A look at two cruise ships docked at Port Zante on Wednesday 10th November 2021 (Spokesman Snap)

 BASSETERRE, ST.KITTTS (Wednesday 10th November, St.Kitts)- With daily travels to St.Kitts-Nevis leading up to the Christmas and Carnival season, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Hazel Laws is encouraging everyone to do their part in preventing a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic because the risk is “very real.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, there is no room for complacency at this time. Complacency is not an option. So yes our numbers might be down,however, please note that our borders are open,” she cautioned during her presentation at the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) COVID-19 Daily Briefing held on Wednesday 10th November 2021.

Notably, flights have started from 2nd November from hotspots in the US and Europe.

Dr. Laws added: “We are now receiving daily flights, commercial flights are coming in daily. We note an increase in the number of cruise ships that are docking and this would continue for the rest of the year and we are approaching Christmas [and] Carnival, and so we are going to see an increase in traffic in terms of inbound travellers and so the risk of a fourth wave is very real. 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues. The SARS COVID 2 virus remains a formidable foe. The outbreaks continue in the Caribbean region. At present  

She listed Anguilla, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Cayman Islands and Dominica which, at present, are experiencing an increase in cases.

 “So the virus is circulating in the Caribbean region, and it’s circulating globally as the pandemic continues.” Now we note that there is a surge of cases in Europe…and they’re preparing for an increase in the number of deaths by as much as 500,000 between now and February 2022.”

 “…and so I want us to remember this, and complacency is not an option. We cannot become complacent at this time. We need all hands on deck in terms of delaying and I dare say preventing a fourth wave.”

The CMO said vaccination is “our best weapon.”

“We have weapons at our disposal in terms of the COVID-19 prevention and social measures. Let’s use them and prevent this fourth wave. It’s possible. The vaccination is our best weapon so we need to continue our vaccination programme. In the Ministry of Health, we are at your disposal in terms of health talks , whatever it is you need to empower yourselves in terms of coming on board.”

Dr. Laws shared that she read an article in The Economist (from a media company headquartered in London, England) whereby the author was trying to predict what 2022 would look like.

According to her: “Based on what he posited-and I quote- ‘In the well-vaccinated wealthier countries of the world, year three or 2022 of the pandemic would be better than year two which is 2021, and COVID-19 would  have much less impact on health  and everyday activities’.”

She added: “So in other words, those countries which have achieved acceptable or high vaccination rates, they’re predicting that they would fear better in 2022 versus 2021. Those countries who have not attained a significant vaccination coverage, those countries with a high level of hesitancy may not fare as well as the richer countries that are well vaccinated, and so vaccination remains our best weapon. Let’s use it.”

Wearing facemasks and hand sanitization were also listed as other weapons that can help to prevent the fourth wave.

On the subject of social distancing, the CMO had this to say: “We are social being and recreation is a part of life but we need to be selective and we need to be wise in the context of COVID-19, and so we need to be careful where we go, what games we watch, you need to look at the crowds and protect yourself, maintain that adequate distance between yourself and others so keep and maintaining that social distance is of importance at this time as we approach Christmas and the context of our borders being opened.”

“Ladies and gentlemen we need all hands on deck in terms of preventing a fourth wave,” she encouraged.

Dr. Laws pointed out that the total population fully vaccinated is 52.3 % which she says “is an achievement.” 

The breakdown is 77. 6 % of the adult population have gotten the first dose with 73.3 % having the second dose and for children 12 to 17 years old, 12.8 % have gotten the first dose and 9.8 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Furthermore, she informed about such vaccination roll-out success which has led the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to pen an article whereby “St.Kitts-Nevis was acknowledged by PAHO as the first independent territory in the Caribbean subregion to cross this benchmark.”