My fellow citizens and residents of Nevis. I speak to you as Premier of Nevis on the unfolding situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in our country.
As you would be aware the Honourable Prime Minister made a formal address to the Nation on the evening of Friday, June 11, 2021. I support the Prime Minister’s position which has become necessary due to the outbreak of this dreaded disease being currently experienced on our sister island of St. Kitts.
As reported since May 19, 2021 when case 46 was detected, the island of St. Kitts has thus far experienced 110 positive cases in the past 3 weeks and it is now clear that there is some element of community spread occurring on St. Kitts.
We empathize with our brothers and sisters on St. Kitts and those families afflicted by this deadly disease and ask all of us to keep them in our prayers as we seek to battle this pandemic together.
At the same time on Nevis, we have not had a positive case since March 16, 2021, when we recorded case number 14. It seems at this point therefore, based on the available evidence that the spread being experienced is localized to our sister island of St. Kitts. I emphasize “at this point” since we know not what tomorrow might bring and this disease has shown itself to be very unpredictable.
We are all aware of the oneness of our people and that what affects any of us affects all of us. Our people move freely across the two-mile stretch of ocean that separates us. We are in every sense one country and one people bound by history by family by culture and by law. We must look out for each other and be our brothers’ keeper and our sisters’ helper at all times. Brothers and sisters, part of looking out for each other is also protecting each other from this deadly COVID-19 disease.
Thus far we have closed the schools in Nevis in support of the National effort. We have restricted our buses to 50 percent passenger capacity and imposed a curfew on Nevisians all in support of the National effort. My government has demonstrated that it recognizes and supports the position that we are all in this together.
But in all that we do, we must not lose sight of the fact that I and my Cabinet were put here by the will of Almighty God and by the people of Nevis to serve them to the best of our ability. Serving them means listening to them and seeking to make decisions which are in their best interest while not harming the national interest.
To this end and after careful deliberations, I have advised the Honourable Prime Minister that government offices and businesses on Nevis shall remain open provided that all protocols as to mask wearing, physical distancing and hand sanitizing are in place. All workers then should report to work on time and wearing their masks. It will be for individual businesses to determine how best to schedule their workers to ensure the overall objective of keeping Nevis safe. Our small business sector has been hit hardest by this COVID-19 pandemic and I am fearful that if forced to close now when there are no COVID-19 cases in Nevis, they might never reopen.
I have consulted with the Chairman of the Board at the Nevis Air and Seaports Authority (NASPA) which manages the Charlestown ferry dock and the Oualie water taxi pier and through the team at NASPA initiated an urgent discussion with the ferry and water taxi operators. The purpose of this discussion was to restrict the movement of ferries and water taxis and to require that only essential travel be undertaken such as travel for work, essential services such as police, fire, health and prison services, and travel for medical reasons such as our patients requiring dialysis on St. Kitts at this time. These restrictions will prevent persons moving between the islands only for leisure or to engage with friends or loved ones. To put it differently, if you have no urgent need to move between St. Kitts and Nevis then please do not attempt to do so.
I am pleased to report tonight that the Chairman of NASPA has advised that all ferries have voluntarily decided to suspend their services. However, Wesk Agency has agreed to do a single round trip in the morning and one in the evening via MV Mark Twain but restricted only to essential travelers. The water taxis equally have voluntarily decided to suspend their services except for charters. I thank all the ferry and water taxi owners and operators for this patriotic gesture on their part to keep us all safe and prevent the spread of this deadly disease. I also thank Wesk Agency for agreeing to provide the sole but essential service during this difficult time.
Given the limited capacity of the healthcare system in Nevis to respond to any outbreak of this disease in our community, we urge our people to continue to act responsibly. My government will continue to do all in our power to protect our people.
As for the other measures announced by the Honourable Prime Minister those will be enforced in Nevis in their full rigour. To be clear:
*for the next 14 days, the island of Nevis will have a curfew from 6pm-5am each day as announced
*for the next 14 days there will be no mass gatherings allowed meaning no parties or fetes or large gatherings of any kind
*for the next 14 days the beaches will be restricted to exercise only. In other words, no parties or picnics on the beaches
*for the next 14 days restaurants can open but will be restricted to takeaway and delivery service only. This of course does not apply to restaurants in hotels catering for their in-house guests.
*for the next 14 days businesses should encourage workers to work from home where possible
*for the next 14 days gaming establishments will be closed
*for the next 14 days buses will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity with adequate physical distancing and mandatory mask wearing and hand sanitizing onboard
Our Police and authorities will issue tickets and summonses where necessary for those who refuse to abide by the restrictions.
For the avoidance of doubt, our people are still allowed to attend church services and undertake their business during the hours of 5am and 6pm each day. Our construction workers are still permitted to go to work. I however urge everyone else not to leave your home unless you absolutely have to. There is no need at this difficult time for drinking and liming and carousing. Please stay home unless you must go out for work or some other essential purpose.
Brothers and sisters you note that I have thus far avoided the use of the dreaded word “lockdown”. I have done so because at this stage with no cases on Nevis there is only a need for enhanced restrictions as a precautionary measure. If, however, cases of COVID-19 do emerge on Nevis within our community, then more stringent measures including the nuclear option of a lockdown might become necessary.
We have been adrift on this uncertain and deadly tide of COVID-19 now for the past 15 months in our beloved country. As examples throughout the world and region have showed us, it is unwise for any of us to declare that the battle has been won. The recent outbreak in our sister St. Kitts is manifest evidence that despite careful and prudent management of this pandemic even the slightest mistake can plunge our people into serious peril.
I therefore urge you yet again to get vaccinated against this deadly disease. As of yesterday, some 4,855 persons on Nevis had received a first dose and some 2,632 persons are fully vaccinated. Our target population for vaccination is 8,594 which means that we still have some considerable distance to go before we can truly declare victory over this disease.
A time comes to every man and nation when we must decide. I believe that that time is now. This is not a time for rancour or obstinacy. This is a time for us to get serious about protecting our families, our communities and our beloved island. I therefore urge you to get vaccinated at our local health centers including our Saturday clinics where we have extended hours of operation to afford each of us the maximum opportunity to get vaccinated. Let us not wait until this deadly disease strikes us or our home to say “I wish I had known”. Please my brothers and sisters I urge you to act and to act now.
The monstrous murderer COVID-19 is at our doorstep and we must do all within our power to keep it at bay. Let us say NO to COVID-19 and YES to vaccination. The life we save might well be our own.
I end by asking for your prayers for our beloved island and country. We have done well through the hard work of our Federal COVID-19 Task Force and our Nevis COVID-19 Task Force and through steady and sober leadership which has been willing to listen and take guidance. But above all we have done well because of God’s undeserved grace and abiding mercy towards us. I therefore urge us all to fall on our knees and continue to ask Jehovah God for His protection His guidance and His grace.
My brothers and sisters I wish you good night and may we all together pray for brighter days for our beloved Nevis and the wider Federation.
Thank you and God bless you.