Still no date to enter Bubble and no date for border opening

By Staff writer, MyVue,

Basseterre, 25th September, 2020, (MyVue – Like so many other countries, both within the Caribbean region and further afield, St. Kitts & Nevis is still trying to find the right balance between reviving its national economy and protecting the citizens from a more serious outbreak of the Coronavirus.

While some Caribbean nations have agreed to activate a Travel Bubble, to give new life to intra-regional travel and generate much needed income from tourism, St. Kitts and Nevis has decided to take a more careful approach, though it has already consented to open its borders as a future participant.

For many residents and business operators in St. Kitts and Nevis and nationals currently stuck overseas, there are 3 main questions for which answers are being sought.

The first is, When will the borders be actually opened; secondly, what will be the conditions for travel to the islands; and in the event of a serious outbreak, (high numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths), how prepared is the twin-island state, to handle such a medical emergency.

Since March, 2020, St. Kitts and Nevis has prided itself with a Grade-A performance, managing to restrict the number of confirmed cases to 19 and to avoid a death count.

The country has also engaged in a commendable testing program, and up to Wednesday, 23rd, September, 2020, had tested 2,205 persons, with only 19 being positive, with 17 recovered, and only 2 active.

The other reality being faced by this small developing nation, is the rise in unemployment, closure and suspension of businesses, a pause in tourist arrivals, and significant drops in government revenue, all due to the COVID-19.

In response, government has buffered the fallout by introducing a generous stimulus package that appears to have eased the burden of vulnerable groups and the unemployed.

But all this is temporary. What is urgently needed is the reopening of the borders, and effectively the re-start of normal economic activity.

This is the objective that is driving the Caribbean countries to establish and operate the Travel Bubble.

CARICOM Governments agreed that the Bubble will begin from 18th September, 2020, but this was not applicable to St. Kitts and Nevis.

Those countries that agreed to the Bubble are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados, as of 22nd September, have all put their arrangements in place and have commenced operating the Travel Bubble, said a government release in Basseterre.

The other Member States and Associate Members will be allowed to participate when they meet the criteria, added the release.

To help educate Kittitians and Nevisians about the conditions of operating in the Bubble, Chief Medical Officer for St. Kitts & Nevis, Dr. Hazel Laws shared some of the eligibility criteria for countries to participate.
“Only those territories where there are no reported COVID-19 cases or those territories with low risk – meaning those territories that meet these criteria whereby there is a COVID-19 case notification rate of less than 20 new cases per 1000 population within the last 14-day period – will be eligible to be a part of this CARICOM bubble,” said Dr. Laws.

“The territories must have adequate quarantine and isolation sites for persons who are asymptomatic or mildly affected by COVID-19 and these facilities must be separate from the facilities that are designated for visitors and tourists.”
The CMO further indicated that the islands within the Bubble must have “adequate resources to treat severe and critical cases and these islands must each have similar pre-arrival screening requirements and health screening procedures on arrival at the airports. There must be a centralized posting, communication platform or national website where anyone can find the requirements for the countries within the CARICOM bubble.”
Travelers participating in the bubble are not required to take a pre-arrival RT-PCR test nor undergo a period of quarantine in order to travel to countries that are within the Bubble. However, travelers will be subjected to screening on arrival.

Important to note, Dr. Laws added that travelers should have been resident to a Bubble country or should not have travelled to a country outside of the Bubble for at least 14-21 days prior to the date of travel.
The other Member States and Associate Members will be allowed to participate when they meet the criteria.

Dr. Hazel Laws, Chief Medical Officer (CMO)

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