BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris says the local economy has been “buffeted and battered” by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and warned nationals that “these are difficult times” for the twin-island Federation.
But he told a news conference that his newly re-elected government is doing everything possible to weather the storm.
“We continue to listen, review and help our beloved citizens and residents where and when we can. All we have done with respect to our stimulus package in excess of EC$120 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) we have done without borrowing one cent.
“We are alone in this fiscal space, and we thank God for His blessings. Our savings however are limited, and the Federal government has reprioritized its expenditures for 2020 to allow us to respond to COVID-19 and the huge threat it poses for the displaced, unemployed, poor and needy in our country,” Harris said.
He told reporters that the country’s risk preference from the onset was very low and that is why it was among the first in the region to close its borders and the last to open up.
“We were right to pursue a strategy of risk aversion. The experience from the region and elsewhere attests to the correctness of our stance. Our strategy continues to be anchored on the careful phased reopening of our economy and society.
“First, to reboot the domestic economy, we identified low-risk and critical sectors for opening up, starting with agriculture and fisheries sectors in which it is easy to do social distancing. After opening up the agriculture sector, we addressed other sectors: construction then manufacturing, etc.
“Our churches are regular places of worship, and again COVID-19 protocols must be observed. Our schools are getting ready for opening up in September. All sectors of our economy and the wider society except for the hotel subsector are back in business.”
St. Kitts-Nevis has reported 17 cases of the virus that was first detected in China last December and linked to 741,000 deaths and the infection of 20.3 million others worldwide. The twin island Federation has not recorded any deaths.
Harris said that despite the present scenario, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is still very fluid and challenging and the statistics change from day to day.
He said the experiences elsewhere, for example in England, Australia, Vietnam, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan, have shown that as the countries relaxed restrictions too quickly, after their apparent success at controlling the virus, they suffer a resurgence.
“The moral: never become complacent. It is not over until it is really over. Germany, Spain, and Denmark have recently introduced drastic measures, including lockdown to curb the spiraling of COVID-19 cases. Bahamas, Belize, Aruba and other countries in our region have done likewise.
“The prescriptions given by our health experts must be faithfully and consistently followed, particularly relating to the wearing of masks in the company of others outside one’s household and the regular, thorough washing of hands with soap, as well as the observance of etiquette as it relates to sneezing and coughing will help us to protect each other so long as all of us abide by these simple rules. Please let us do our very best.”
Harris said that government offices and businesses, including operators of buses, bars and restaurants, must not allow anyone entry who is not wearing a mask appropriately.
“The fine for not wearing masks in the company of others in public can be avoided by simply wearing or carrying your mask with you at all times. It can be a life-saving measure in the absence of a vaccine,” he added.