Prime Minister Timothy Harris Announces State of Emergency to Protect Citizens from COVID-19


by Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris

Prime Minister

Saturday, March 28, 2020

“State of Emergency Declared to Protect Citizens From COVID-19” 

Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:

Last evening I asked His Excellency the Governor General to declare a state of emergency.  Effective 7:00 p.m. today 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.  This is part of our scaled up response to contain COVID-19 and minimize harm to our people.

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.

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.

The following services are necessary for the proper functioning of our Country:

  1. wholesale or retail grocery stores; commercial bakeries; or fruit and vegetable vendors shall open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The regulations further stipulate that for the first two hours of shopping seniors, disabled persons and essential workers with identification shall be granted priority;
  2. doctor’s offices, hospitals and medical facilities;
  3. pharmacies and medical supply establishments;
  4. gas stations from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
  5. hardware stores from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
  6. hotels, excluding any casinos, spas, gyms, discotheques and restaurants therein. However such restaurants may offer takeaway or room service;
  7. banks, credit unions and money services business from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., on Mondays to Thursdays and 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Fridays;
  8. commercial ports and related businesses between 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., subject to any variation by the Ports Authority;
  9. airports subject to regulation 10;
  10. commercial courier flights;
  11. businesses licensed to provide security guard services;
  12. takeaway food vendors from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
  13. the National Caribbean Insurance Company or health insurance companies; and
  14. such other businesses or undertakings as may be specifically exempted in writing by the Commissioner of Police.

As part of the stepped up response we have imposed social and physical distancing protocols as part of our plan to protect you. Businesses will be required to observe a physical distance of 6ft between its customers in and outside of their businesses.

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

Given the congestion in public transport vehicles and the potential for contagion we have imposed certain restrictions 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.

The Cabinet remains 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 Government takes the 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.

Day of Prayer

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.

As Prime Minister, I commit that I shall do what’s right for the people of this Federation. Your best interest is my guide.  Let us continue to be calm and to confront this crisis together. I am confident that God will not forsake us and that together we shall overcome.

May God bless the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Thank you!

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