Statement By Honourable Carvin Malone on COVID-19 Update and Cabinet Decisions – July 16th 2021

STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE

MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

COVID-19 UPDATE & CABINET DECISIONS

JULY 16th 2021

I say a pleasant good evening to everyone here in the Virgin Islands, throughout the region and the world.  I too join with Premier, the Acting Chief Medical Officer and the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Health Services Authority as we extend condolences to those families who are hurting and mourning the loss of their loved one.

COVID-19 is real. For 16 months we have heard about persons around the world losing their loved ones. We saw the news and many images of persons on ventilators, and we said that as a Government we will prepare this place, this Virgin Islands and put every health and safety measure and method in place so that our people would want for nothing.

As we continue to go through what are some very turbulent waters in our COVID-19 experience, I too want to lend my voice and offer sincere condolences to the families and persons suffering with this disease or dealing with the loss of a loved one.  My prayer is that God will continue to give us all the strength that we need during this very difficult time. 

People of the Virgin Islands, today July 16, 2021 marks one year, 4 months and 5 days since the World Health Organization declared the Corona Virus a worldwide pandemic.  The Government of the Virgin Islands, guided by the advice of the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) – Unified Command Centre Team, have been vigorous and deliberate in their attempts to ready this Territory and our people for more than a year for such a time as this.  While the turbulence around us seems to be relentless and without end, we must remain diligent in our purpose to make every effort to support and assist each other through this crisis.

As we continue to navigate what we call the unchartered waters, Cabinet following a report from the HEOC Unified Command team, decided to renew the curfew order for a further fourteen (14) days from 7:00 pm to 5:00 a.m. effective July 23, 2021.  Meaning that the current curfew will run up until July 23 and then be renewed for a further 14 days.

In support of this extended curfew, Cabinet decided that members of the public should stay at home and work remotely where possible and persons should avoid loitering at all cost. It is expected that between the non-curfew hours of 5:01 a.m. and 6:59 p.m., members of the public should stay at home unless for purposes of work or conducting business, obtaining services or supplies, including for the purpose of COVID-19 testing or vaccination, or any approved outdoor exercises. 

In addition, Cabinet has extended the restrictions placed for in-person visits to Her Majesty’s Prison for a further period of 14 days from 20th July, with the exception of emergency situations determined by the facility to necessitate such a visit.

In my last report I would have informed of the decision to close restaurants and food establishments for in-house sitting and dining settings.  We recognise that several hotels and resorts would have been affected by this decision, further impacting our guests’ experience even during this COVID period.   It is on this premise that Cabinet decided that allowances be made for meals to be served in hotels and resorts dining areas to overnight guests and visitors only, provided that all prescribed public health measures are strictly observed. 

Please note, the restrictions to all restaurants to take-out services only for the period of the renewed Curfew Order, will remain in place as is!

Also, in my last report I would have also informed of Cabinet’s decision to allocate an initial sum of five hundred thousand dollars solely for the purpose of securing resources to address the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Territory.  Cabinet has since agreed that the $500,000 previously allocated be solely used for the purpose of securing resources to address the surge in COVID-19 cases by expanding the purpose to include securing resources, personnel, premises, and all needed materials to immediately address the surge under the same monitoring regime previously instituted. This includes a team headed by the Financial Secretary together with the Ministry of Health and Social Development before any funds are expended for this purpose. 

The situation in this Territory remains a troubling one, but I continue to admonish everyone to follow the measures as that is the only way we can stop this upsurge together.

Remember we are in this together and we must all do our part.

No doubt the deaths that we are hearing about every day, leaves some persons worried and leaves some worried expressions on our faces and some palpitation of our hearts, but as I have said before for the past six months, our only defense now available to us in this COVID era, is the vaccine.  We must take the vaccine that is available if we are to have a fighting chance against this disease.

As a Government we recognise that the BVI is no different from the rest of the world. The number of REPORTED ACTIVE CASES have risen, and we will continue to do all that we can to get these numbers down with the help of you the people.

GOD is able and GOD saves lives, but you actively must do your part to save your own life!  We have to be VIGILANT.  Vigilance is the key word.

I look forward to seeing persons come out for the OPERATION PROTECT EACH OTHER VACCINATION DRIVE THRU tomorrow and Sunday as declared by the Premier. We must get everyone vaccinated and let’s show COVID-19 that we are not playing around. COVID-19 is not playing around.

We must remember that vaccination continues to be an effective means of protecting persons from this dreaded disease. If you have not been vaccinated as yet, the opportunity is still available to you with the supply available in the Territory.  So please, take advantage and get vaccinated. 

We cannot determine what our fate may be with the regional and global events surrounding COVID-19 but we can do what is necessary to continue to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones. We must continue to follow public health protocols such as wearing face masks.  We must practice frequent hand hygiene, maintain physical distance in public spaces and we must get vaccinated as our best tool to reduce transmission, prevent severe illness and prevent hospitalisation caused by COVID.

This was a difficult speech to write, a difficult speech to report because I continue to hear the cries of mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, aunts, uncles, of loved ones who are in the emergency room, loved ones who are in the Special Care Unit, loved ones who are in the ICU, loved ones who are on ventilators and loved ones who have faced death.

It is difficult for all for us knowing that we had an opportunity to do that which is right.  I have heard folks come to me.  They have bemoaned the fact that they do not want to take the vaccine. They do not want to be tested twice a week, once a week or once every two weeks. They do not want to stay at home and yet they want the Territory locked down.  It does not add up. 

Throughout the world COVID-19 is spiking. It is closing down economies, it is taking lives, more lives than we can imagine.  When it hits home to the ones that we love, the ones who for whatever reason are refusing to vaccinate, then it hits home because we do not know what to say or what next to do. 

We met with a team of over 45 doctors just last evening who have pledged their support. We are calling on the nurses active, retired, home or abroad to lend your support at this very important moment. 

We have an opportunity to do the right thing. God has been gracious to us. We will continue to do all that we could to support all those persons residing, visiting and living in the Virgin Islands. You must do your part too.

We have the drive-thru vaccination drive tomorrow and Sunday.  We have vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. We will give you the contact numbers so that you can have this accessed. The USVI is assisting us in this cause.  We have had meetings with the Governor and other administrative persons in the US Virgin Islands.  The Chief Medical Officer has met with Public Health England CARPHA and authorities from hospitals all throughout. We have a new Chairman coming on board with the Health Services Authority.  We will spare no cost, no effort, no time to get whatever we need to stabilise this condition and return to the Virgin Islands that we know, the Virgin Islands that we love.

You must do your part.  I will continue no matter the challenges to adhere to whatever we need to do to get the Virgin Islands safely out of this sphere.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will continue to reiterate the fact that new, more aggressive variants continue to emerge. The virus mutates and spreads rapidly from one region to another, increasing the risks of severe illness and death. The Virgin Islands is not unlike anywhere else in the world.  The reality is none of us knows how the virus will affect us.  We simply must be vigilant and do the next best thing. Do not wait, VACCINATE!  Remember, protect yourself, your loved ones and your economy! I thank you kindly.

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