There is now just one country across the Americas that has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. Saint Kitts and Nevis is the only country in both North and South America that has not reported COVID-19.
Until March 24, two other countries in the Americas—Belize and Dominica—had no cases of the virus, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) daily situation report.
On March 18, St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Timothy Harris tweeted confirming the country still had no confirmed cases and that the government was “working hard to keep it at bay as long as possible.”
On Monday, the government issued stricter travel restrictions. It told people coming from areas affected by coronavirus, including the U.S., Europe and China, not to travel to the island. “You will be refused entry unless an exceptional case for entry is made,” Harris said in a national address.
The government also said anyone arriving in the country would have to go through an “advanced screening process” for COVID-19, “regardless of [the] point of origin.” Non-nationals would be subjected to a mandatory quarantine for at least 14 days at government sites, where they will have their health checked on a daily basis, a statement from the St.Kitts and Nevis Information Service said.
In an address to the nation last Sunday, Harris said his government had been preparing for the pandemic from early in the year. “The strongest global economies such as the United States of America, Mainland China and Japan are being impacted,” he said. “But it is a matter of stark contrast that with over 170 countries infected with the coronavirus, St. Kitts and Nevis, the smallest of the world’s economies, is yet to record a confirmed case of COVID-19.”
He continued: “For months now, our plan has been to keep our people safe and to emerge from the advent of this COVID-19 as a stronger, safer and more united country. Unlike some countries, we did not wait for the virus to hit our shores. Instead, we have been working with the experts and studying, analyzing and strategizing, utilizing various scenarios.”
Harris said the impact on public health and safety had been assessed and that they were confident the nation was “as prepared as we can be.” He also said they were getting more protective equipment, including masks and gloves. “Our early preparations mean we are ahead of several countries in the queue for necessary items, which require urgent production.”
As well as its travel restrictions, Harris also said social distancing was important to stop the spread of COVID-19. He said sporting events were canceled, while visits to prisons were being restricted. The government has also restricted visits to centers that care for the elderly.
According to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard tracking cases of the virus (at time of writing), there are now more than 435,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That is around 50,000 more cases than it had confirmed 24 hours earlier.
At a press briefing on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters: “The pandemic is accelerating. It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.”
Cases in the U.S. are rising fast. On Tuesday, it was announced the U.S. and Europe accounted for 85 percent of new cases, with America making up 40 percent of those. Asked if the U.S. could become the next center for the outbreak, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential.”