NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (March 19, 2020) — The following is the full text of an address delivered by Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis and the Minister of Health on developments surrounding the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
My brothers and sisters good afternoon,
As promised when I made a statement two days ago, it is my intention to keep the Nevisian public fully informed with accurate information as to the developments surrounding the coronavirus or COVID-19 and this global pandemic.
I am pleased to report that as of today 19th March, 2020, our beloved Federation still has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Testing is being done and thus far we are grateful that all results obtained have been negative. While we pray that that continues we continue to prepare for the real possibility that over time we might develop cases here in Nevis and in the wider Federation. As such my government continues to take every prudent measure on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer Dr. [Hazel] Laws and the Federal Task Force as well as the head of our local effort Dr. Judy Nisbett.
I assure the Nevisian public that the NIA will continue to work closely with the Federal Government to ensure that timely and accurate information is quickly disseminated to the people of Nevis and that all protocols that are federally mandated are implemented and adhered to.
As we are all aware this is the sports season, a time looked forward to by many. The Gulf Insurance Inter Primary Sports Meet or Mini Olympics continues to be the largest sporting event in the Federation, attracting crowds of several thousands. This event was scheduled for April 1st, 2020. The Charlestown Primary School is the defending champion and I am aware that our young athletes at Charlestown Primary School and the other schools have been training hard with their coaches, teachers and their parents to put on the usual spectacular show.
In the face of the threat of COVID-19 and in my government’s usual consultative approach, a wide ranging stakeholder meeting was convened and consultation was held with the primary sponsor of the Inter Primary Championships, Gulf Insurance, all the primary schools on the island and our local task force leading the local effort on the island of Nevis.
On Monday, March 16th, a telephone conversation was had with Mr. Jason Clarke, the Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Insurance Ltd. It was made clear by Gulf Insurance that they would prefer that the Inter Primary schools meet be postponed.
On Wednesday 18th, a meeting was held with Superintendent Lyndon David of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, Nevis Branch, and he also recommended a postponement of the Inter Primary championship.
On Thursday, 19th, a telephone conversation with Karl Lewis of the local agent for Gulf Insurance Ltd. also revealed the local agent’s preference for postponement of the event.
A meeting of all head teachers of our primary schools and also the Cecele Browne Integrated School was held at 9:00 a.m. yesterday, March 18th, 2020. The feedback was solicited from the head teachers and also from the meet manager Mr. Garfield Virgo in relation to the upcoming Gulf Insurance Inter Primary championships. The unanimous position was that the Inter Primary championships be postponed until further notice.
A further meeting with the Nevis Task Force on COVID-19 led by Dr. Judy Nisbett was held at 2:00 p.m. on March 18th, 2020.
The task force voted unanimously that the event be suspended in light of the fact that the size of the event makes it difficult to control potential transmission and subsequent contact tracing.
The Department and Ministry of Education has also recommended that the Inter Primary championship be postponed.
The Cabinet of the NIA would have convened today under the chairmanship of the Hon. Alexis Jeffers, as Acting Premier, and has determined that in light of the strong recommendations of the primary sponsors and principal stakeholders that this year’s staging of the Inter Primary schools championship, scheduled for April 1, 2020, be postponed until further notice.
My brothers and sisters, we are also aware that the much anticipated Agricultural Open Day was scheduled for the 26th and 27th March 2020. After consultations with the various stakeholders and the indication from the Taiwanese and our friends from [St. Eustatius] Statia who normally attend in large numbers that they could not attend this year, the Cabinet has also accepted the recommendation that the Agricultural Open Day be postponed. At this point consideration will be given to hosting the Agricultural Open Day in October 2020, as part of the World Food Day activities.
Being cognizant of the need for greater food security, however, the Ministry and Department of Agriculture will on the 26th of March, 2020, stage a Farmers Market at the top of Government Road and will stage a similar event at Beach Road on the 27th of March. Thereafter Farmers Markets will be staged islandwide to allow residents to purchase essential food products.
As promised, we have convened meetings with the crop, animal and poultry farmers about increasing short term production to ensure greater food security on Nevis at this difficult time. A meeting occurred just yesterday 18th March, and the government will continue to work closely with our farmers and fishers to ensure the greatest possible food security for our island and our wider Federation is achieved.
Brothers and sisters, I appreciate that the postponement of large events such as Inter Primary and Agricultural Open Day would be unwelcomed by most. Many sports enthusiasts look forward with much anticipation to the Mini Olympics and the students compete each year for glory. I am also aware that many of our vendors look forward to these events to make a dollar. The decision therefore saddens me greatly but my Cabinet must be guided by the advice of the stakeholders. We apologise to all who will be disappointed by these decisions, especially our young athletes, our schools, the fans and of course our farmers.
We look forward to rescheduling these events and shall continue to engage the stakeholders to determine the best approach. However, for now the safety and security of our people must remain paramount.
I should also report, that we have now had word that some hotels on the island will be closing and others have already closed some departments. The economic shock at the household, local and national level will be substantial.
I commit to working closely with the Hon. Prime Minister [Dr. Timothy Harris] to determine the best approach for our people, bearing in mind that none of us brought this calamity on ourselves.
I advise lastly, that I have today written to the lone member of the Parliamentary Opposition the Hon. Cleone Stapleton Simmonds updating her on my government’s efforts thus far, and inviting her participation in the ongoing effort to ensure the safety and security of our people.
I urge even as I invite that agents and candidates of political parties cease and desist from the treasonous practice of spreading fake news to seek to mislead and alarm the Nevisian public. I urge our people to listen to our Chief Medical Officer and to the local team headed by Dr. Judy Nisbett for accurate and reliable information.
This critical time in the life of our island and nation demands calm and sober leadership. I will continue to provide the leadership for which the people of Nevis elected me, and I assure you that working together we can and will overcome this challenge.
I end by asking us all again to pray. God has never forsaken us and He never will. Let us not tire in seeking His face and asking for His continued grace and mercy.