by Timothy Caines
There is an old adage that “the health of the nation is the wealth of the nation”. If we had reason to doubt it as a truism, or even think it superfluous, the onset of this Corona Virus pandemic has surely given us cause to reconsider. We have seen how the great countries of the world, with their large economies and seemingly limitless resources, grind to almost a standstill in the face of this invisible enemy. Considering their struggles with the pandemic and its effects, one would have thought that small developing nations such as ours would be far under water. To the contrary, St. Kitts and Nevis is being held out as a model in our handling of the pandemic, and indeed in Public Health.
We well remember that when this pandemic hit, there was no playbook. Every government and country was making it up as they go, because of the fluid and dynamic nature of the crisis. Though there were some practices and measures that crossed borders, each response had to be tailored to the reality and resources of the nation affected. Prime Minister Harris and his Government, relied on the advice of our national experts to craft policy and actions to protect the citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis. Some complained, some debated, some opposed; as is all our rights as citizens in this beacon of democracy. But in the end, I think we would all agree, that the Prime Minister’s, and St. Kitts and Nevis’ responses to, and handling of the Corona Virus thus far, has been best in the region and one of the best in the world.
Let is examine what we achieved…
Though we were among the last to close or borders, we were among the last to confirm a case, and have the lowest number of cases for any sovereign nation anywhere in the world. We endured the shortest period of total lock down, and were among the first to get back to some sense of normalcy. Cognizant of the economic fallout, our Prime Minister Harris responded with a One Hundred and Twenty Million stimulus ($120,000,000.00) package to bolster and transition the nation’s economy in the near term. It was the largest per dollar stimulus package in the region and the largest per capita anywhere in the world. We engaged a task force of national experts on both islands, to track and study the virus, as well as the latest developments, research and technologies worldwide, so as to advise the decision makers on the best courses of action in protecting our people. With the advent of a vaccine, we were among the first in the region to buy into a facility to ensure that it would be available to our people.
Our people gained confidence in the thoughtful, steady, and informed leadership of Prime Minister Timothy Harris, and our ability to win against the virus. Spurred by his call, we engaged that resilience and ingenuity, inherited from our forebears, and woven in the fabric of our being. In our spirit of shared responsibility, we developed an all of society approach that is the envy of the region and the world. For it is that all of society approach that has brought us such great success in combating the virus, and preventing its spread. Our team of National experts developed the best protocols, and we adhered. The wearing of masks, hand washing and sanitization; social distancing at work and schools. We then began the production of hand sanitizers and masks domestically. We produced more food, and helped each other so that we all have food. One would be hard-pressed to find another time when St. Kitts and Nevis, not just as a country but as two individual islands, was so together in a unity of purpose. Our oneness of mission resulted in us having no community spread, no hospitalizations and no deaths as a result of Covid-19.
Our successes are not by chance or happenstance. It is the thoughtful and deliberative style of leadership practiced by Prime Minister Harris. Looking to logic and expertise, experience and academia for the solutions to the problems facing the Nation, rather than what is politically expedient. His early buying into the COVAX facility, and the efforts of his Administration’s diplomacy, has secured vaccine for the majority of the population. Indeed, we are seeing an earlier than expected roll out of the vaccine; and a commendable response, with a reported 20% of the target population having already being vaccinated, just three weeks after roll-out. We witness again the shared responsibility and the all of society approach with reports of retired nurses coming back to assist with the administering of the vaccine; and business, political and social leaders taking and promoting the vaccine and a means to keep us all safe.
We must be ever mindful of what we have achieved; but more importantly, how we achieved it, and what it can mean for us here in St. Kitts and Nevis. With this same oneness of purpose we can not only respond to crisis, but be innovators and leaders in business, technology, agriculture, sport etc. We are not limited by our geographical size our population. Indeed in cases such as this, it is an advantage. If we keep engaged that ingenuity and oneness of purpose, and transfer to others arenas, we can lead the world, not only in a global health crisis, but in many other areas and indicators. We are a young nation yes, but it is written somewhere … “The baby shall lead them”.