STATEMENT BY THE DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 1, 2020
COVID-19 UPDATE: CASE NO. 9 AND NEW LEGISLATION
Ladies and gentlemen good evening,
Let me first wish you Happy Emancipation Day. Today, August 1, 2020 marks 186 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was read.
As we continue to celebrate our annual Emancipation festivities and again reflect on the ‘Virgin Islands Story’, we find ourselves balancing and reconciling concepts of freedom, rights, civil liberties, and the sober responsibilities of leadership and citizenship in the context of the worst Public Health Emergency in living memory.
Ladies and gentlemen, after more than ten (10) consecutive weeks without any new cases of COVID-19 detected in British Virgin Islands it is easy to be lured into a state of complacency as our hope and confidence steadily increase, restrictions are lifted, and we resume many aspects of our daily lives.
I am happy to report that the BVI has now received from St. Vincent, the official results of the second set of tests from CARPHA in Trinidad of the case previously affiliated with Jost Van Dyke.
The results are now reported as NEGATIVE.
We are extremely pleased with this result and because of the extended period of time in receiving the official notification, we remain confident that the pre-emptive steps taken were required to prevent community spread, HAD THE FINAL RESULTS PROVEN DIFFERENT.
We empathise with the businesses and residents of Jost Van Dyke for the economic and social disturbances caused as a result of the lock-down. We thank everyone for coming out to be tested to ensure that all of us remain healthy and safe. COVID-19 is affecting so many around the world and we want to do our best to ensure that everyone at home remains safe.
In keeping with our commitment to fully update the public, I am reporting that as of Thursday morning, after testing a total of 1,522 persons at our national laboratory, it is reported that 1,514 persons tested negative for the virus that causes COVID-19.
Of the eight positive cases, there were seven (7) recoveries and one untimely (1) death.
Based on confirmed test results received on Friday, I am informed of the detection of the Territory’s ninth (9th) positive case.
Case Number 9 is a person who has recently returned to the Territory from abroad and is being kept under quarantine, in a Government contracted facility, in line with our Restricted Border Re-opening Protocols.
Only mild symptoms have been reported so far and we pray for a full and speedy recovery.
While the patient remains in isolation, testing will be repeated seven (7) days from the first positive result, and again repeated until two negative laboratory tests have been recorded.
It comes as no surprise that the reopening of the Territory’s borders would lead to the importation of new cases, which is why we have proactively put various Public Health measures in place to deal with such an eventuality. Several countries are currently grappling with increasing case counts, some of which have been linked to legal or illegal immigration.
One need to simply research the data and stats around us for the 77 days since the last reported case in the British Virgin Islands:
The BVI offers no excuses for our relatively low number of cases, now standing at nine.
Our Re-entry registration; Port Health screening; mandatory quarantine; safety protocols; monitoring and PCR testing are proven methods that help minimise the risk of person-to-person transmission or community spread of the virus which, as we can imagine, would be a worse-case scenario.
Your Government clearly has an important responsibility to continue putting effective legal and administrative measures in place for the protection of the physical and economic health and wellbeing of our community. For these measures to work best, each of us as individuals must also continue to do our part.
As we prepare to transition to the second phase of border reopening and expand the steady progress achieved in rebooting the Territory’s economic and social activity, we must continue to band together against the threat of COVID-19.
With these goals in mind, I have today signed into law the Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Order (No. 4), 2020. This subsidiary legislation was made under the Public Health Act for the purpose of protecting public health and for the prevention, control and suppression of the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The Order reintroduces several familiar provisions such as limitations on all gatherings to one person per sixty-four square feet, not exceeding fifty persons at any given time; and in the case of vulnerable persons, the gathering shall be limited to a no more than ten persons. Exemptions are made only in the case of faith-based services; graduation ceremonies; wedding ceremonies; and funerals where gatherings which shall be limited to one person per sixty-four (64) square feet and shall not exceed one hundred persons at any given time.
Where the organisers of an outdoor event anticipate that the event will exceed a gathering of fifty persons, he or she is required to make a written request to the Ministry of Health, seeking permission to hold the event.
The Order also extends the closure of schools and all school related extra-curricular activities except for the purpose of engaging students online; and preparing for, or sitting standardised exams in senior grades.
Every business and other establishment is required to put in place such physical distancing protocols and sanitisation measures as are specified in the Order, and ensure that all staff and customers adhere to such physical distancing protocols and sanitisation measures.
The legislation also requires that every person shall wear a face mask, at all times when in a public place, including at any establishment, gatherings and on public transportation.
The wearing of a face mask is not required in certain circumstances, such as when a person is:
(a) in open air settings and maintains a physical distance of no less than six feet from any other person who may be nearby;
(b) driving alone, or is with members of his or her household;
(c) obtaining services at a healthcare facility, and is directed by an employee at the healthcare facility to remove his or her face mask or face shield;
(d) is consuming food or drinks;
(e) in an assigned office, which consists of an enclosed room and is not shared by other persons;
(f) at an assigned office space and specified physical distancing protocols are being adhered to; or
(g) required to remove the mask or face shield in order to ascertain his or her identity or for security purposes.
A face shield may be worn instead of a face mask in certain circumstances, including by the following persons:
(a) a child twelve years and under, who may have difficulty wearing a face mask for a prolonged period;
(b) a person who has a health conditions which may cause breathing or medical difficulties if the person wears a face mask for a prolonged period; or
(c) a person who has intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Every establishment including offices, businesses and organisations must also ensure that all staff and customers wear a face mask or face shield, as the case may be, when inside, or in line, to access goods or services at the establishment and shall ensure that the measures specified in the Order are being adhered to.
The Health Emergency Operation Centre will develop further guidelines that will be published on the Government’s website at www.bvi.gov.vg/covid-19.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is important to note carefully that the Public Health (Covid-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Order (No. 4), 2020 introduces a range of penalties and enforcement provisions that supplement existing provisions under the Public Health Act.
Where a police officer or an Environmental Health Officer reasonably believes that a person or an establishment is contravening or has contravened these Orders, the officer shall:
(a) in the case of an individual,
(i) for the first breach, issue a verbal warning;
(ii) for a second breach, issue a fixed penalty notice requiring the person to pay a fine of one hundred dollars and to attend such mandatory training as may be specified in the notice;
(iii) for each subsequent breach, issue a fixed penalty notice requiring the person to pay a fine of two hundred dollars;
(b) in the case of an establishment,
(i) for the first breach, issue a verbal warning;
(ii) for the second breach,
(A) issue a fixed penalty notice requiring the owner or operators to pay a fine of one thousand dollars, and
(B) a notice for temporary closure, subject to such mandatory training and to implementation of such corrective measures as may be specified in the notice;
(iii) for the third breach,
(A) issue a fixed penalty notice requiring the owner or operators to pay a fine of two thousand dollars; and
(B) order the immediate closure of the establishment and the revocation of the Environmental Health Certificate.
It is my hope that not one citation will need to be issued, not one fine levied, and not one business to be forced to close. This can only be the case if we hold each other accountable to do the right thing for each other’s protection.
However, the Environmental Health Officers and Police Officers are now better equipped to enforce these sensible Public Health measures wherever and whenever required, without fear or favour.
Serious times call for serious measures. Or as the Honourable Premier like to put it, “We are not playing around with COVID-19 because COVID-19 is not playing around with us.”
When we look at all of the deaths that are being reported and all of the examples sited earlier, we have to thank God for the favours of God.
I close this evening by once again thanking all of you for your consideration and cooperation during these challenging times. We have come a long way in a short time and have done our level best to keep the Territory and its people safe.
The discovery of a positive case today is a timely reminder that we’re NOT out of the woods!
With this in mind, I bid you all a safe and enjoyable Emancipation celebration as we continue to protect each other and our beautiful Virgin Islands.
Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen for listening.