24 May 2022
It has now been over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, St Helena’s Response plan as well as the cooperation of St Helena’s community has contributed to the Island remaining free from community spread. The recent reduction in quarantine arrangements was the first step of a phased approach toward St Helena moving to a new normal, a normal the rest of the world has labelled ‘Living with COVID’.
COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future and on St Helena, just like elsewhere, will now need to proactively prepare to live with COVID. This will entail producing robust plans to manage the risk to ourselves and others by keeping ourselves informed and responsive to any likely changes in respect of variances etc.
Over the coming months we have a unique opportunity to prepare for the eventuality of Living with COVID-19. On St Helena, we have embraced the COVID vaccination programme and have among one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. This includes the Booster Programme and vaccines for children and young people.
We appreciate and understand that many of us are worried about the impact which this might have on our community, and this is to be expected, especially when considering our success rate of keeping our community safe thus far, but we cannot afford to continue to provide this layer of protection forever. Feeling apprehensive is completely normal and as a responsible government we will ensure that we provide information that will hopefully help to reduce your anxiety.
Over the coming weeks we will be rolling out an education/awareness raising programme so that collectively, we start to prepare ourselves to ‘live with COVID-19’. This work will be led by our health team and will be based on guidance from the UK Health Security Agency (HSA) as well as World Health Organisation (WHO). Our new Chief Medical Officer who arrived this weekend, has considerable experience of working with infectious diseases including COVID-19 and he has already been providing us with invaluable advice and support even prior to his arrival.
We are in the process of establishing a COVID-19 Recovery Working Group which will include representatives from private sector key services and this group will take the lead in the following:
- To develop plans to ensure the continued delivery of essential services following the removal of COVID-19 restrictions
- To inform and educate workers about any new arrangements for service delivery that will be required
- To inform and educate the public about any new arrangements for service delivery that will be required.
The Health Director and Chief Medical Officer will be providing guidelines to assist and these will set out changes to practices such as social distancing, mask wearing as well as clearly defining who the ‘vulnerable’ members of our community are, particularly since the extent of vulnerability has been reduced with the high percentage of the population who have been fully vaccinated (including boosters) against the virus.
We are also developing our Humanitarian Aid Plan which will look at supporting vulnerable members of our community and defining how this will happen.
Moving forward will require commitment and teamwork from all of us and we look forward to taking these next steps together to do all we can to manage the risks these steps will bring.
23 May 2022