by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The fourth wave of COVID-19 spread within the Federation may occur sooner than expected.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) reported a 23 percent increase in new cases of COVID-19 last week, most of which were recorded in the United States and Canada.
PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne also noted that some countries within the Caribbean region are already seeing a jump in cases.
“Barbados, the Cayman Islands and the Dominican Republic are also reporting high rates of new infections. These trends are telling. Even though COVID cases have dropped significantly over the last few months, COVID-19 transmission is still active across our region. So every time we lower our guard, the virus gains momentum.”
Dr Etienne expressed that the COVID-19 trends in Europe are often prophetic for what to expect in the Americas, specifically the United States, our primary tourism source market.
“Throughout this pandemic, Europe has been a window into the future for the Americans. Time and again, we’ve seen how the infection dynamics in Europe are mirrored here several weeks later. And over the last weeks, many European countries have reported record numbers of new cases. In Eastern Europe, relatively low vaccination coverage has led to an increase in cases. While many Western European countries have achieved substantial vaccination coverage, they still have significant pockets of unvaccinated people. And in many cases, public health measures have been relaxed, creating the perfect environment for this virus to spread.”
Prime Minister the Hon Dr Timothy Harris has indicated that when we reach the 80 percent benchmark of partial adult coverage in our vaccination rate, more restrictions, specifically as it relates to travel, will be eased and called on those still hesitant about taking the vaccine to push us over the edge.
Some easing has already taken place. The integration of stayover passengers and cruise passengers participating in the same tours came into effect earlier this week and vaccinated residents having access to the Port Zante bubble when cruise ships are in port. Last week the nationwide curfew was also lifted.
While some restrictions are easing, the core safety measures will remain in place as long as the virus is in circulation. The use of the non-pharmaceutical means of protection (masks, sanitisation and social distancing) remain in effect to work in tandem with vaccination, and now the health authorities in St. Kitts and Nevis are allowing people 18 years and older to get booster shots.
“If you received your AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine in February/ March, earlier up in this year and six months whatever elapsed between the second dose and present, you are eligible once you’re 18 years and over, you are eligible to come to any of the health centres and request your Pfizer booster shot so it is available here in the Federation,” said Chief Medical Officer, Dr Hazel Laws during the press briefing hosted by the National Emergency Operations Center on November 25.