As Prepared for Delivery
My fellow citizens and residents, greetings.
I appreciate that each week across several media platforms of ZIZ Radio and TV, YouTube and Facebook, thousands of citizens, residents and well-wishers tune in to this very informative programme. It is one way in which we demonstrate accountability as a government by and for the people. I am happy to provide leadership that matters – Leadership that cares for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Tonight, we focus on the big story. Our Country’s borders will be fully opened up to nationals and visitors from 31st October 2020. In my Press Conference last Thursday, I said inter alia: “St. Kitts and Nevis has come a long way in its successful management of the COVID-19 cases. We are designated by the U.S. based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a very low-risk destination. We are one of the countries approved to be a part of the CARICOM bubble. The CARICOM bubble presently includes Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Of all the sovereign states, we have the least number of COVID-19 cases.
These gains should never be frittered away with selfish and irresponsible behaviours by citizens, residents and visitors. Accordingly, in preparation for the imminent opening of our borders, we have insisted that our citizens and residents comply with all health protocols, especially the wearing of masks in public, frequent hand-washing, physical and social distancing (avoiding large crowds and congestion).
These practices have to become second nature to us as we work to protect ourselves, our families, our friends and loved ones. Given that all our cases of COVID-19 were travel-related or imported cases, strict compliance with the health protocols is the only way to contain the spread of the virus, thereby minimizing any strain on our small health system and loss of employment and productivity due to quarantine, isolation or hospitalization.”
It is my fervent hope that our citizens and residents prepare themselves for a dramatic increase in the numbers of returning nationals and visitors between November and December.
I say dramatic because, with our borders closed, the arrival and departure numbers are very small. These numbers will definitely climb as the number of flights in and out increases. It is probable that new infections of COVID-19 will come with the opening of our borders. Our protocols are intended to minimize that risk and to keep us all safe.
I ask for compliance with the protocols by all in society.
The lessons from Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and in Europe are that we should never become complacent in our efforts to contain the COVID-19 disease. The best way to do so is to comply with the health protocols.
Trinidad and Tobago has determined that, in light of COVID-19, its Grand Carnival will no longer be held in February 2021. Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, we have reduced our usual list of events, to minimize any spike from the hosting of such events.
Between now and October 31st, the Government expects:
1. Close to 5,000 persons who are part of the provision of services to returning passengers, be they at the airport, taxi operators, hotels, restaurants, tour operations, will be trained to work safely in a COVID-19 environment.
2. The National Task Force on COVID-19 and the Ministry of Tourism, including the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, will have determined those entities that can be certified as being compliant with COVID-19 protocols and hence can be certified as part of a bubble of low-risk services and entities that visitors and residents can access.
3. Ongoing work on getting entities up to speed will be diligently pursued by the Task Force and entities themselves.
OUTREACH BY CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER
Since our announcement of the 31st October date for the opening of our borders, our Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Hazel Laws has been meeting with hoteliers and so far, the meetings have been very productive and constructive. I am advised that discussions have taken place with Park Hyatt, Marriott, Four Seasons, KOI at Hilton. Our Task Force is open for continuing discussions as and when necessary.
Hotel operators are finalizing the list of on-compound services, which they can safely provide to their guests, and discussions are ongoing regarding access to selective excursions or tourist sites which visiting guests can safely access. Examples may include Brimstone Hill, Zipline, ATV Tours, Safari Tours, Romney Manor, Rainforest Tours, and selected beaches. The list is not exhaustive.
MINIMIZING THE RISKS
There are two broad categorizations to determine the extent and timing of integration by tourists into society based on their Country of origin. These destinations can be broadly categorized as those which are part of a bubble and other countries. Our Chief Medical Officer will address key protocols obtaining in each case.
In this regard, let me welcome her to Leadership Matters tonight. Allow me to again congratulate Dr. Hazel Laws on being a recipient of the Companion of Star of Merit for outstanding leadership of the health sector at a time of COVID-19. Equally, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson has given yeoman’s service, for which he too has been awarded, and Mr. Abdias Samuel was equally recognized for his leadership of the National Task Force.
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