STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR AUGUSTUS J.U. JASPERT
ON PHASE TWO OF BVI’S RE-OPENING AND END OF CURFEW PERIOD
17TH AUGUST, 2020
Good day all.
As we enter this new week, it feels as though we are also entering a new chapter in BVI’s response to COVID-19. I would like to take this opportunity to update and reassure the public on what to expect over the coming weeks.
Firstly, there is no longer a curfew restricting movement on land. The previous Curfew Order expired on 13 August and after consultation with health authorities and law enforcers, Cabinet advised the National Security Council not to extend the land restrictions. That means in the BVI individuals can go out and businesses can operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week as long as they maintain the safe hygiene and distancing protocols.
However, there remains restrictions on movement of vessels within Territorial waters, set out in the new Curfew Order. Private vessels can move within Territorial waters between 5:01 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. daily, except for the already identified ‘exclusion zones’ which require special permission to enter. Ferries can move within Territorial waters between 5:01 a.m. and midnight. All vessels with an Automatic Identification System technology must have it in use. These measures are critical to ensuring that our security agencies, through the Joint Task Force, can effectively monitor our borders and protect against unauthorised entries into BVI.
Secondly, you will have all heard the Premier’s announcement on Friday, that Cabinet approved Phase II of the restricted border opening plan by allowing the entry of work permit holders, work permit exempt holders, students, and other specified groups from 1 September. Some categories, such as dependents, spouses, children and those working in Statutory Bodies, Government Agencies, Teachers and persons who departed the Territory for medical purposes and those who accompanied them may be able to enter from now. You can read the full list and the measures in place on the Government’s website.
I welcome this step as I recognise the hardship that many may have faced during the border closure – families separated and businesses without their employees. I also understand that some might be concerned about the health risks of further re-opening. Let me be clear, we have taken every possible step to reduce the risks associated with contracting COVID-19 and remain focused on keeping the people of BVI safe. Strict quarantine and screening processes continue to be in place for anyone returning to the Territory and those in quarantine must complete their isolation and test negative before they can re-enter the community.
Complementing this, the Government has been working hard to build the capacity of our health system. BVI has received large numbers of test kits, lab supplies and a testing machine from the UK. We recently welcomed a team of Cuban doctors to reinforce and support the Health Services Authority and enhance COVID-19 related support at the hospital. Our approach to public health is holistic and I am thankful to the Minister for Health and public officers for all their work.
These new developments are a sign of how far BVI has come. The strict curfew and border closure were short term means for controlling the risk of COVID-19. Neither were designed to be permanent, but they bought us some time. During that time, the Territory has been able to put in place better, more sustainable ways to control the risk – such as the expanded Joint Task Force to help secure our borders, the Health Emergency Operations Centre and more resources for the Health Services Authority. Now, hygiene measures and social distancing are the new normal. It is only because the public and public service have adapted so well that we are now able to ease some of the restrictions. So thank you to every individual for the part they have played and thank you to all public servants and those in statutory and voluntary organisations who continue to work hard to keep us safe.
As with every element of our COVID-19 response, we will keep these decisions under review. We in Government are faced with a constant and extremely difficult balancing act between serving the desires of the public, protecting public health and maintaining the economy. If the balance tips the wrong way, we may need to revisit our approach. So please ensure you follow the remaining COVID-19 measures in place, including hand-washing, social distancing and the wearing of facemasks. As I have said before, the actions each and every one of you takes are crucial to BVI’s success.
Finally, I ask that as we navigate these difficult and uncertain times, we all show respect and compassion for each other. COVID-19 knows no boundaries. It does not matter who you are or where you are from, we are all vulnerable to the virus. So let us ensure that we are supporting one another through these difficult times and standing united in the fight against COVID-19. This is not the time to define ourselves by our differences, but rather by what we have in common – that wherever we are from, BVI is our home. Our diversity in BVI is our strength. I hope we can work together as individuals and communities to make these beautiful islands a safe and even better home.
Thank you and may God bless this Territory.