Statement By Minister For Health And Social Development – COVID-19 Update on August 14, 2020








Honourable Premier, Ladies and Gentlemen, a very pleasant good evening to everyone.

Cabinet has met over the past two days and again tonight I am pleased to be joined by the Premier who will disclose the many decisions and initiatives debated and approved.

It is with cautious optimism that I bring you another update on the COVID-19 situation as it continues to unfold locally, regionally and internationally.

With over 20 Million cases and Seven Hundred Forty-five Thousand (745,000) deaths reported to the World Health Organisation as of the 13th of August 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on families and communities. Lives and livelihoods are affected and in to many instances are being cut short.  The Caribbean region has recorded over 130,374 cases and 2,132 deaths, with significant infection rates reported in jurisdictions with close connections to the BVI, such as the USA, the UK, the US Virgin Islands, Dutch and French St. Martin, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic. The continued aggressive spread of this deadly disease in countries all around us is certainly reason enough for the BVI to continue to take a cautious approach in the interest of protecting our people’s health and wellbeing.

We cannot continue to take our good works and our favourable results in the BVI; praise them and count it for naught. Economic, social, religious and political leaders MUST be more responsible.

Leading countries and island nations throughout the world who have opened up prematurely or irresponsibly are now reversing their decisions as their health care facilities are overburdened and as death tolls continue to rise. If we are responsible; we will get through this!

While this is no solace to someone who does not know where their next dollar is coming from; someone who is feeling desperate and is concerned of what tomorrow brings; I stand here tonight to tell you that if we are responsible; we will get through this

I am convinced that it is my reason for being here; I am convinced that it is my reason why I will stay in this with you. We will get through this together.

After testing over 1,757 persons at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital laboratory, the case count in the BVI has remains relatively low.

To-date – a total of nine (9) cases have been recorded, eight (8) of whom are now recovered and one person has died.

The Ministry of Health continues to work in tandem with various agencies to manage the risk of imported cases by utilising a measured approach to the re-entry of individuals in keeping with the Restricted Border Re-opening Plan.

Nine hundred and Ninety-four (994) re-entry registrations have been received to date and Seven Hundred and Eighty-three (783) of them have been verified by the Immigration Department and cleared for processing.   Eighty-one registrations did not meet the requirements established for individuals to re-enter the Territory during Phase 1 of the Restricted Border Re-Opening Plan.

To date a total of 597 of these individuals have completed mandatory quarantine, including one person who had tested positive and remained in isolation until subsequently released following their recovery testing.

As we enter a new phase of the pandemic response, my optimism springs from the unmatched commitment and dedication of everyone working on the frontlines and behind the scenes to keep the BVI safe, combining our efforts towards the full restoration of social and economic activity in our beloved Territory.

I have nothing but good news tonight!

I am pleased to report that after careful consideration by Cabinet, the curfew has now been fully lifted and our agencies are progressing towards implementing the second phase of the Restricted Border Re-opening Plan.

As mentioned, the Premier will give comprehensive details of the decisions of Cabinet.

With each new step towards restoring normalcy to our daily lives comes increased risks of detection and a spike in infections. I’m aware that there exist the ever present fear of returning to lockdowns and other movement restrictions to curb transmission.  We have seen this reversal play out in countries great and small, despite their best efforts to manage the spread of the virus and live and work with COVID-19.

For us in the Virgin Islands, managing these risks primarily involves ongoing efforts to build the capacity of our health system to prevent, detect, contain and manage the spread of the virus while carefully balancing social and economic considerations.

With these goals in mind the Government has made significant investments to strengthen the public health system to meet increasing demands and to prepare of any eventuality.

We were very pleased to welcome a contingent of Medical Professionals from Cuba to the Territory on the 25th of July, 2020.  This contingent primarily consists of 2 Medical Services ER Physicians, 1 ICU/Anesthetic Physician, 6 Internal Medicine, 3 Primary Health Care Doctors, 3 Nurses, 4 Hospital Nurse ICU, 1 Obstetrics and 1 Emergency Room Professional. Ladies and gentlemen, these professionals who hail from Cuba are here to look at the development of our Territory, not only as it relates to the pandemic but also to strengthen or resolve in the many areas of their competence.

After completing their quarantine period, the Team has undergone a week of orientation at the BVI Health Services Authority in preparation for their deployment beginning on the 17th of  August, within their various areas of specialty.

In addition to Human Resource capacity, the Ministry of Health and the BVI Health Services Authority have been working with the support of various partners to enhance Health Services Infrastructure and associated equipment.

Work is underway at the Major Peebles Wing to improve primary health care delivery in an environment which meets the “New Regular” standards.  Construction on the ground floor is progressing through a joint venture between Quality Construction and KM Construction.  A timeline of 3-months is projected and works are on schedule with no delays expected.

Works are also programmed to enhance the laboratory infrastructure and procure equipment to allow the laboratory to effectively deliver clinical and public health functions as well as meet physical and equipment accreditation requirements.

Additional works will provide the appropriate infrastructure and equipment to serve as an effective out-patient clinic in the “New Regular” and to convert the facility to a stand-alone isolation unit for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases that would otherwise surpass the capacity of the existing Hospital.

Bids were issued on 17 July 2020 for these two projects with submission by 14 August 2020 however the submission deadline was extended to 24 August 2020 to allow for additional contractors to respond given the low number of responses.  The timeline for award of contracts is projected to be the second week of September 2020.

While these investments in health infrastructure, personnel, equipment and supplies are vital components of our Strategy, the most crucial element is the behaviours and practices that each of us engage in to keep ourselves and others safe.

In closing, I implore you once again to comply with the provisions of the Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Order (No. 4), 2020. Do your part and encourage others to consistently adhere to the physical distancing, personal hygiene and sanitisation guidelines that have been put in place for our protection.

I cannot end without thanking my hard working Legislative colleagues; the hardworking HEOC team, health workers, the entire Public Service and all of the entities that continue to work tirelessly to keep the people of the BVI safe and healthy. I also thank every resident and visitor to this country who has taken personal responsibility to safeguard your own health, and the wellbeing of the rest of our community.

It would be remiss of me of course if I do not to welcome the captan, crew and staff of the RFA August and HMS Medway as they prepare for the hurricane response exercise on Norman Island. You would have seen the ship in the harbor, you would have heard the helicopters if you were in the Road Town area and we pray that we have a very uneventful hurricane season.

I bid you goodnight. May God continue to bless and protect these beautiful Virgin Islands. We will not hear from the Premier. Thank you.

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