By Caribbean News Global contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts – Following calls by the former prime minister and political leader of the opposition St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), Dr Denzil L Douglas, to lockdown St Kitts – Nevis to contain COVID-19, prime minister Dr Timothy Harris has imposed a curfew that will keep people off the streets during the hours of 7 pm – 5 am.
“Last evening I asked His Excellency the governor-general to declare a State of Emergency. Effective 7 pm [today] Saturday, March 28, 2020, all citizens and residents will be subject to a curfew between the hours of 7 pm and 5 am 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,” Harris said in an early morning broadcast.
He said 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:
- 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;
- Doctor’s offices, hospitals, and medical facilities;
- Pharmacies and medical supply establishments;
- Gas stations from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
- Hardware stores from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
- Hotels, excluding any casinos, spas, gyms, discotheques and restaurants therein. However such restaurants may offer takeaway or room service;
- 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;
- Commercial ports and related businesses between 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., subject to any variation by the Ports Authority;
- Airports subject to regulation 10;
- Commercial courier flights;
- Businesses licensed to provide security guard services;
- Takeaway food vendors from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
- The National Caribbean Insurance Company or health insurance companies; and
- 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 6 feet between 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 three bus lines, and ferry operators to discuss matters concerning COVID-19. I am advised that they were generally supportive of our measures to protect the lives of our people.
Prime minister Dr Harris said 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 $5,000 or a term of imprisonment can be imposed on those who fail to comply with the regulations. I hope that good sense will prevail,” said Dr Harris.
“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 the government takes 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,” said Harris who called on all the Churches in the Federation to observe a day of prayer on Sunday, March 29, 2020.