Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis, February 15, 2023 [Press Secretary’s Office]: Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew attended the Plenary Session of the Forty-Fourth (44th) Regular Meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government Conference today at the Baha Mar Convention Center, Nassau, Bahamas, where he offered an intervention on health-related matters, especially on the ongoing issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
This session offered the opportunity for the Region’s Heads of Government to address several pertinent matters of regional concern and importance. The delegation received reports from various Heads of regional organizations, including the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), on priority matters such as food security, COVID-19 and other health-related matters, pandemic fund, inter-regional travel, and climate action amongst other key matters.
Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA, provided a report on the effects of COVID-19 and other health-related matters within the region and the role of the new Regional Health Security Agenda, as well as measures taken to mitigate health threats and climate change challenges within the region.
Dr. St. John also updated the Caribbean Community on the Pandemic Fund, which is hosted by the World Bank with the World Health Organization as the technical lead.
The Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew gave an intervention in support of the report given by Dr. Joy St. John and outlined the Federation’s status in relation to the management of COVID-19 and other health-related matters.
Prime Minister Drew outlined the impact of COVID-19 upon the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis since the full reopening of our borders and lauded the Ministry of Health (MOH) for its efforts in maintaining its COVID-19 surveillance, prevention, treatment, and control measures which are now integrated into the Federation’s overall communicable disease preparedness and response mechanism.
He added that “as of January 2023, the Omicron variant B.1.1.529 was the most prevalent variant identified in samples sent off to CARPHA’s Medical Microbiological Laboratory (CMML). The other lineages identified were Omicron BQ.1 and Omicron BA.5. In the Federation, we continue to maintain a good COVID-19 vaccination coverage rate whereby 57.2 % of the total population is fully vaccinated. However, access to ancestral COVID-19 vaccines and bivalent or variant
containing vaccines is a challenge. We have not had access to COVID-19 vaccines over the past four (4) months. The risk of further COVID-19 cases occurring in the Federation remains.”
Dr. Drew said It is important that CARICOM, through the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) continues to monitor the emerging variants. It is also critical that the CARICOM Secretariat aims to facilitate access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. We are a member of the ACT -Accelerator tracking & Monitoring Task Force and will continue to advocate for equitable access to these countermeasures needed to manage COVID-19.”
Prime Minister Dr. Drew urged his fellow Heads of Government to take advantage of the Pandemic Fund.
“Based on information received from Dr. St. John, CARPHA will submit an expression of interest and Saint Kitts and Nevis will follow. We intend to solicit funds to strengthen laboratory capacity and ascertain full accreditation of our public, medical laboratories. Colleagues, I encourage you to apply to the Pandemic Fund to strengthen health systems and ensure resilience individually and collectively,” the Prime Minister said.
He also emphasized that the region “should document the lessons learned and best practices employed to manage COVID-19 as it will enable the development of robust pandemic preparedness, and response mechanisms to reduce the socioeconomic impact upon the region.”