STATEMENT GIVEN BY THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
ON WEDNESDAY, 16TH SEPTEMBER 2020
covid-19 UPDATE – PHASED INTERNAL REOPENING
I bring greetings and God’s blessings to everyone listening, whether locally, regionally or internationally.
Thank you for tuning in for another update on the BVI’s situation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I begin with a word of gratitude to businesses and individuals who have remained in compliance and hence have contributed to the success of our response.
As Curfew Order No. 31 expired today, our law enforcement officials report that the vast majority of residents have heeded the calls to ‘do your part’ to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Again, I say a hearty thank you.
The decisions to implement such restrictive, but necessary public health measures, are never taken lightly. The members of the Health Emergency Operations Centre, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands, my elected colleagues of the House of Assembly together with numerous advice from the business and general public have carefully considered technical and professional advice backed by scientific evidence. We examine the very real economic, social and psychological toll of such preventive actions, as compared to the likely costs of inaction. Lives and livelihoods are at the forefront of the considerations.
As you may recall, after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March of 2020, our first Territory-wide lockdown began in April. Millions of dollars were invested by your Government in the development of our COVID-19 infrastructure and the development of our human resources capacity. We are proud of these achievements!
With your cooperation we were able to interrupt person-to-person transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This allowed time for institutional strengthening throughout the public and private sectors as we readied our community to face the very real threat that this pandemic poses to our lives and quality of life.
Over the past month, we have once again been called to action to suppress a cluster of active cases that threatened to spread to a large number of persons if we didn’t act decisively. In response, with the efforts of our Joint Task Force of the Royal Virgin Police Force, Her Majesty’s Customs and the Immigration Department, we have strengthened our Southwest and our Northwest borders. The illegal transit of individuals MUST be permanently disrupted. If you see something, say something. Through your cooperation and various Public Health measures, this recent outbreak, caused by these illegal activities, has now been brought under effective control.
In keeping to our commitment of full disclosure in today’s broadcast I would give details on both the Health Issues and of the decisions made at our recent Cabinet Meeting:
We are able to report that Forty (40) patients have now fully recovered; the active number of persons diagnosed with COVID-19 now stands at twenty-eight (28) and one person has died. We are pleased to report that none of these patients are severely ill, and we continue to pray for their full and rapid recovery.
The total number of COVID-19 cases reported in the Territory now stands at sixty-nine (69) – sixty-four (64) were on Tortola, and five (5) on the island of Anegada.
The majority of persons infected with the virus were between 21 and 59 years old. Of concern is that cases have also been detected among children, teens, and older persons. Seven (7) patients were between the ages of ten months and ten years, three were between ten and 20 years old, and three patients were over the age of 60.
More males than females tested positive, with 52 percent of cases recorded among males.
The majority of cases, 81 percent, were detected through case contact and surveillance. The remaining 19 percent were among returning individuals and residents seeking health care. This clearly shows the efficiency and resilience of our various teams to which I have reported from time to time. Our frontline teams are of critical importance to our Territory’s success. There are specific reasons why we continue to call on each of us to do your part. We can get through this but we MUST do this together.
During their contact tracing activities, the Public Health team has uncovered an over-crowded commercial property on Wickhams Cay that has seemingly been unlawfully converted into residential use. All the occupants of that property have been placed under quarantine, tested, and will be required to undergo follow up testing after 14 days.
I would like to sound a warning to all property owners who may be tempted to violate the laws of the Virgin Islands and disregard people’s basic human rights to safe, sanitary and decent living conditions. Cease and desist or suffer the consequences of the law. A word to the wise is sufficient.
We have also been informed that through the issuance of preliminary reports that two passengers who recently travelled from Tortola to St. Vincent and the Grenadines tested positive for COVID-19. This local testing was done in St. Vincent six days after arrival, and a full 11 days after both persons had tested negative through certified PCR testing in the Virgin Islands. You may recall a similar incident involving persons who resided in Jost Van Dyke. Premier Fahie has discussed the matter with the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and Grenadines and his longstanding regional colleagues. Assurances have been given that, in the future, such announcements would be made only after confirmation of results by the Caribbean Public Health Agency, and not based on preliminary test results. Currently, we await final results from their medical professionals.
Nonetheless, the close contacts of both passengers that remain in the BVI have been identified and tested and will continue to be monitored over the course of the incubation period.
As was previously announced, over the past two weeks the opportunity has been taken to boost capacity for enforcement of the Control and Suppression Orders. A team of 35 Public Officers has been deployed by the Deputy Governor’s Office to serve as part of the Social Distancing Task Force under the direction of the Chief Environmental Health Officer, in collaboration with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.
They will work to educate and hold businesses and the wider community accountable for compliance with measures such as physical distancing, hand washing, and the wearing of face masks while in public places.
I wish to publicly thank the entire Environmental Health Division, as well as the members of the Task Force for rising to the occasion to ensure compliance with these important health and safety measures that have been put in place for our protection.
We can get through this together if we each do our part.
With this Team now in place, and in light of the great strides we have made to prepare our institutions and wider community to safely live and work in this COVID-19 era, we must now collectively commit to moving our country to the next level of resilience.
It is imperative that we continue our progression towards social and economic revitalization. The Premier is continuing the process of consulting with businesses and will be meeting and making announcements of our initiatives to reopening our borders to the commercial and hospitality industries.
Following a Special Cabinet Meeting held on Tuesday evening, a new Curfew Order No. 32 was issued and on behalf of Cabinet I am pleased to report on the decisions made:
- Cabinet decided to impose a restricted curfew for a period of fourteen (14) days from today, Wednesday, the 16th September, 2020 until Wednesday the 30th September 2020 from 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. daily, subject to the requirements in the current Suppression Order; After the first 7 days of this new Curfew Order, the HEOC and Cabinet will revisit the Curfew Hours and if the initiatives contemplated are finalized, the hours would likely be amended to allow further business hours for key industries that are currently affected by the restriction of hours.
- Cabinet decided to allow all businesses to operate except daycare centres, pre-schools, public pools, cinemas, bars, night clubs and other entertainment services, subject to being inspected and approved by the Social Distancing Monitoring Task Force and certified by the Environmental Health Division; the Chief Environmental Officer continues in his scheduling of meeting with stakeholders in each business discipline.
- Cabinet decided to allow all spas, salons, hairdressers and barbershops, including restaurants for in-dining to operate, provided that the persons operating those businesses have complied with the Social Distancing Monitoring Protocols of the HEOC and are certified by the Environmental Health Division. Enhanced protocols have been introduced and all persons engaged in these businesses are encouraged to become informed.
Under the new Curfew Order,
- Cabinet decided that the movement of vessels in Territorial waters will continue to be restricted;
- Decided also that beaches are to be opened between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. daily; and
- Cabinet decided that domestic air travel services between Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada are allowed to operate in accordance with existing protocols.
Cabinet decided that the Order also continues to
- prohibit any person who operates a private or commercial vessel from operating the said vessel within the Territorial waters, except where such person is approved by the Governor, in consultation with the Minister responsible for Fisheries and Agriculture to operate:
- a fishing vessel; and
- an intra-island ferry, provisioning barge or any other vessel in exceptional circumstances.
- However, Cabinet decided that a person is allowed to operate a vessel for the purpose of essential safety or maintenance repair.
In the new Curfew Order Cabinet also decided to allow:
- Cruise Liners to make technical calls or warm lay ups to the Territory, subject to compliance with the protocols established by the BVI Ports Authority and endorsed by the Health Emergency Operations Centre; and finally
- Cabinet decided that freight couriers and charter companies are permitted to operate between the BVI and USVI, subject to strict adherence to the established COVID-19 suppression measures and fortnightly testing.
Again, as we work together to regain a greater level of the new regular, I encourage everyone to comply with the established health and safety protocols and dial 311 to report any suspicious activity. If you see something, say something. We are in this together.
I also remind you to contact the Medical Hotline at 852-7650 to be assessed by a health professional if you experience any symptoms related to COVID-19. Common symptoms include fever, cough, headache, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, muscle aches, or difficulty breathing.
For more information on the Territory’s COVID-19 response please visit the website www.bvi.gov.vg/Covid-19
I pray that God continues to bless each of us. I pray that God bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.