Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis started its vaccination programme with the Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine on February 22, however, Minister of Health, The Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett is advising citizens and residents that adhering to the non-pharmaceutical measures are still important and necessary.
Minister Byron-Nisbett said this during her support of the Bill shortly entitled COVID-19 Prevention and Control (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which was passed into law on March 04, 2021, at a Sitting of Parliament.
The Bill clarified whether a person is properly wearing a face mask. Section Eight, Subsection One, of the Act was replaced with a new one stating “Notwithstanding the provisions of the Small Charges Act, Cap.4.36, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, when in a public place a person shall wear a face mask covering his or her a) nose b) mouth and c) chin.”
“We won’t be able to ease or relax our non-pharmaceutical measures until we are able to achieve herd immunity, that is, having at least 70 percent of our population vaccinated,” she said during her presentation. “That is why we are here today making this small amendment.”
Minister Byron-Nisbett said that the general public needs to understand that the wearing of masks is still important.
“In order for us to ensure that we maintain our life first approach, we have to step up on our enforcement,” she said. “…What we are trying to achieve is that persons are clear that wearing a mask covering their nose, mouth, and chin is what will be considered to be wearing your mask correctly in public.”
She noted that the amendment to the Bill makes it easier for police officers to enforce the law.
“This allows when the Police approach you and say to you, you are not wearing your mask correctly and I have to ticket you as such, it is by law they would be able to tell you, you are wearing your mask on your chin, that is not wearing your mask,” she stated. “You are wearing your mask around your neck, that is not wearing your mask; you are wearing your mask on your forehead, that is not what this Bill means when it says wearing a mask.”
She emphasized that wearing a mask means that persons are covering their nose, mouth, and chin.
She added that in Part Three of the Bill would make some amendments to Schedule Eight, which speaks to the Fixed Penalty Notice Ticket. The fixed penalty is $100 for persons who are not wearing their masks correctly.
“The whole purpose of this amendment is to make sure that people understand the non-pharmaceutical measures that we have been taking are what have been saving us thus far,” she said. “We cannot ease up on those measures because we have begun rolling out the vaccine. We are not yet in a position to ease up on our non-pharmaceutical measures because we do not have enough persons vaccinated.”
Minister Byron-Nisbett said that for the country to get back to a sense of normalcy, that is, not having to worry about wearing a mask and concerned about being ticketed, persons should consider taking the vaccine.
As of March 4, 2021, 2689 persons have been vaccinated with the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, according to Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws.