Statement By Premier Andrew A. Fahie 27 April, 2020: Soft Opening – No Mask, No Service

STATEMENT BY PREMIER OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
AND MINISTER FOR FINANCE

HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
27 April, 2020

Soft Opening – No Mask, No Service

My dear Virgin Islanders, residents and visitors:

I wish God’s Blessings to each and every one of you and your families.

Today April 27, 2020 from 6:00 a.m. we turned a new leaf in the history of the Virgin Islands and we entered the Chapter titled:  ‘New Regular’.

We began the process of Rebooting and Reawakening the BVI’s Economy with the phased, soft reopening of businesses, and the relaxing of the curfews.

For the most part, I am pleased to say that the feedback has been positive.

Businesses have complied with the requirements to have hand-washing and sanitising stations, and are enforcing the social distancing protocols – inside and outside.

The majority of persons also were seen working with the New Regular – complying, not just with the social distancing, but with the appeal to wear their face masks.

I want to thank and to congratulate all the persons who have chosen to do the right thing and to abide by the rules.

You are true team players.

You are the heroes in our BVI’s history.

We have come this far because of you.

But, as you know, we are not out of the woods with COVID-19 until a cure or a vaccine is found.

That is why we are going the distance to be careful with every step we take and why we must maintain our vigilance.

Having said this, it would be remiss of me not to point out that I have also received news of persons and businesses breaking the rules.

I must point out that breaking the rules is breaking the law, and I would hate to see us reaching the point where hard measures become necessary or where we have to put in the reverse gear and re-institute the 24-hour lockdown, just because a handful of irresponsible persons insist on being stubborn and putting all of us in danger.

Although official announcements were made and communication sent out, we have heard about persons, albeit the minority, not wearing masks and businesses that are not on the Cabinet-approved list opening today.

We have heard of instances of persons gathering in groups and not taking any precautions, and some taxis not ensuring their passengers were properly spaced apart.

Let me state clearly here again, that businesses and individuals will be held to account if they are caught breaching the orders.

The BVI did not come out of 28 days of 24-hour lockdown just for a handful of persons to throw our progress away.

We did not sacrifice our freedom to move about; we did not close our borders, shut down businesses, and ask persons to endure the economic fall-out as the world is currently experiencing; use our own tax dollars to keep us all safe; just for a handful of persons to throw our progress away.

I will not stand for it.

So, yes! Businesses will be urged to abide by the orders and to assist in enforcement.

And the rule is simple.

No mask, no service.

No social spacing, no service.

No clean hands (sanitised), no service.

No physical markers, no service.

No approval to operate, no service.

That is an essential part of the New Regular.

If a customer refuses to sanitise and to wear a mask, do not admit them into your business.

You do not want to find yourselves suffering for the recklessness of others.

Help to spread the message that for those persons who cannot or who do not want to wear a mask, they must stay home and remain in quarantine.

No mask, no service.

Only those persons who want to see the BVI free and safe from COVID-19, and who want to help rebuild the BVI economy will be allowed outside.

Everyone else who feels that what we are asking is too much or who does not care about the safety and wellbeing of yourselves and others, stay home.

No mask, no service!

No social spacing, no service.

No clean hands (sanitised), no service.

No physical markers, no service.

No approval to operate, no service.

As I mentioned, we have been hearing about businesses that are not on the Cabinet-approved list opening for business.

It is important to note that businesses on the approved list have gone through a process of being certified by the Environmental Health Division for receiving customers.

But the businesses that are not on the Cabinet-approved list would not have gone through the certification process.

Those unauthorised businesses were not inspected and approved by the Health and Social Distancing Task Force to ensure that all the necessary measures for protecting your safety are in place.

So people are in danger at those businesses.

Just to remind you, the list of businesses that Cabinet approved for reopening at this time are:

i.          Supermarkets

II.         Bakeries

III.       Fishers and Farmers

IV.       Pharmacies

V.        Banks

VI.       Fuel Stations

VII.     Ferries (inter-island transportation only)

VIII.    Buses and Taxis (limited passengers)

IX.       Construction companies, building and concrete supplies businesses;

X.        Laundromats

XI.       Home delivery services

XII.     Insurance, Legal and Financial Services that cannot be  carried out remotely

XIII.    Office supplies

XIV.   Automotive parts and repairs

XV.     Manufacturers of hand sanitisers and PPEs

XVI.   Water and ice production and deliveries

XVII.  Emergency household and business repairs, as approved

XVIII.  Medical Establishments

XIX.   Legal Establishments

XX.     Telecommunication companies

XXI.   Hardware, cleaning and sanitisation stores

As a reminder, all businesses are to operate between the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

All other businesses will remain closed for the next 14 days.

If a business type not listed decides to open up without approval, you will be held responsible for your actions.

The rules and protocols that have informed our reopening strategy were devised by the local and international professionals in the public health field, working with scientific data and research.

These rules and protocol are designed to keep us moving forward towards the eventual full reopening of the economy.

Disobedience pushes us in the opposite direction.

Unauthorised opening of businesses pushes us in the opposite direction.

Not wearing masks and not social distancing pushes us in the opposite direction.

So, help us to get the message out to those who are hard of hearing or to those who are playing willful and doubting if COVID-19 is real.

We must remain vigilant.

COVID-19 is not playing around with us so we must not play around with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is invisible to the naked eye.

We cannot see it. We cannot feel it by touch. We cannot hear it coming. We cannot smell it. We cannot taste it.

The only way to know that we have been exposed is when the symptoms start showing up.

It is possible for persons to have the virus without showing any symptoms. So, we need to take the precautions as if everyone is a potential carrier.

This invisible enemy can kill, especially the elderly and persons with underlying medical conditions.

So, we must not take any chances. We must be vigilant.

In closing, let me remind you of the precautions you must follow in the New Regular:

1.   Wear a face mask that properly covers the nose and mouth area when you leave your home to conduct your business.

2.   You do not need to have the mask on your face if you are alone in your private vehicle. But if there is more than one person in the vehicle, then masks must be worn by all occupants. Masks must be worn when exiting the vehicle.

3.   Please maintain social distancing of 6 feet apart. Businesses must ensure that the protocols are followed. Businesses are required to have the necessary markings on the ground to guide customers.

4.   Use the hand-washing and sanitising stations that are provided. Wash your hands for 20 seconds and sanitise frequently.

5.   Remember the curfew starts at 1pm everyday and ends at 6am the following day, and everyone must be inside during these hours.

6.   Stay away from beaches. Beaches are closed until further notice.

7.   Social gatherings must not exceed 20 persons.

8.    In the case of public transportation such as ferries, taxis and buses, passenger seating must be staggered to facilitate social distancing.

Let us not increase our numbers of COVID-19 cases. Let us break the chain of this virus in our community.

Let us not be sorry, but safe. Around the world thousands are dying, this never should be the BVI’s reality.

So, please adhere to all the guidelines and regulations because deviating from them can undo all the progress we have made in limiting the impact of COVID-19 in the Territory and all of us.

I have said it many times; one thing that the people of the BVI are good at, is pulling together and working together, in BVILOVE, during times of challenge.

We have done a good job leading up to this moment, but we must not take any chances.

So, let us do the right thing.

Let us beat COVID-19,

And let us stay on the path to Rebooting and Reawakening the BVI’s Economy.

Let us make this a true national effort, with everyone on board.

May God continue to bless and keep these Virgin Islands and all who call them home.

Remember that we’re in this together.

I thank you.

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