By Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): “We are now at a point where we can relieve ourselves of the stranglehold that COVID 19 has had on every aspect of our lives,” said Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph N. France General Hospital.
Speaking at the NEOC COVID-19 Press Briefing on Wednesday, March 2, Dr. Wilkinson expressed that the fight to contain the virus in the Federation has been successful.
“This was a new virus and our first pandemic and we did not have all the answers, but we kept you updated over the last two years with the information as it unfolded. We followed the best scientific evidence available and have had a relatively successful fight against this highly infectious and deadly virus. We were able to prevent the overwhelming of our health care system as we saw happen in nations with greater resources than ours across the globe. We now have zero persons hospitalised in St. Kitts and zero in Nevis from COVID 19. We are now at a point where we can relieve ourselves of the stranglehold that COVID 19 has had on every aspect of our lives.”
Having passed the surge in COVID-19 cases previously experienced in the fourth wave, Wilkinson declared that we do not need to operate in emergency mode anymore.
“We do not need to operate in emergency mode anymore now and we will begin to see a significant reduction in relaxation of control measures internally, as we attempt to get back to some sense of normalcy. Serious cases and death remain at an all-time low, despite the fact that the virus is still circulating in our community.”
Dr. Wilkinson mentioned that population immunity has been beneficial in containing the virus and ensuring the reopening of the country. He also expressed gratitude to the people of the Federation for making that conscious decision of getting vaccinated.
“Our high threshold of population immunity is what gave us the buffer against the highly contagious Omicron variant and has allowed us to continue with the progressive reopening of all sectors of society. We started our vaccination program just over a year ago on February 22 2021 and it has been a great success. We now have 82.6 percent of adults in the federation with at least one shot and 77.4 percent fully vaccinated. On the island of St. Kitts, the coverage is even higher with 87.3 percent adults with one shot and 81.0 percent fully vaccinated.”
Wilkinson added, “I want to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to the people of our beloved federation for heeding the call and going out in great numbers to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated. At a time when we faced the greatest crisis of our lifetime and in our Nation’s history, you rose to the occasion and did what was best for your country and in turn yourself. It could not have been an easy decision with the loud noise and distraction coming from naysayers, but you stayed focused and listened to facts and science and did the right thing and got vaccinated.”
Though restrictions are being lifted, Wilkinson said vaccination still remains the key strategy for fighting COVID 19. He stressed the importance of personal responsibility, which entails getting vaccinated and continued practicing of non-pharmaceutical measures such as frequent hand washing and sanitizing, social distancing, and wearing of masks in public spaces.
Wednesday’s dashboard showed four confirmed active cases in St. Kitts and zero in Nevis, but Wilkinson shared an important reminder that the positive cases reported upon, only reflect laboratory-confirmed cases. He said, zero laboratory-confirmed cases in Nevis does not mean that the virus has disappeared from the island, as persons may be infected but asymptomatic or may have mild symptoms; giving them absolutely no reason to present to health services for testing. In this regard, the doctor explained that infected persons may be moving about and unknowingly present a serious threat to the clinically vulnerable in society. Wilkinson, therefore, urged citizens and residents to not become complacent, but remain vigilant.
Dr. Wilkinson said the work goes on as scientists and public health officials continue to seek answers to key questions surrounding the virus. He suggested that individuals disregard misinformation and trust information only from reputable Health organizations.
“Scientists and public health officials continue to work to find more answers to key questions about how the disease affects the body and why some cases are more severe than others and identify the best treatments going forward; because knowledge about the new virus is evolving rapidly, you can expect information and recommendations to continue to change. When we provide you with new and updated information we are not lying to you. We are simply keeping you updated and informed. That is the nature of science and discovery. We will soon be ending these regular briefings but the circulation of misinformation by some will still continue. I urge you to trust information only from reputable health organizations and sources such as the CDC (US Centre for Disease Control) and the World Health Organisation as you attempt to navigate the new norms.”
Wilkinson shared his belief that the emergence of the Omicron variant has been a game-changer, which will soon allow us to function in a near pre-pandemic manner.