As we continue the fight against COVID-19 here in St. Kitts and Nevis, I must update you as to the state of affairs when the present SR&O No. 15 of 2020 Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations expires on Saturday, May 9th, 2020 at 5:59am. Further Regulations for the next two weeks, from Saturday 9th May to Saturday 23rd May, will be published under SR&O No. 16 of 2020. These Regulations will continue the process of gradually opening our Federation to more economic and social activity. We must do so cautiously and carefully. Danger still lurks and the war against this global pandemic is far from over or won.
On Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th May, there will be a 24-hour curfew as we have done during recent weekends. A total lockdown will still be in place.
Five Days of Limited Business Operations
From Monday, 11th May and every day next week to Friday, 15th May, businesses will enjoy an additional day of limited operations as long as they practice social distancing and physical distancing protocols. They must also provide for a sanitized environment and insist that their staff and customers wear face masks, as we turn to a semblance of near normalcy. No one, I repeat, no one should be out in public without wearing a mask or an article covering his or her nose and mouth.
The Regulations will also provide for a similar pattern to be followed during the week beginning Monday, 18th May to Friday 22nd May. That is, there will be five days of limited business operations from Monday to Friday.
Some restrictions under these Regulations will be relaxed. We will, for example, extend the day of limited operations to 8:00pm instead of 7:00pm to allow businesses to have an additional hour in the evening. Where businesses would have closed at 5:00pm to allow customers and staff to conform to the 7:00pm start of the nightly curfew, they can now close to the public at 6:00pm. Businesses will not only have a five-day work week to operate but an additional hour as well on each day of limited business operations.
Please note that the nightly curfew will continue and that it must be adhered to. Nightly curfew will now start at 8:00pm and end an hour earlier at 5:00am the following day
Our medical experts have advised us that these additional hours at the start and the end of the day are important to allow not only for more economic activity, but to allow for our citizens to get more engaged in exercise routines such as walking and jogging as this is one of the ways we fight the COVID disease. It is good for us both physically and psychologically. It will also help to boost our immune system.
Limited Access to Beaches
While we continue to urge our citizens and residents to take every precaution, these Regulations have seen, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, a gradual relaxation of the very strict guidelines which we have been living under for the past few weeks. The CMO has now recommended that beaches can be re-opened for swimming and exercising only between the hours of 5:30am and 9:00am. A physical distance of at least six feet must be maintained between individuals unless they are members of the same household. But there should be absolutely no beach parties nor picnics allowed. Let me repeat, there should be absolutely no beach parties nor picnics allowed. These activities increase the risk of transmission of the virus, which we are working so very hard to contain.
As we continue restrictions to maintain social distancing protocols to slow down the transmission of COVID-19 and help our country cope with this pandemic, we are mindful that as a people, we have this deep sense of pride, that we want to work, that we have to provide for ourselves and our families. We, the members of your government, we really do listen and we respond wisely, being ever thoughtful about how we go about easing restrictions. In all this, we continue to take advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the Medical Chief of Staff. These two along with the entire health fraternity, the NEOC, the security forces and several other entities have been giving yeoman service to our beloved Country at this moment of greatest need.
Consultations with Churches
The COVID-19 Task Force has met and had discussions with the Christian Council and the Evangelical Association. There has been an extensive discussion on the manner in which religious freedom, public health and infection prevention can work together. They will meet again very soon after the church leadership would have consulted with their fellow pastors before a final determination can be made regarding how Church gatherings can resume without endangering the health of anyone.
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 continue to warn us that we are not yet out of the woods and they have advised us against this. We continue to heed their advice, follow the science and pray to God for wisdom and protection on all of us.
The strict guidelines that we initiated some weeks ago have proven to be successful, and they have allowed us to flatten the curve. It has been some 18 days since we last had a confirmed case of the COVID19 virus. We now only have three confirmed cases isolated and recovering. We note that some 52 students brought home by my Government last week, as well as a smaller number of other citizens and residents, are still in quarantine. They all still need to be tested. Our borders will continue to remain closed for now so as to prevent and/or delay the possibility of importing any new cases. Danger still lurks and we must all remain vigilant. We are mindful of the hotspots in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. We mourn the loss of lives there and everywhere.
We note with sadness and regret that several of our nationals overseas have died as a consequence of COVID-19. We extend our sincere condolences to all their loved ones at home and abroad now in grief and distress. We invoke God’s protection and mercy on our people and this, our beloved Federation.
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 is our number one priority. We know that we are all in this together, and in Unity, we will overcome this pandemic. Now is not the time to take unnecessary and risky chances. So let us heed caution. Our lives really depend on it.
May God Bless Each and Every One of You, and May God Bless Our Beloved St. Kitts and Nevis.
I Thank You. May God Bless You.