The Parliamentary Opposition is very disturbed and concerned by the continued failure of the Harris administration to proactively address the looming threat of the Coronavirus COVID-19 arriving at our shores here in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Developments in relation to the spread of the deadly virus are changing rapidly, virtually by the minute, as countries around the world try to cope with its effects, not just on their public health system, but the economic, education and commercial impacts as well. In North America, the Trump Administration has requested that all cruise lines cease operations world-wide, and some international flights have been grounded. It is only a matter of time before major manufacturing and shipping routes may close down.
The health and economic impact on our country will be long term and of immense effect, particularly with regard to the impact on tourism, which is the main driver of our economy. There is no way of foretelling how long this crisis situation will last.
Within the Caribbean region, the virus has now spread to Jamaica, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana, with Trinidad and Tobago possibly joining the list.
In the meantime, the Harris administration has demonstrated little leadership. This is a situation that cannot be left to the technocrats in the Ministry of Health alone. It will need a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, which includes the Opposition. All around the region, Heads of Government are providing the leadership by addressing their nations and providing a detailed plan of action that addresses the multiple aspects to the present crisis, whether it be in training, detection and prevention, monitoring and containment, to providing relief to the people whose livelihoods will be directly affected by the crisis or have their work-lives interrupted as a result. The government has been utterly silent for instance in terms of what contingency plan will be put in place for our students to continue their work remotely in the event that our schools are forced to close. With many students without laptops or access to personal computers in their homes since the suspension of the one-to-one laptop programme, what will the government put in place to ensure continuity of student life as we know it even under emergency conditions?
At this stage, with the coronavirus virtually at our doorsteps, if it is not here already, our country is at high risk of grinding to a complete halt socially and economically due to the ineptitude of the leadership in the Harris administration. At the same time, the Prime Minister continues to be distracted and beleaguered by internal strife and scandal within his coalition and to delay general elections that are long overdue, as of February 16, 2020. His priorities are simply not in the right place. He is single-minded about his intention to secure his personal victory. For instance, this is a time for the government to be taking a conservative approach to its fiscal spending in order to prepare for the rough days ahead. However the Prime Minister has been overspending on unimportant matters instead of conserving resources for this national crisis – such as shoring up our health infrastructure by first establishing a field hospital with the beds and equipment required to ensure that our few sick are not condemned to death but would be part of the percentage who should be able survive the disease.
The calling of the general elections may very well be the solution to the present crisis, to ensure that St. Kitts and Nevis can settle down under new leadership and provide focused attention to effectively dealing with the immediate and long term challenges ahead. The NextGen SKN Labour Party stands ready to lead. Our team continues to demonstrate daily that we have the competence, the compassion and the capability to take action in a way that delivers results and provides relief to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis along the way.
Over the coming weeks we will continue our outreach activities to sensitize the public about coping with and warding off the present crisis and will use our convening power to generate multi-stakeholder discussions and action on the issue.
Our nation is better when we work together. Our hearts and minds are with our already overstretched nurses, emergency personnel, customs and immigration officers and health officials who are all at the front lines of this challenge. But are they adequately prepared with the support of our Government? Our country has endured many daunting challenges in the past and we are confident that we will overcome this latest challenge. However, the key to success is leadership and a united, focused and rapid response. This is what the NextGen SKN Labour Party intends to provide over the coming weeks and months.