Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris’
Opening Remarks on WINN (98.9) FM’s
Inside the News – Saturday, April 11th, 2020
As Prepared for Delivery
- The Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, joins me today and I want to thank him for taking the time, at this very special time in our calendar, to be here because we are in very serious times – and he and his other colleagues are part of the front line in the offensive against COVID-19.
EASTER, AND THE LESSONS FROM JESUS
- We are actually celebrating Easter and perhaps it is a very good time for one to reflect a little bit on some of the messages or lessons from Easter.
- During this time, we certainly commemorate the passion, the suffering, the death on the cross and eventual resurrection of Jesus Christ. His crucifixion, we are told, was the greatest act of sacrifice for all mankind.
- As we learned in the book of Hebrews at Chapter 9 and Verse 28:
- Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
- Christ knew that when he died, he would take on the sins of the world — to set us all free – so that we may join him in Heaven.
- At a time when we face the greatest challenge across the world or the most significant health pandemic, the story of Jesus’ sacrifice has a special meaning – and as we reflect on that sacrifice, we may note that at this time, this Easter, we are called upon to make sacrifices as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
- I hope that, for all of us, we will see these sacrifices that we are making as a very small price we are paying for future freedom and, indeed, to add many years to our lives. What are some of the things persons now consider to be the sacrifices which they are making and which in any event they must continue to make? – the stay at home rule: making sure that we stay within the safety of our own homes; looking after our family members, in particular the elderly, and, of course, the young; checking on our neighbours, and making sure as much as possible that we safeguard our households by staying, as the Regulations describe, under shelter.
- Our faith also teaches us that we can be together in spirit and prayer, even if we are physically apart – and this is very important because Good Friday and Easter Sunday are among the most memorable in the Christian calendar apart from the Christmas services, and many churches do look forward to them. Indeed, I was reminded of that by several pastors a few days ago. In this regard, I want to begin on a note of commendation to the Church leadership, in particular the Evangelical Association and the Christian Council for their leadership and cooperation in the war on COVID-19. Indeed, the proactive stance of several of our churches very early on has basically helped us to avoid some of the challenges we have seen between the Church and State being played out in Jamaica and in Antigua closer by.
- This weekend, of course as at all times, I want to invite us as a nation to pray for every person, in particular those who have tested positive with respect to the coronavirus. I want us to pray for every family and every village across the length and breadth of St. Kitts & Nevis because together as a people we must face this pandemic and we must win by working constructively together. We must also pray that our land will be saved from pestilence and harm.
- Of course, the Easter story itself is never complete unless we reflect upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that we too will rise from where we are at now once we banish the pandemic from our shores. I remain confident, based on the excellent work of the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) and the Health Emergency Operations Center (HEOC), that we shall emerge victorious in this battle.
- So again I ask the people to hold faith and to do what we need must to ensure we get over this pandemic. The aim is to do so as quickly as possible.
THANK YOU TO OUR FRONT-LINE WORKERS
- I want now to say a special thank you to the medical professionals for the work that they continue to do in our Federation.
- They understand perhaps more than many of us that we are in a real war against this pandemic, and our healthcare workers have been doing an excellent job in fighting this invisible enemy and they have been fighting valiantly on behalf of all of us.
- In a previous public statement, I commended some 16 of our medical doctors who I am advised have shown such enthusiasm and dedication that they deserve public commendation, and I did so.
- We can’t help but extend congratulations and best wishes to our Police, our Defence Force, our Customs and Immigration Departments, among several other entities, which have been helping to ensure the effective implementation of the health policies as they relate to our ports of entry and that the Emergency Powers are all enforced, to ensure the safety and security of our Country. In my view, the front-line workers have all been shining examples of what we as a people in service to one Country must always be.
- So I want both as Prime Minister and as Minister of National Security to say how proud we are, and our country is indebted to these front-line workers, many of whom work within the Ministry of National Security.
HEALTH OF ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
- I want to give a snapshot of the situation report as of 3:00pm yesterday, Good Friday. We were advised that there were 1,521,252 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and it had caused 92,798 deaths worldwide. In the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, our count in terms of confirmed cases is 12, and luckily for us there are no deaths. Significantly, we have already tested 205 persons, and this puts us among the highest performing countries on a per capita basis with respect to what we are doing in testing.
- So there is where our health situation is. We are still in a rapidly evolving situation and, of course, the government policy evolves in relation to that.
THE MEASURES WE HAVE TAKEN
- Interestingly, on Thursday night, we started the 24-hour curfew to ensure social and physical distancing at this time – and what is the aim? The aim is to contain the transmission of the virus from one human to another by a set of measures, of which the 24-hour lockdown is just one. There are other elements that go with the lockdown, for example good hand hygien, as well as the boosting of one’s immune system. So I see them really as a repertoire of interventions that each mutually reinforces the other in order to put COVID-19 behind us.
- This, of course, is a very contagious disease, and so we are moving very rapidly to see how best we can stop the virus.
- I want to remind those who feel that they are being unduly inconvenienced that the measures have been taken to save lives. I want to repeat that when the pandemic came, no country, however powerful, however resourced, no matter how many scientists they had in their jurisdiction, no country has yet been able to deal with it effectively – and it is, as it were, trial and error for the largest of countries in terms of their responses.
- We continue to learn from experience. We continue to take advantage of the new information and the best practices that are emerging around the world, and to heed the professional advice of the NEOC and the HEOC, the critical elements that are buttressing the Government’s efforts to keep the people of St. Kitts and Nevis safe.
- A little later I will go on to speak about how our fiscal stimulus has been built out for the benefit of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
- I want to assure our citizens that your Government is working hard. Your Prime Minister is very active, and I keep myself seized of what is going on to ensure that this small Country that I love and which I call home will have the best support and the best service.
- From where I sit, and from the knowledge I have, I think that we are fortunate as a people to have the kinds of dedicated teams that we have in the HEOC headed by Dr. Hazel Laws and in the NEOC headed by Mr. Abdias Samuel. They have been excellent servants of the people. Their hard work and their commitment to see this through have been an inspiration to me as the Prime Minister and have motivated me to spend even more time and to pay more close attention to ensure that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, having led the way so far – as small as we are, we kept the pandemic from our shores for the longest while; we were the last among the independent states to have been visited by the virus – continues its excellent planning, which we had put in place.
- Some people do not see and could never see all the things that are being done, but in a careful and methodological way our health planners and our front-line people had been preparing for it. If the worst-case scenario were to emerge, St. Kitts and Nevis’ health system is at the best place that it can be to deal with the issues of the pandemic.
- I would want to invite our Medical Chief of Staff to give his opening remarks and to thank him in advance for his excellent support and service to the Federation and to the team – including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws and other colleagues – that he has been able to inspire, to ensure that the Country is where it is now – in a better position of readiness. I would dare say that it is in the strongest position of readiness of any of the countries in the Caribbean, and this is a remarkable achievement for our very small Country.
- So I commend his leadership and the leadership of all of society – because the Government took a stand very early to involve the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, to involve the Church, to involve the Bankers’ Association. Everyone with a voice is welcome to come play a constructive role – and the fact that so many have come and given support, not only in terms of ideas but physically and otherwise, is an indication of the success of our strategy of an all-of-society approach.