Further Clarification of Data Presented at the Ministry’s Press Conference Held on Monday, March 2, 2020

Re: (1) the Federation’s Status re: COVID-19 & Related Preparations + (2) Reaffirmation that there are Still NO Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in the Federation in St. Kitts and Nevis

It has been brought to the attention of the Federal Ministry of Health that within a short while following the conclusion of the 2nd Press Conference to provide a national update and status reports on our Country’s preparedness for COVID19 some of the statistical data that was shared with the media has either been misconstrued, or deliberately twisted and taken out of context by some outlets on social media. As such, the Ministry of Health wishes to use this communique to (1) set the record straight; (2) clarify the data that was provided at Monday’s press conference; and (3) appeal to ALL media houses and their journalists to be professional and responsible by seeking clarification from the Ministry of Health regarding any information over which they may be unclear – prior to their dissemination of releases whose content may be erroneous and/or misleading, and may result in instilling unnecessary fear among our citizens and residents.

At Monday’s news conference the Federation’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Hazel Laws took considerable time to inform the Nation of the key facts regarding the arrival of persons in the Federation, the manner in which they are being processed at our ports of entry, and how these persons would be handled depending on their travel history.

Based on strengthened Port Surveillance efforts of the integrated Health, Immigration and Customs teams, CMO Laws noted the following:

1) As of the morning of Monday, March 2, 2020 a total of 63 in-coming air travellers have been screened by the health desk at RL Bradshaw International Airport with the following outcomes:

• Three (3) asymptomatic persons quarantined at home; • Six (6) asymptomatic persons quarantined at hotel facilities; • Fifty (50) persons monitored daily by the public health team.

CMO Laws would have noted that arriving passengers from nine (9) hotspots were being pulled over for screening at the Port Health Desks, in order to determine the level of risk their arrival poses to our Federation. These countries of interest include China, Italy, Iran, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Macau. Depending on the answers provided to Question 17 of the Immigration Form i.e. the list of countries visited in the past six (6) weeks, and other questions, including possible exposure to persons with COVID-19, determinations are being made as to the level of risk posed to the Federation by these passengers.

It should be emphasized that after screening travellers are treated as follows:

1) Allowed free entry into Federation without restrictions (i.e. having very low risk); or
2) Allowed entry without restrictions but with monitoring (i.e. having low risk); or
3) Allowed entry but quarantined at home or at a hotel facility (i.e. having moderate to high risk but still not showing any symptoms for COVID-19).

Bearing this risk assessment in mind, it should be obvious that the 50 travellers were deemed to be of low risk and therefore were allowed free movement in the Federation. However, the Ministry of Health went a step further: the community health team monitored them (by calling them daily to ensure they remained well and symptom free) until they departed the Federation.

Some 47 of these 50 travellers have already left the Federation, as they were only in-Country for a maximum of one (1) to three (3) days. Therefore, only three of these travellers are still here in the Federation and are being followed up by the public health team purely as a precaution.

The Federal Ministry of Health sincerely trusts that this detailed explanation of the treatment of travellers to our Federation will provide further clarity of the extra steps being taken by our Port Health/Port Surveillance teams in order to keep the citizens and residents of our Country safe and well. Again, the Ministry appeals to all concerned to (a) seek clarity on any health issue related to our national response to COVID-19; and (b) rely only on trusted, official sources for information about COVID-19. Information is power, and an informed public is an empowered public. However, the media has a demonstrative partnership role to play in public education and sensitization as we respond as best we can to this evolving and unprecedented public health emergency. As such, the Ministry of Health looks forward to meaningful collaboration with all bona fide media houses in approaching their solemn mission to keep the public informed in a manner that is truthful, honest and simple to understand. This period of preparation and risk mitigation re: COVID-19 is not a time for fear and panic. Rather, it is an opportunity for collective responsiveness and cooperation with State Health and National Security agencies in the interest of the health and wellness of all concerned.

The Federal Ministry of Health wishes to use this medium to reassure the public that THERE ARE STILL NO CONFIRMED CASES OF COVID-19 IN THE FEDERATION OF ST. KITTS AND NEVIS AT THIS TIME.

MINISTRY OF HEALTH
March 3rd 2020