Good evening and God’s Blessings to all the people of the Virgin Islands and beyond.
Let me say once again, Happy Emancipation to all. August is our emancipation month and this year we were not able to celebrate our four-day Emancipation activities physically, the traditional way.
Instead, we celebrated virtually and were able to pause and thank God for the determination of our ancestors who pushed hard and paved the way for the freedom we enjoy today.
One of the things we know is that our ancestors always took refuge in the Hands of GOD and they saw victory prevail. That is why your Government has always and will continue to keep God in everything that we seek to do on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands.
We started the year 2021 with the power of prayer and praise, and each month we continue to make sure that we pause as a community to collectively petition and praise Abba, our Father.
We have just completed our 21-day prayer and fasting on 31 July and it culminated on 1st August. These 21 days were critically important because it is our responsibility to keep each other safe.
We all have a personal responsibility to do everything that is in our power to keep each other and our shores safe, in BVILOVE, as we are in this together.
This evening, we are here again with another COVID-19 Update, as Cabinet would have met today to discuss the next steps based on recommendations of the Unified Command Centre of the Health Emergency Operations Centre.
Before I go any further, I wish to express condolences – on behalf of the entire Government, the national community, my family and myself – to all those persons and families who have lost loved ones, especially during the past few weeks and especially those due to COVID-19.
Our hearts and prayers go out to you in this sad and trying time, and we pray for the souls of those who have departed that they may rest in eternal peace and may the surviving family find comfort in God our Father.
I want us also to continue to send out prayers for those persons in our community who are battling the virus. We wish for your health and for your quick recovery.
We must say thanks to all those who have been working hard since the start of this pandemic 17 months ago – trying to protect us from COVID-19, tending to those who are in need of medical care, and trying to get as many persons vaccinated as possible.
We owe a lot to our health team, all our medical professionals, the nurses and doctors at the hospital and the staff at all our health facilities. We must say thanks to our volunteers for working to make a difference.
And certainly, there are persons throughout the length and breadth of the public service and all our other agencies who have worked tirelessly to help us to manage our situation, whether it is in securing our air and sea borders, police, port and airport staff, Tourist Board staff, Customs, Immigration, and all the others.
We continue to be grateful to Public Health England for their support.
At this time, we are also coordinating with our partners from the USVI, who, through their kind generosity, are assisting some of our people to access vaccines via the BVI-USVI Vaccination Bubble. Many of the beneficiaries of this initiative have been our children.
We have also been fortunate recently to have assisting us, Dr Valerie Vi Thien Mac, Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centre for Disease Control. The USVI recently made available a team to assist with training of our local personnel in the administering of COVID-19 rapid testing and techniques for further improving our reporting criteria.
So, we thank the USVI and Governor Albert Bryan Jr, who, even as they battle challenges of their own, continue to show that we share a close and special bond.
The BVI continues to be blessed with caring friends. Through the assistance of Bishop Charles, we are to have some volunteers joining us from the Caribbean Medical Mission. We already have with us Bishop Dr. Phillip Bonaparte, who we will hear from shortly.
As you can see, we are not in this alone.
And as you can also see, we are working based on science and with the assistance and support of professionals.
Earlier today we had a live broadcast featuring Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronald Georges, our National Epidemiologist Harmonie Brewley-Massiah, and Public Health Nutritionist Ms. Patrice Maduro.
Your Government and our partners continue to provide you with updated, accurate information so that you can make informed decisions.
We have been following the science. And at every turn, what the science says has come to pass.
The science says what the consequences are when certain things are done and what happens when it is not done. It says how certain activities can cascade and lead to negative consequences, and how particular courses of action can lead to more positive outcomes.
So, our current measures are following the science and we are seeing the number of positive cases dropping, as well as the fatality rate. Our measures are working and to God alone be all the Glory.
And once we continue to follow the advice of the experts, we will continue to see the numbers coming down further.
Wash your hands for at least 20 secs. Cover your cough and sneeze. Wear your masks properly, covering your nose. Ensure there is physical distancing, by staying six feet apart.
These measures, as basic as they seem, are effective barriers against contracting COVID-19. But they work better when everyone does it.
We continue to urge persons to become vaccinated. And we continue to emphasise that it is your choice. The vaccines are proven to be highly effective in protecting persons from contracting the virus, spreading the virus, and becoming seriously ill from the virus or worse.
We must continue to remember that there are person in our society and our homes who are at high risk of becoming severely ill or dying if they catch the virus because of their medical conditions or other factors. Some of these persons cannot take the vaccines to protect themselves. So you have to do everything in your power to make sure you do not bring it home to them. We must keep each other safe.
Vaccination remains a controversial issue in many countries, and we are seeing persons becoming passionate and even out of control.
I want to reiterate tonight, your Government cherishes freedom of speech and democracy. We fully support the right to express yourselves and to criticise your Government. But this must be done in a respectful and lawful way.
Your Government agrees with the statement issued by CARICOM following yesterday’s assault of St Vincent Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves by a protester while the Prime Minister was on his way to the Parliament.
The violence that was displayed against Prime Minister Gonsalves was shocking and reprehensible. It has no place in a democratic society. This COVID-19 era is a time for unity and for working together. It is a time for being supportive of each other. There is never a good or a right time for violence – never. We can have our differences without resulting to measures of this level.
The Honourable Minister of Health and Social Development, and the other speakers tonight will provide a lot of information on things that are happening in the Territory with respect to our management of COVID-19. But I must re-emphasize to every resident of the Virgin Islands that in order for us to defeat COVID-19 each of us must have that inner personal responsibility within us to ensure that we practice all the heath measures that we have been practicing over the last few months and we strongly encourage you to be vaccinated.
I urge you to pay attention tonight, to all the information that will be coming to you. Let us work together to keep everyone safe, to protect lives, to protect the economy, and to help us to on the path to fully reopening our economy once again. And as we do this, we must bear in mind that even as progress is being made, COVID-19 is something we cannot see, we cannot smell, we cannot touch, we cannot taste, nor hear. And this means that once COVID-19 is still out there we must be vigilant.
I will now hand you over to the Minister of Health to now inform you of some of the measures we have taken giving our progress that we have seen through the measures that we have implemented, so that you the people can be informed of how this will benefit businesses, churches, and many other organisations to some of the new measures that have now been implemented. I will now turn over to Minister for Health and I’ll say thank you very much.