Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris (left) and His Excellency the Governor–General, Sir S. W. Tapley Seaton, GCMG, CVO, QC, JP.

by Loshaun Dixon

The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has been placed under a state of emergency as part of a scaled-up response to contain COVID-19 and minimize harm. It will remain for at least 14 days.

Up until Saturday morning St. Kitts and Nevis have had only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 but Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. Timothy Harris announced he asked the Governor-General Sir S. W. Tapley Seaton to declare a state of emergency effective 7:00 p.m. Saturday, March 28, 2020

“All citizens and residents will be subject to a curfew between the hours of 7:00 pm and 5:00 a.m. each day for the next 14 days.”

He explained that the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations provide for every person to remain confined to their place of residence, inclusive of their yard space, to avoid contact outside of their family, except in stipulated circumstances, for example, essential travel to the doctor, grocery store, bank, credit union, money services, business, pharmacy or to refuel vehicles.

PM Harris said the regulations provide for the closure of non-essential businesses and regulate the hours of opening for essential services. Specifically, section 5 enumerates the businesses which can open and their hours of business.

Dr. Harris said as part of the stepped-up response they have imposed social and physical distancing protocols as part of a plan to protect the people. “Businesses will be required to observe a physical distance of 6ft between their customers in and outside of their businesses.”

Regarding the public service, he said all essential workers must report to work. “The Secretary of Cabinet will determine any other category required to report for duty.”

He said given the congestion in public transport vehicle restrictions have been imposed to protect operators of public transport and their patrons. “Our National Working Group on COVID-19 met yesterday with bus operators of the 3 bus lines, and ferry operators to discuss matters in relation to COVID-19. I am advised that they were generally supportive of our measures to protect the lives of our people.”

He said the Cabinet was concerned about allegations that persons are not faithfully complying with the quarantine restrictions. “We cannot have anyone compromise the health and wellbeing and indeed the life of others. In this regard, I must advise that strong penalties including fines of up to $5000 or a term of imprisonment can be imposed on those who fail to comply with the Regulations. I hope that good sense will prevail.

“We recognize that these are unusual measures which restrict the free movement of our people. However, we are in an unprecedented time and the dangers that confront our Nation demand that the Government takes serious measures to confront and overcome this pandemic. I emphasize that these strong measures are for 14 days, in the first instance and we shall continue to evaluate and adapt as necessary – as the situation evolves.”

He also declared Sunday as a Day of Prayer in the Federation.

“As we face this monumental challenge we must not despair. Our faithful God is with us. In this regard, we have called on all the Churches in our Federation to observe a day of prayer on Sunday 29th March 2020. We recognize that we cannot congregate as we would wish to pray but I ask that each and every one of us bend our knees and bow our heads as we seek God’s grace and protection.”