as necessary); The Quarantine Act has been amended and gazetted and presentations on preparedness and how to combat the disease are ongoing (Sandy Point Methodis Church –Emanuel- and Church of God in St. Pauls were recently updated), and are being prepared for local media, the Passenger Bus Associations, Ferry Operators, HM Prison and The Farm and Athletic Associations, in the short term;
2. Border Security:
Borders have been critically reviewed and gaps identified and addressed. Approval has been sought of Cabinet, for 4 sole entry points to be used by yachts and pleasure vessels visiting the Federation. Border surveillance has also been ramped up with Immigration, SKNDF, Port Health and Customs officers patrolling on shift basis, to prevent importation through illegal entry. A revised travel advisory is currently in effect and is subject to be edited as more countries are impacted by the virus and listed as “hotspots”;
3. Emergency Management:
The strategy, as affirmed by CMO Laws in all of her presentations is to put measures in place to keep the virus away from the Federation while readying the health infrastructure for the inevitable impact. Dr. Laws has stated that the Health sector is presently mobilised and prepared to roll out their disaster plan upon announcement of the nation’s first case;
4. CRISIS MANAGEMENT:
Communication is critical to disaster management. In any impact or disaster, the credible voice must be discernable and carry the weight of the message with consistency and clarity. It is the responsibility of every resident to receive the message and to share it in it’s purest form. There is no need to panic. There is no need to hoard food or sanitary items in abundance. In meeting with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of Agriculture and local Food Supply chains, NDC Samuel has noted that the nation is in good standing currently and not in danger of running out of supplies anytime soon.
“In fact,” Samuel has said, “even in the event that supplies are low, alternatives for supply flow have been identified and confirmed by the food suppliers themselves.”
A national hotline has been established with support from telecomms companies and will be shared as soon as it is manned. Persons who are feeling unwell, suspect they may have contracted the virus or are in need of social assistance, will be invited to call the hotline, which will be managed by the Ministry of Health.
Meetings have also been held with the Ministry of Social and Community Development, District Nurses and NEMA Volunteers to strategise on community support mechanisms within areas that may become affected in order to minimise the spread of the disease.
“In short,” Mr. Samuel says, “whatever is to be done to protect our nation, will be done.”
The NDC also pointed out that the struggle to become a resilient nation is a responsibility of every citizen and resident of this Federation.
“In this fight, there is one side. The side of the Government and people of St. Kitts-Nevis and every one of us by our actions can support the efforts of the competent authorities or take away from them. In the end, it is our individual and collective undertakings that will either make or break our capacity to walk away from any impact, with minimal collateral damage.”
For persons requesting presentations for staff or other groups by the national task force, please contact the Ministry of Health at 465-2521.
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