Statement by Premier Andrew A. Fahie : COVID-19 Update – Restricted Borders Re-Opening

Statement by Premier and Minister of Finance
Honourable Andrew A. Fahie

21st May, 2020

COVID-19 Update – Restricted Borders Re-Opening

A pleasant good afternoon and God’s Blessings to the people of the Virgin Islands.

We continue as a Territory to engage in preventative measures as we continue to balance the safety with the rebooting and reawakening of our economy in a phased basis and under the ‘New Regular’ living and working with COVID-19.

We continue to hold Special Cabinet Meetings focused only on COVID-19.

I know that not all of the decisions are popular. Many of them are tough, but I can assure you that they were made in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands.

When you are faced with the reality that there is no cure or vaccine to prevent thousands and thousands from dying, you must do all you can to protect your people, even if your popularity has to take a hit.

When you are faced with the reality that the BVI was projected to have had more than 3,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the BVI, you have no other choice but to put preventative measures in place to ensure the health and safety of our people.

As a Cabinet we stand by our tough decisions, whether they are popular or not.

We take our responsibilities seriously and we do not have the luxury like some nonvoting members to associate and dissociate ourselves, if the decisions are not popular.

Several persons have been asking us about how Cabinet works. As a Cabinet, decisions are taken collectively and only the Premier and the four Ministers have a vote in the Cabinet. The Attorney General, who sits as Legal Advisor to the Cabinet and the Governor, who chairs the meetings, do not have a vote in Cabinet.

I invite you to download a copy of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 from bvi.gov.vg. to learn more about the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands and how it is constituted.

At this time I want to tell you that on May 20, Cabinet met in a Special meeting to discuss Phase One of the COVID-19 Border Re-entry Protocol.

Please note:

  1. Cabinet received and endorsed, as amended, the protocol for the Controlled Re-entry of Nationals and Permanent Residents to the Virgin Islands during the COVID-19 Pandemic as part of the Restricted Border Reopening Plan;
  2. Cabinet approved the Registration Form, as amended, for Re-entry of Nationals and Permanent Residents;
  3. Cabinet agreed that the amended Registration Form would go live on Government’s Website on  May 25, 2020;
  4. Cabinet decided that from June 2 up to June 15, 2020, the first priority will be given to the re-entry of nationals, belongers, holders of permanent residence and naturalised citizens, who upon registration and certification by the Environmental Health Division, are deemed to have approved private quarantinable accommodation for occupancy for at least a 14-day period;
  5. Cabinet also decided that from June 2 to June 15, 2020, priority for re-entry will also be given to persons who left the Territory for medical treatment and were subsequently displaced due to border closures;
  6. Cabinet decided that from  June 15, 2020, consideration would be given to the re-entry of persons with approved registration and certification with respect to available government quarantine spaces and during the aforementioned period, persons who qualify as per items (d) and (e) may re-enter the Territory on the same terms and conditions;

I will read d and e again:

reads: from June 2 up to June 15, 2020, the first priority will be given to the re-entry of nationals, belongers, holders of permanent residence and naturalised citizens, who upon registration and certification by the Environmental Health Division, are deemed to have approved private quarantinable accommodation for occupancy for at least a 14-day period;

e reads: from June 2 to June 15, 2020, priority for re-entry will also be given to persons who left the Territory for medical treatment and were subsequently displaced due to border closures;

  1. Cabinet decided that the Government of the Virgin Islands would fund costs related to Government quarantine;
  2. Cabinet advised that the National Security Council instruct the Attorney General to draft a new Curfew Order to take effect from May 21, 2020, to include the restriction of the movement of vessels within Territorial waters until  May 27, 2020, except where authorised;
  3. Cabinet advised that the National Security Council instruct the Attorney General to draft a new Curfew Order under the Curfew Act, 2017, to take effect on Sunday, May 24, 2020, for a period of` 14 days from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.;
  4. Cabinet decided that restaurants will be allowed to re-open for dining purposes in accordance with the social distancing guidelines, effective May 24, 2020;
  5. Cabinet amended the opening hours of all beaches from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. effective from May 24, 2020, for the purposes of exercise and therapy; and
  6. Cabinet considered and decided on an increase for the size of gatherings from 20 persons to one person per 64 sq. ft. up to a maximum of fifty (50) persons, as certified by the Social and Monitoring Task Force, to take effect on May 24, 2020.

These were the decision we made as of May 20, 2020, and we continue to have special meetings in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands.

As a reminder, on May 28, your Government will be launching Phase 2 of our Economic Stimulus Response plan for rebooting and reawakening the BVI economy, following the initial mitigation measures for containing COVID-19.

As we prepare for this next milestone in our journey, it is important that I provide you with some preliminary information about this second phase so that you can be informed and so that you can prepare yourselves.

We will be stating in more detail, information regarding a three-month amnesty on payments to BVI Electricity Corporation by individuals and businesses that qualify based on how they were affected by COVID-19.

This initiative will be led and monitored by the BVI Electricity Corporation and its Board.

Your Government understands the hardship our people are facing during this time, and as promised we will continue to address the major essential needs of our people and local businesses, as much as possible and within the limits of our means as a Territory.

Thus, in order to assist you in this area, for the months of May, June and July, the Government through the BVIEC and its Board, will be granting an amnesty on payments to qualifying individuals and businesses.

This will be on a case-by-case basis as businesses and individuals will have to furnish the relevant information to BVIEC and its Board to show how they were affected by COVID-19 based on the criteria that will be published.

This is necessary to verify and ensure that the needy gets the needed help, and not the greedy. This is your Government’s mantra in respect to the phased implementation of the economic stimulus response to COVID-19.

We must balance keeping you safe in light of COVID-19 that is ongoing, with the rebooting, reawakening and strengthening of our economy during this COVID-19 era and beyond.

Why should we do this in a phased manner?

  1. We all know that we are still recovering from the experiences of 2017, and that requires resources;
  2. We all know that we are living through COVID-19 and no country in the world was prepared for this, nor do any of us have enough resources to address all the needs; and
  3. We are approaching a predicted active hurricane season, and while we will continue to pray that we do not experience another catastrophic event, we must still be wise and ensure that we have resources available so that we can still take care of ourselves.

Just last evening, we felt a little tremor, another earthquake, which serves as a reminder of where we live and the times that we are in. Though it was small, 3.4, we are reminded that catastrophic events give no warnings and can leave us vulnerable, even with the best of preparations.

This is why we must make sure that we move in phases and not in huge chunks with our economic stimulus response, so that our resources can be stretched to allow us to address our needs as we continue to exercise the highest degree of control over the affairs of this Territory.

These are yet another reason, why in the best of the people of the Virgin Islands, your Government must immediately continue to negotiate certain aspects of the Protocols for Effective Financial Management in terms of the conditions, without compromising good governance.

To date there is no known cure or vaccine for COVID-19 as families around the world are being immensely affected by the death of a loved one. By working together – as a Government and a people – with God at the centre and head of it all, we will continue to hold our own. We have managed to keep the infection and fatality rates down to very low numbers when compared to most other countries.

So, let us continue to work oneness of purpose. Let us stay informed and remain laser-focused.

Each of us has a role to play to help our economy and to keep us safe.

Can I tell you that every time that you wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds you are contributing to keeping us safe and helping our economy?

Can I tell you that every time you remain 6 feet apart, you are contributing to keeping us safe and helping our economy?

And, can I tell you that every time you wear a mask covering your nose and mouth, you are contributing to keeping us safe and helping our economy?

We are in this together, and together we will defeat COVID-19.

By working with your Government, together we continue to reawaken and strengthen our economy as we work protecting our Virgin Islands for future generations to come.

I am confident that you will stay the course.

I give you my assurance as Leader of this Territory that your Government in the midst of the challenges and adversity will stay true to the God of our forefathers; true to our purpose as Virgin Islanders; while remaining steadfast in purpose and diligent in actions.

I thank you.

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