STATEMENT OF HIS EXCELLENCE GOVERNOR
ON COVID-19 CURFEW
AUGUST 25, 2020
Good afternoon everyone,
I know that the announcements that we have more COVID-19 cases, which means that the Territory is now classified with “case clusters”, will be of great concern to everyone. Intensive contact monitoring and further testing is underway. UK supplied test kits, lab equipment and rapid test machine contribute to the speed at which this can be done.
As a Cabinet, we debated at length about how to avoid a total closure, while ensuring the safety and protection of people. These decisions have been driven by motivation; to protect yourself and the general population of the Territory. Our strategy as a Cabinet at all times has been to put safety first, to be safe rather than sorry. We have to balance the need to keep people safe, keep our economy running as much as possible, and the need for essential services to work.
We have had to make difficult decisions. And I know that those decisions will affect people’s livelihoods, income, businesses, and way of life. We need to seize this opportunity that we have now to try to stop the virus and that is why we are moving to restrict business only in absolutely essential areas. We also ask people to restrict their movements to only those that are essential. The safest thing you can do is avoid contact with other people as much as possible. The Minister of Health explained the details of the new measures. These include:
• Starting tomorrow morning (Wednesday, August 26) from 5:00 am for seven days in the first instance, only those businesses that provide essential services will be open, as established by the Minister yesterday. All other businesses and workplaces must be closed.
• People will be able to leave their homes from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm but we ask that you limit this as much as possible and only do so to access essential services and activities.
• There will be a strict curfew every day from 5:00 pm until 5:00 am During that time, you will be asked to remain in your homes or in the confines of your yard. And I urge all employers of any business that is allowed to be open to be accountable and close on time so that their employees and customers have time to get home by 5:00 p.m.
• As of 2:00 pm today, the public service will be closed to the public and public officials will perform their functions remotely, except for certain essential services.
• Restrictions on the movement of vessels within our territorial waters will be maintained. All private and commercial vessels will be prohibited from transiting within territorial waters, with the exception of fishermen where they are authorized and intra-island ferries. Travel to Anegada is not allowed unless approved. All other boats must return to the dock.
• Allow essential services and workers to operate during full shutdown from 5:00 pm – 5:00 am overnight, there will be a new curfew pass scheme. All current curfew passes are invalid and new curfew passes will be issued only to the limited list of those who require them for essential services and while on duty. The full list of these essential services will be posted on the Government website. Businesses seeking employee passes should submit a list of essential workers to the Emergency Health Operations Center at email@example.com. All applications will be validated and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor will issue electronic passes; and the lists will be shared with the Police. Passes are valid only while people are traveling to or from when performing essential tasks. Individuals must carry a photo ID with the pass. It is a crime to be out during curfew hours unless authorized and this could lead to legal process.
During the full shutdown earlier this year, we demonstrated that we can serve the public effectively and I am confident that we can continue to do so. I know that many companies have also made great strides in allowing staff to work remotely. Working from home for many of us will be the order of the day in the next term.
We have had a period of adaptation and I applaud all those who have changed routines and practices to ensure safe distancing and follow hygiene protocols. There’s a risk that with the case-free period we’ve had in recent months, some people relax. This must not happen.
This is not a time for selfishness or to think that you are invincible and cannot spread this virus. Your actions can help protect all of us, especially our elderly and most vulnerable. You must follow the social distancing advice. Follow health guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands for 20 seconds, limit physical contact with people, and follow other health tips. The Government will do whatever it deems necessary, but the actions they will take will determine how successful we as a Territory will be in reducing the spread of the virus.
Finally, people have rightly expressed concern about the small number of people who are not following the rules and concerns about our border security. As we impose internal restrictions and have strict measures in place for people traveling the legitimate routes to the Territory, we must ensure that our borders are secure and that people comply with the required measures. The National Security Council will meet later today. There was an earlier offer from the UK to help bolster the Territory’s border security in the early days of COVID-19. That offer was not supported at the time. I will discuss with the National Security Council what support might be needed now and update it in due course.
As a Cabinet, we know that the next period will be difficult. These restrictions will create difficulties for affected businesses and employees. But they are necessary and we do not take them lightly. I call on everyone in the British Virgin Islands to make what we sincerely hope are short-term sacrifices now, so that we can get through this together.
I want to thank the Cabinet and all of our teams in public service who are working so hard to protect the Territory. In particular, those women and men in our health services and essential services who have continued to demonstrate their skill and provide excellent service and commitment.
In closing, I want to thank you all. In the coming days we have the opportunity to reverse the risk of the virus taking hold in the Territory. We need everyone’s support in this. Each and every one of us is on the front line in the fight against this virus. Each of us can play our part. The virus will not discriminate against people and we must all stand together in our determination that it does not spread. That is why we are taking more steps as a Government, but we are also calling on everyone to play their part.
Thank you and God bless us as we continue to meet this challenge together.