My fellow citizens and residents
I speak to you tonight in my capacity as Premier of Nevis.
As you are all aware, our beloved Federation and more specifically the island of Nevis has been in the grips of an unprecedented surge of COVID cases over the past few weeks. While we have had only six hospitalizations and no deaths on the island of Nevis, the surge in cases is a matter of increasing alarm.
This evening I regret to report that we have been forced to close the Department of Education until further notice. We have also been forced to delay the reopening of all schools on Nevis initially for one week as we monitor the situation. This is as a result of key Education personnel contracting this dreaded virus. The consequences of this for our children’s education and for the ease of parents, many of whom depend on their children being in school whilst they work, are far reaching. Any contagion in our schools and among our vulnerable children must be avoided at all cost.
I must also report that other key government departments have been forced to close and senior public servants have been forced into quarantine and or isolation due to either contracting the coronavirus or being exposed to the virus through contact with infected persons.
Brothers and sisters, throughout this global pandemic my government has begged and beseeched our people to act responsibly. Time and time again we have asked that our people adhere to the protocols, wear their mask, wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, avoid crowded places and practice social distancing. In addition, we have deployed for free our most powerful weapon against the COVID-19 virus which is the vaccine. My government has secured AstraZeneca and now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer vaccines for the protection of our people.
At every step we have sought the inclusion and assistance of the political opposition in Nevis, the church, the business community, the public service and the community generally, in a tangible demonstration of our commitment to an all of society approach in fighting this pandemic.
Despite the considerable efforts, meetings, educational drives, speeches and the clear scientific data as to the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines as a potent weapon against this disease, there remains a minority that has refused to vaccinate and has determined to put themselves at great peril of contracting this disease, hospitalization and possible death. Others have persisted in going to the bars and public places without wearing masks. Indeed, some have said they prefer to take their chances with the virus. Ordinarily, such behavior might affect only those persons but in the context of a highly contagious and highly dangerous virus, any of us that remains unsafe or behaves recklessly exposes all of us to danger.
I have pleaded with our people especially our teachers, our nurses, our elderly, nursery and pre-school caregivers that they are on the front line in the most significant way and that any refusal by them to vaccinate exposes those who are vulnerable and in their care to this dreaded disease. None of us would wish our child to contract COVID at school or at the daycare centre. None of us would wish our grandmother or grandfather to contract COVID at the Flamboyant Home. None of us would wish to be hospitalized for one illness and contract COVID while at the Alexandra hospital.
A majority has paid heed to our entreaties and I thank and applaud them. A minority has insisted that they will continue to behave irresponsibly and put their lives and the lives of others at risk.
Tonight we are seeing the manifestation of our deepest concerns where now the very education of our children is being jeopardized. This cannot be fair to our children or their parents. My government has committed to safe schools and ensuring that all of your children placed in our care are safe. We cannot achieve this if some of our teachers and other education officials and personnel remain unprotected.
To this end, I am to advise that the position of my Government is again to urge the immediate vaccination of all teachers, auxiliary school staff, day care and nursery providers, caregivers to the elderly, nurses and other medical staff, prison officers, police and other security personnel. If you will not do it for you then I beg of you to do it for those in your care and those who are depending on you.
My government will shortly distribute critical supplies such as hand sanitizers, masks and other protective gear to all our schools, daycare centres, hospital and health centres, homes for the elderly and also to our churches. As supplies permit, we shall also distribute to individuals in communities across Nevis. This will mark the second time that we have done this since the start of this pandemic.
My government’s position is that all bars, restaurants and places of recreation involving music and the sale of alcohol should be severely restricted in their hours of operation until such time as we are past this surge. We shall engage with the proprietors of such establishments to achieve this, barring which we shall suspend business and liquor licenses for those refusing to comply. During this time, there shall be no permission granted for any mass gatherings, parties or fetes. I have asked the Police and Security Forces on Nevis to be vigilant and to rigorously enforce the protocols enshrined in law.
My government shall continue to engage with the Federal Government in Basseterre to see how best to curtail the movement of persons during this difficult period whilst recognizing that the lockdowns mandated in the past should not be an immediate option.
Brothers and sisters, we have done reasonably well thus far in controlling this virus. But we must all recognize how fragile our island and its health system remains. We must all act responsibly and have a oneness of purpose if we are to ultimately defeat this monster that is COVID-19.
I ask you to pray for my government which is faced with threats to lives and livelihoods experienced but once in the last century. I ask you to pray for each other. I ask you to encourage your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues in the workplace, at church and in the community. I ask you to be responsible citizens and residents of our beloved island and country.
Now more than ever we need each other. Now more than ever we need to unite in the fight against COVID-19. Now more than ever we need wisdom and understanding. Now more than ever we need God’s grace and mercy.
Thank you and may God continue to guide and guard us all.