Earth Day Message to the Nation from the Political Leader of the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party, Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas
April 22, 2020
My fellow citizens and residents,
Today, I join with the international community to observe Earth Day.
Here in St. Kitts and Nevis we are so very blessed to be surrounded by the beauty of nature. From our majestic and lush mountain vistas to our crystal waters, diverse animal species and sparkling sunshine, our people should never take for granted how wonderfully blessed we are.
I know that counting our blessings is difficult to do at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the worst public health crisis our nation has ever seen and threatens to decimate our tourism-dependent economy.
However, we should always treasure our natural environment and always be thankful for the clean air we breathe, the fertile soil that provides us with nutritious fruits and vegetables that boost our immunity and the tranquillity of our beaches that brings calmness to our minds and spirits. We should reflect on these blessings and appreciate these gifts of nature that God has provided to us that will help us to endure, survive and overcome this latest challenge.
Therefore, even during this crisis we must continue to take the steps to protect our environment and to teach our children how to conserve water and electricity. We should practice re-using or eliminating plastics.
Climate Change poses the largest existential threat to our nation’s health. As we approach another Hurricane season let us begin to prepare for any disaster that may come even as we beseech the Almighty to spare our land yet another year.
This year, families are going to observe Earth Day in a different way because we are all called upon to stay home. However, this does not mean we cannot try to do our part through small acts to appreciate and protect our natural beauty and our environment.
I want to thank all our workers who provide essential services who put their lives at risk to keep our island clean and beautiful, such as our sanitation officers and our parks and beaches clean-up crews. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
While our number one focus right now is to win the battle with COVID-19 we will not neglect our environment. As we look towards the future in a post-COVID dispensation we must adapt to the new norm and build resilience in our economy in ways that would make life more affordable for families and protect our environment.
Under a NextGen SKN our great Federation will become first again by investing heavily in our agricultural sector, eco-tourism and renewable energy technologies. This is the pathway towards putting our people back to work and creating a brighter, cleaner and healthier future for everyone.
On behalf of the NextGen SKN Labour Party team of candidates, I wish you all a Happy Earth Day!
The irrational leadership style of the St Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister, Hon. Timothy Harris, was starkly highlighted in the recent National Assembly debate on the Coronavirus Pandemic. Harris’ late afternoon act of hastily reducing his State of Emergency (SOE) proclamation by half the length of his original plan, from 12 to 6 months, was very revealing to say the least.
Nothing Harris or his colleagues said in defence of their laughable request for such a lengthy SOE, was founded on medical science. Based on the ongoing fearfulness of the oublic of St. Kitts & Nevis, and under the disguise of a public health management requirement, this unnecessarily lengthy SOE was really designed to give Prime Minister Harris unchallengeable “emergency” powers over the electoral system. This includes limiting the movement of the SKNLP and NRP candidates and their supporters during the upcoming election campaign.
Moreover, the belief by many that Harris will stop at nothing to completely remove all political freedoms of Dr. Denzil Douglas, is now no longer so far-fetched. Arbitrarily demanding 12 months time from the National Assembly could only have been a sinister political move, designed by Harris to cheat the system into some kind of strategic advantage. Nevertheless, time is getting tight for Harris and his regime. Management of this health situation does not need six more months of lock down. It needs responsible human behaviour and trustworthy public health leadership, while we all work together to rebuild our economy. It is time for Harris and his colleagues to pack up and give the country time to breathe much needed fresh air, from their stench of corruption..
H.E. Steve Wrensford
Dr. Denzil L. Douglas: The Government has More than Enough Time to Prepare for an Election Under Social Distancing Protocols
Pointing out that the COVID19 coronavirus – has introduced a new norm in St Kitts and Nevis, Political Leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L . Douglas said Tuesday that if people can line up to shop at supermarkets and pharmacies and do business at banks, they can also line up to vote in the next general elections while observing social distancing.
Dr. Douglas in answer to a question, is seen as a response to a recent statement on Monday by Attorney General and Minister responsible for elections, Sen the Hon. Vincent Byron Jr, that the COVID-19 crisis should place general elections which must be held in St Kitts and Nevis by August 14, 2020 “on the back burner.”
“Every crisis has its unique and distinctive features and this pandemic calls for social distancing, the requirements of which do not prove an insurmountable obstacle that cannot be easily and effectively managed in an election scenario,” Dr. Douglas told listeners.
“If our people can line up to shop for groceries, go to the pharmacy and to the bank, they can line up to vote in exercise of their democratic freedoms. Our people love our democratic freedoms just as much as they love food to eat, medicine to make them well and money in the bank to buy the food and buy the medicine. They will line up to vote. They will line up and they will distance themselves six feet apart. They will be gloved up and masked up in order to vote,” said Dr. Douglas.
“Let us not fool ourselves. And so we have to examine carefully what we are being told by those who seem to have some kind of sinister agenda. Let us be very careful. The authorities have more than enough time to prepare,” said Dr. Douglas.
He is of the firm view that in light of the ‘new norm,’ the conduct of the next general elections “will have to be different.”
He noted that although the life of the current National Assembly ends on 14th May 2020 and time is short, “we are going to have our elections conducted in the next few weeks under conditions of social and physical distancing.”
“Each of us will have to wear a mask as we approach the polling station and as we take the ballot paper from the Presiding Officer … This is the new normal. Each of us voting might also have to wear gloves to handle the pencils which we may discard after making our “x.” In other words, life has changed and even though the period of time is relatively short for our upcoming elections, we had better begin to understand that social distancing and a limit on the numbers of people allowed to vote at each polling station will have to be instituted if we are going to obey the new realities that have been brought upon us by COVID-19,” the former prime minister said.
“We may even have to look at how we are going to vote. It may take one, two or three days. This is a situation where the rule of law and good governance are of critical importance. This is a paradigm shift that would have taken place as a result of the pandemic,” said Dr. Douglas.
In a direct reference to Prime minister Dr .Timothy Harris’ assertion that St Kitts and Nevis is at war in the fight against COVID-19, Dr. Douglas said: “We are not in any war. There are some people who would want you to believe that we are at war, but we are not at war in this country. We are still a blessed and peaceful country, but the realities are that certain changes would have to be made because of COVID-19 and its lingering effects that will last a prolonged period of time.”
The NextGen candidate for Constituency #6 also suggested that persons who are employed in essential services such as police officers, defense force soldiers, nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers generally, will need to vote early if they are to carry out their duties while exercising their rights as citizens to vote.
“These are some of the things we would have to consider. We will need more agents, more poll clerks, etc. to manage the (election) exercise,” Dr. Douglas said.
The points raised by the veteran political leader comes at a time when elections have been held in the State of Wisconsin in the United States and nation-wide general Parliamentary elections in South Korea have been held despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Families of employees in the hospitality and manufacturing sectors in St. Kitts and Nevis, who were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic were very grateful to receive Care packages delivered by the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas and other Candidates of the NextGenSKN Team under the auspices of the NextGenSKN Cares (Covid-19) Initiative, launched on Friday 3rd April, 2020.
Thursday 9th April, 2020 marked phase 2 of the deliveries of our targeted 5000 Care packages.
These employees, many of whom are single mothers and young people with predisposing chronic illnesses have been home for several weeks without government promised income support, and have been subjected to very limited shopping opportunities, having to stand in long lines for several hours while under 24 hours daily curfew since a State of Emergency was decreed by the Governor General and announced by the Prime Minister for several weeks now.
NextGenSKN Cares expresses gratitude to the benefactors of this Initiative and is grateful to continue to receive donations as previously announced in our first media update last weekend.
Phase 1 concentrated on delivery of over 1000 Care packages to the Covid-19 vulnerable persons such as the elderly, the infirmed, physically and mentally challenged.
9th April, 2020.
NextGenSKN Cares launched its first Project, NextGenSKN Cares Covid-19 Initiative, yesterday Friday 3rd April 2020 under the auspices of Hon. Marcella Liburd, Dr. Geoffrey Hanley and H.E. Steve Wrensford, of the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party, on Winnfm Radio and via Facebook live.
Today, Saturday April 4, 2020, all 8 members/Candidates of the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party’s NextGenSKN Team delivered simultaneously their first wave of over 1000 Care packages around the entire island of St Kitts, to deserving citizens and residents living in our capital city Basseterre and it’s suburbs, and throughout our various towns and villages.
The objective of NextGenSKN Cares COVID-19 Initiative is the distribution of about 4000 Care Packages to the socioeconomic displaced employees of the Hospitality and Manufacturing enclave sectors, most of whom are relatively young and receiving minimum wage, as well as the elderly, shut-ins, mentally challenged and less abled.
This Charitable Organ of the SKNLP NextGenSKN Team was able to secure contributions from a few benefactors at home and abroad and campaign funds of the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party, which were diverted for a COVID-19 Charitable cause. These were used to purchase items of food and personal hygiene to assist persons struggling to cope with the socioeconomic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recipients of the Care Packages have been very grateful, openly commenting their satisfaction. Many of our senior citizens were uncertain of the reliability of their regular meals, as their caretakers were distressed over the many hours of waiting in long lines outside the supermarkets to obtain basic groceries, and the curfews imposed by the COVID-19 Regulations under Emergency Powers of the Governor General.
Many persons at home and abroad have called to make contributions, whether financial or otherwise and are seeking guidance. NextGenSKN Cares wishes to inform persons that they can make such financial contributions/donations to:
SAVING ACCOUNT # 25561, at
St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank, in the name of: LABOUR OFFICE COMMITTEE.
This can be assessed internationally with the following wiring instructions through:
200 SOUTH BISCAYNE BOULEVARD, 12th Floor
MIAMI, FLORIDA 33131
TO CREDIT ACCOUNT
INO: ST KITTS NEVIS ANGUILLA NATIONAL BANK LTD
FOR FUTHER CREDIT
ACCOUNT NAME: Labour Office Committee
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 25561
Persons and organizations are also invited to make contributions of food and personal hygiene items. Further information can be obtained by calling +1-869-465-0300 or via email to email@example.com.
We wish to thank all the Candidates and their assistants for delivering the packages. We thank the suppliers and packers and COP Brandy and the Police High Command for their cooperation.
St Kitts-Nevis Labour (SKNLP) Parliamentary Representative for St Christopher 3 (West Basseterre), Hon. Konris Maynard and his wife, Mrs. Shamara Maynard have launched a COVID-19 Overseas Student Relief Fund to assist St. Kitts and Nevis students studying abroad who have been impacted by COVID-19.
“Their part time jobs are no more, but their rent and food bills will still be there. They can’t fly home and feel stranded. In an effort to stimulate some support for our students, my wife and I are committing EC$5000.00 to a COVID-19 Overseas Student Relief Fund,” he announced.
On March 20, Hon. Konris Maynard issued a public call for the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to assist Kittitian and Nevisian students studying overseas and who are caught up in the throes of the COVID-19 crisis. His call had an instant positive response from a national living in Atlanta, Georgia among several other locals.
“Our overseas students are an integral part of our future and absolutely critical to the sustainability of our country,” said the West Basseterre MP in a Facebook post.
He noted that the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government is yet to provide any assistance or relief to this group of citizens, adding that the local students are going to have it particularly rough time over the coming weeks.
Hon. Konris Maynard issued a call to “other good citizens to contribute to this fund to cushion the impact on our overseas students.”
Maynard promised to identify a credible professional or Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) to manage the fund and provide details accordingly.
“Let us always try our best to protect our future…and our overseas students form part of that future,” said Maynard.
Former St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister the Rt Hon Dr Denzil L Douglas and medical internist, Dr Terrance Drew, who advocates in educating the St Kitts and Nevis citizens and residents on the coronavirus, COVID-19, have secured a number of tests kits for our Federation.
“With the help of some very good friends and people who care about St Kitts and Nevis, we were able to secure test kits for the coronavirus, COVID-19,” Dr Drew said in a statement Tuesday.
He who received an advanced package said the full consignment which will arrive in St Kitts in a few days, will be offered to the Ministry of Health, “so that we can start to beef up testing.”
“With the number of tests done so far it’s certainly not enough. Moreover, we have to wait too long to get the results,” said Dr Drew, who pointed out that “the more we test, as was done in South Korea, the more information we will get in order to deal with this virus.”
Dr Drew said he is happy to hear that some things are being done.
“We now need to secure more ventilators, face masks, protective gear, more testing, another ICU area and bring in the Cuban specialists to help and fill the gaps,” said Dr Drew, who added: “we will aim to test at least 1000 (persons) with these kits.”
It has since been confirmed on Tuesday March 24, 2020 at 11:03pm that St. Kitts & Nevis has 2 cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dr Drew, who has been speaking about COVID-19 at press conferences, public meetings, during radio talkshows, and at primary and high schools, encouraged citizens and residents “to be calm and stay informed.”
“We will get through this together. At your service,” said Dr. Terrance Drew, the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) NextGen SKN candidate for St Christopher 8 in the next general elections.
Update on the COVID-19 Crisis and its Impacts – Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Political Leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party
March 25, 2020
My fellow citizens and residents,
I pray that this broadcast finds you and your families in good health and you are taking all the necessary precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the Coronavirus COVID-19 disease which has now impacted this entire region and the world. We must do what we can to prevent infection and contain the spread of this deadly virus.
And so we thank Almighty God that to date, there have been no announced infections and no deaths in this Federation. We must all continue to pray for God’s blessing and grace upon us. However, we cannot be naive and expect that we will escape what most countries in this world are already facing! The truth is that it is only a matter of time before we are confronted with our own case or cases of COVID-19. That is a truth we must be ready and prepared to face!
In order for us to face the truth, our government must tell us th truth. Our government must be open and transparent. We the citizens and residents must be kept informed about what steps our government is taking to protect us and save lives. Our government must tell us what steps we must take to help protect ourselves and save lives. We are all in this together. COVID-19 is an equal opportunity virus. It cares not for our political affiliation or ethnicity. It cares not whether we are rich or poor. It cares not whether we are young or old. It cares not whether we are employed or unemployed. It cares not whether we are in government or in opposition.
That is why I have pleaded with the government to put together a National Task Force comprising representatives of all stakeholders in the society to address this international pandemic. Instead, the government has chosen to go it alone, preferring instead merely to “consult” with stakeholders of its choosing. In the process, the government has excluded the Opposition Party in this country which represents a significant and sizeable portion of the population affected by this pandemic.
That is why I will continue to address this nation separately and ensure that the views and ideas of our Party on this pandemic are well known.
At this point I would also like to thank the public for expressing themselves so feely on social media and in other public forums. They have forced the PM to attempt to reply to their concerns and conceal the callous insensitivity that was so apparent in his address on Sunday night. Our people have demonstrated their power through social media and they should continue doing so.
The public health crisis caused by this pandemic is unfolding around us with tremendous speed. In the last few days, a number of our sister islands have now confirmed a number of COVID-19 cases: Dominica has 7 cases; St. Lucia 3 cases; Antigua 3; Trinidad & Tobago 53; Barbados 17; United State Virgin Islands 17; Saint Martin 8; Grenada 1; Montserrat 1; St. Vincent and the Grenadines 1;
We have all heard and read about the huge numbers of confirmed cases as well as deaths in some of the countries in which we have relatives and friends: the USA, UK, Canada, Dominican Republic , to name a few. These figures are mindboggling.
The steps being taken to control and stop the spread of the virus are also ever changing and becoming more and more urgent and drastic. Just within the last 72 hours the government of St. Lucia declared a state of National Emergency in the country. In Dominica, the government has ordered the closure of all night clubs and sporting facilities; public gatherings above 10 persons have been suspended; so too has in-person access to non-essential public services
Trinidad and Tobago is under lockdown. That lockdown has resulted in citizens of that country being quarantined in Barbados because their government would not allow them to land in Trinidad.
The United Kingdom, Italy, and France are also under lockdown. We have all been hearing about what has been happening in the United States as well as in Canada.
Right here in St. Kitts and Nevis, the adverse consequences of this pandemic are being felt, even while our government remains silent and missing in action: the tourism industry has been shut down. Cruise ships have disappeared and those of our citizens who relied on that industry for their livelihoods are quickly using up whatever savings they were able to put aside in the past. Airlines are also discontinuing flights as international airports around the world are shutting down. American Airlines has suspended all flights to St. Kitts and Nevis.
The hotel sector is quickly shutting down and hoteliers are reducing their operations as their occupancy levels have decreased considerably, if not totally vanished.
A huge part of our services sector relied almost exclusively on the tourism industry. With that industry in virtual collapse, there is much loss of employment and income for those of our people who earn their living from these jobs.
Yesterday’s address by the Prime Minister was not only late but woefully inadequate and disappointing. The information provided for the first time on the number of tests, the results of the tests especially in light of the large number of persons quarantined, raised more questions than they have answered.
The economic stimulus package has been promoted as a $120 million stimulus package but he has not provided the cost of the various elements of the package. However, on closer scrutiny it doesn’t seem to add to $120 million.
At first glance, it seems that the Government will rely primarily on capital projects to provide growth over the next few months. We must insist on greater transparency and competitiveness in the award of contracts if most of this money is to benefit our people and not end up in the pockets of a favoured few. Our people must resort to social media to report wrongdoing. This is our country and if a vast amount of our tax dollars is continually siphoned off, our people will suffer the consequences.
In virtually every country of the world, they have recognized that there is a huge risk that many businesses will go under. Hence much of the support has been directed to assisting the private sector as a whole and small businesses in particular. In the package announced by the Prime Minister, there is no such support for our businesses sector. The so-called package of $120 million contains only peanuts for those of our businesses that are most at risk. This will have disastrous consequences.
The reduction of corporate tax and unincorporated business tax for three months will not yield any relief because over that period most of our businesses are likely to incur losses and would not have any income on which to pay tax.
The postponement of property taxes until September would only delay the burden. After September when, hopefully, people are trying to recover from the impact, they will be faced with accumulated property taxes.
The Government is granting a waiver for water bills which are usually a small percentage of household expenditure but only a moratorium for electricity. It means that the burden is being deferred and not reduced. So our people will still have to pay the accumulated arrears after the end of the moratorium.
Similarly, the moratorium in respect of the Development Bank and NHC should be structured such that the borrowers would not be called upon to make increased payments at the end of the moratorium. This can be achieved by either an extension of the term of the loan or a waiver of such obligations over the specified period.
The Government will actually reward corporations that lay off as much as 25% of their workforce by reducing their corporation tax. This suggests that the Government actually condones the layoff of 25% of our workers. It is a clear signal of what the Government finds acceptable. But that is not acceptable to us.
Most of our hotels and tourism-related enterprises have already laid off hundreds of workers and if every other corporation in our Federation, whether they are directly affected by the coronavirus or not, lays off 25% of their workforce, the effect on our economy would be catastrophic. The aim of the Government should be to keep all of our workers employed through payroll support or through programmes like our most impactful short term work experience programmes. Unfortunately, there is no such initiative in the package. For a worker to get financial support he must contract the coronavirus disease.
It is also vital that that these assistance programmes for workers are administered in a structured and programmatic way to ensure maximum efficiency and avoid discrimination and victimization.
My fellow citizens and nationals, this is a national crisis of immense proportions. It requires an equally robust and aggressive response to overcome the public health crisis, and militate against the economic decline which accompanies it. It requires bold, imaginative and collective leadership. Sadly, this leadership has not been forthcoming. Sadly, there has been more concern for public relations and political posturing, than a sincere and diligent approach to crisis planning and management.
The time has now come for more decisive leadership. We cannot and should not wait for the announcement of confirmed cases or even deaths for us to take the steps which every other country is already taking, to ensure that we put ourselves at the front of the line in bending the curve of COVID-19, and ensuring the integrity and sustainability of our health system; as well as protect the lives of our doctors, nurses, other health providers and all other first responders who are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic.
There are steps which we can and should take NOW.
There is a need for the authorities to establish the importance of and firmly enforce public adherence to clear rules for social distancing in our schools, institutions and work places in order to prevent ad hoc, misguided responses that may not work in the public’s interest.
This is the stage at
which we need to ascertain, through an expansive testing drive, whether the
virus is already among us. We need to
ensure that all persons who arrive at our borders especially those coming from
high-risk countries are tested in order to confirm their status as a starting
point to detect, trace, manage and contain the virus. That is why there is a
dire need for greater transparency in the release of information pertaining to
the number of persons who have been quarantined and tested and what the results
have been. As has been advised by our
leading Health institutions such as the World Health Organisation, the key to
containing the virus at this stage is to “test, test, test”.
This is the only way to arrive at an accurate assessment of the
situation here on the ground in St. Kitts and Nevis. As well, I repeat my call for the government
to absorb the cost of testing as part of its national emergency response and
budget to ensure that maximum participation in this effort. Financial considerations must never trump our
public health imperatives.
Economic Stimulus Package
There is an urgent need for an economic stimulus package to assist workers as well as employers and businesses in these very difficult times.
We propose the following immediate initiatives:
- Introduction of and payment of Unemployment Benefits to all persons who have lost their employment as a result of this pandemic. These payments should begin immediately, made retroactive and should last for the entire duration of the pandemic.
- Provision of Direct Payroll Support to all tourism-related businesses, including Hoteliers, Restaurants, Bars, and Travel agents to encourage them to keep people employed.
- Provision of Direct Income Support to Taxi Drivers, Public transportation Buses, Tourist vendors and other hospitality industry based businesses to ensure that they can meet their business related expenses during this period.
- Suspend payment of VAT, corporate income tax and unincorporated business taxes by all businesses for the period.
- Reduce the cost of electricity by 50% for the months of March, April, and May (in the first instance) for All consumers.
- Provide a moratorium on principal and interest payments to customers of the St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank and the Development Bank for at least the next three months, in the first instance. Negotiate a similar arrangement with all other financial institutions in the country.
The loss of jobs in the tourism sector and the drastic slowdown in the service industry business and the cessation of international carrier traffic among other effects has the potential to deal a severe blow to our economic survivability.
The NextGen SKN Labour Party has therefore taken a policy decision to immediately appoint from its ranks and also from amongst experts from the financial and economic fraternity a special Council to advise the new Labour administration with respect to an economic stimulus programme to jumpstart the economy at the beginning of our new term in office. The Council will consist of professionals with expertise in specific areas such as finance, economics, health, tourism and manufacturing.
I am pleased to learn that our government has reached out to friends in the international community such as the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC), Cuba and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, for technical, personnel, supplies and material support. I would like to thank Dr. Terrance Drew, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party’s candidate for strongly advocating that this step be taken as part of our national preparations and response.
It is my hope that moving forward our national response will be a proactive response that puts our people above politics in order to make a reality of independent proposals that assist and protect our people. I continue to call on our faith-based and non-governmental organisations to enlist in this cause by providing community-based responses that would reach out to the most vulnerable in our society – our single mothers, our homeless and those suffering various forms of domestic abuse. I continue to challenge each of us to do our part in observing the guidelines for personal hygiene, in order to break the chain of any potential transmission to others. We welcome the steps that are now being taken to protect our elderly who are in public and private nursing homes, however more can be done to train and sensitize those heads of households who are the primary caregivers for their sick and elderly.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party will continue its public outreach activities on a constituency, by constituency basis, over the coming weeks and we look forward to engage you once again in the very near future.
My fellow citizens and residents,
I speak to you today at a time when we are all anxious and concerned about the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that is creating crises around the world. While we in St. Kitts and Nevis await the announcement of any known case, we should nonetheless be aware, that it is only a matter of time. Therefore, it is extremely important and urgent that we prepare ourselves and be ready, not just to prevent the spread but to also to detect, manage and contain the transmission of this very contagious virus.
We are all aware that 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, social and commercial impacts as well. Just recently, in North America, as well as in the Caribbean, Heads of government have made announcements and issued guidelines, about what is needed to prevent and manage the transmission of the disease. We need to ensure that we follow the best practices that are being used world-wide.
The health and economic impact of this pandemic on St. Kitts and Nevis will be immense and expansive. It has already affected our tourism industry and services sectors. It will continue to affect our businesses, especially our small businesses; our state institutions, our schools, our government offices, and more importantly, it can overwhelm our health institutions and our health system.
To address this pandemic effectively and minimize its adverse effects we must approach this together – all of us. This pandemic does not care about your political affiliation. It does not care about your ethnicity or whether you are a resident or a citizen. It cares not whether you are rich or poor, able or disabled. What is needed today is a unified approach setting aside all political and ideological differences and coalescing around a common and agreed strategy.
That is why, last week we called on the government to take a whole-of- government and whole-of-society approach by establishing a National COVID-19 Task Force, and we indicated our readiness and willingness to work with the authorities, the private sector and all social partners in order to save lives and to protect our people. We repeat today our call for our government to set up this National Taskforce consisting of experts from the infectious disease and medical fraternity, civil society and business community in order to develop a comprehensive national approach to address this issue.
We as a responsible party have ideas, as we suspect other groups have, as to the way in which this matter should be handled.
There are numerous steps and measures which have already been announced in other jurisdictions which may be considered in St. Kitts and Nevis. Perhaps the most important of these is the measure of social distancing. We must break the chain of transmission of any case that is among us already. This is essential and we must practice social distancing in our daily lives to overcome this crisis.
We urge the Harris administration, and the Prime Minister in particular to be proactive and forthright in addressing the people about the specific preparations that are being made and the protocols that are being followed.
Each of us must play our part. Personal hygiene is key in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Therefore we should all practice the following, I remind you of these as a medical doctor:
- Wash our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, specially after using the bathroom and before eating;
- We should cough into a tissue or flexed elbow;
- Avoid touching our faces, eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid handshakes;
- Avoid large crowds and practice social distancing;
- We should clean and disinfect frequently objects and surfaces that are touched often;
- We should self-monitor and call the doctor’s office if we are unwell;
- We should use hand sanitizer with high alcohol content of at least 60%.
These simple tips can save lives. We commend all the institutions which have taken steps to practice social distancing.
While we take these personal steps and institutional steps to implement these guidelines, there is still a need for a national conversation to address the institutional and economic fallout from this pandemic.
The first and most immediate step that must be taken is to ensure that our health system is well resourced and equipped with the right technologies and well-trained staff. There is a critical need for more ventilators, respirators and ICU equipment. Our health care practitioners will be severely impacted, especially our doctors, nurses, cleaners and emergency personnel who will be at the front line of this fight. There might be a need to recall some of our retired nurses in order to assist with efforts. There is a desperate need for a hotline linked to the critical health personnel where people can give and receive information.
Where there are gaps and shortcomings we asking that the government SEEK HELP from our friends and partners in Taiwan, Cuba and around the Caribbean region which can provide the additional technical, logistical, material and technological support.
Then there is the financial and economic impact. There is no doubt that every citizen and resident will be affected. The closing of our schools and our day care centers close will impact our parents. The closing of our businesses will impact their employees and the many people who depend on their goods and services. The announcement by the cruise ships to suspend their itineraries in the Caribbean region will adversely affect our taxi drivers, restaurant workers and the thousands who work in our hotel and tourism sector. In light of the loss of employment we are urging the government of St. Kitts and Nevis to explore measures that would provide income support to our vulnerable citizens who will be disproportionately affected by the economic impact of the pandemic. We are calling on the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to institute price controls for a limited period to prevent price gouging on essential goods. Our businesses should seek to provide online options for purchasing and delivery of goods and services.
We also hope that at the time of recovery from this crisis appropriate stimulus measures, will be instituted to assist our businesses.
We would like to encourage our local banks to suspend payments on mortgages and student and other loans and to put a moratorium on penalties and late fees.
In the short term, we would like to urge the Harris administration to consider implementing a form of Unemployment Insurance that would provide a weekly, fortnightly or monthly stipend for individuals who may have lost their jobs as a result of downsizing – particularly those in the tourism and manufacturing sectors. Our people must be given the assurance that they will not be thrown out of their homes, their businesses will not be foreclosed on and students won’t lose their student loans. A rationing system may need to be put in place to ensure that we do not run out of food and other essential goods.
This is a time for our nation to come together, for our communities to come together and for us to all be our brothers’ keeper. We must resist the natural instinct to each look inward as to what we must do to secure the survival of ourselves and our families. This is not the Kittitian and Nevisian way. I urge us all to be considerate of others and to look out for those who are most vulnerable among us – the homeless, the mentally challenged, the elderly and shut-ins to ensure that they too are coping. And even our youths must remember that you can be vulnerable. We are a resilient people and we will overcome this latest challenge, but it will take discipline and adapting our way of life to the present context. It will take rising to a new normal that, it is my hope, will elevate all humanity to a new way of life and social and economic interaction that is more balanced, more fair, more empathetic and compassionate.
My thoughts and prayers are with you all, my fellow citizens and residents of our proud St. Kitts and Nevis.
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.