Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris says the reopening of the borders on Saturday will provide an opportunity for the reunification of families as well as give a sense of normalcy in the twin-island Federation.
The country, like several others in the Caribbean, had shut its borders in March in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that infected 19 people on the island.
Harris said his coalition administration did not take the decision to reopen the international airport lightly given the ongoing threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harris said one of the main reasons behind the government’s decision to fully reopen the borders at this time is to allow for citizens and permanent residents who have been trapped abroad for months to return home to the Federation.
“They have families waiting for them to return, churches, communities, and jobs waiting for them. We did promise that when we regained some normalcy our people would be allowed to return home. Things are now relatively under control.
“After seven months in another country, it is time for our people who want to, to be able to return home. After all, we are agreed that there is no place like home, especially when that home is St. Kitts and Nevis,” Prime Minister Harris said.
He noted also that reopening the borders will bring about a sense of near normalcy in the lives of citizens and residents, particularly as it relates to persons being able to return to gainful employment.
“Work is a critical aspect of that normalcy. When COVID-19 struck just over seven months over 26,000 jobs were available in St. Kitts and Nevis. The highest in history. Some people held more than two jobs and I want to commend their industry and willingness to work.
“For them it is no longer the same. People need the self-worth, the routine, the stability and income that a job provides. A reason to get up and something to look forward to do. Work adds a sense of balance, purpose and it helps to anchor one’s health.
“ We admit that we cannot keep the economy locked down in perpetuity or for too long as certain sectors would be completely destroyed,” Prime Minister Harris said, while noting that at this stage the government knows enough to open carefully and safely.
Furthermore, he said that the return of commercial flights and travellers to St. Kitts-Nevis will also allow for hotels, guest houses and residences to re-engage some of those who were earlier laid off.
“Our country is part of the world and we are stepping up our efforts to restore our economy. Allowing tourism to rebuild is a critical part of our recovery plan. We will open up safely. Our medical experts have established protocols for us to do so,” he added.
But Harris also encouraged citizens and residents to continue to adhere to the established COVID-19 guidelines “if we are to protect ourselves, our families, our loved ones, and our country”.