I extend greetings to everyone and I thank you for joining us for this update on the ongoing COVID-19 response in the British Virgin Islands.
As of 6th April 2020:
There are 1,174,866 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally and approximately 64,541 deaths.
- It is important to note that in that number, 3,559 are confirmed in the Caribbean region with 154 deaths reported.
- 81 percent of persons infected with COVID-19 remain mild, while 14 percent is serious and 5 percent critical.
- The World Health Organization continues to classify both the global and regional risk of COVID-19 as very high.
Today we are announcing that 17 samples were collected by teams from the Regional Security System and tested by CARPHA over the past two days and the good news is that; all results were negative for the virus that causes COVID-19. This brings the total number of samples tested to date to 64: 61 negative and 3 positive. All positive cases have exhibited only mild symptoms and did not require hospitalisation. All 3 cases are being or will be re-tested in accordance with CARPHA’s protocol for determining full recovery from COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health is pleased that there is still no sign of person-to-person transmission of the virus in the Territory. However, I strongly caution that the risk of transmission has not been eliminated, as the disease can spread silently for some time before being detected. The COVID-19 war is far from over.
Our teams continue to expand surveillance and testing, provide support to all persons in quarantine and strictly monitor for development of signs and symptoms of the disease to ensure appropriate isolation, management, and/or treatment as necessary. Anyone experiencing a fever with cough or difficulty breathing is encouraged to contact the Health Hotline at 852-7650 for medical assessment and guidance.
Our MISSION is to find and isolate any remaining cases of COVID-19 in the Territory in order to minimise the risk of community spread, and the suffering and loss that this would bring.
As difficult as it is, this is why it is so important to have a 24-hour Curfew in place, at this time. DO YOUR PART!
- Fisherpersons and Farmers can secure their boats and attend their farms and livestock between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon.
- Persons deemed as essential workers are issued passes to travel to and from Work or Duty, ONLY.
- Passes that are issued are for the purposes issued only! All other activities are deemed violations.
- If you have not been issued a pass; STAY HOME.
I once again strongly encourage everyone to strictly adhere to the letter and spirit of the Curfew Order and STAY AT HOME for the entire curfew period as recommended by Public Health experts. By doing this, you are saving lives. For emergency workers and other essential and critical services that require persons to venture out of their homes for work-related activities, I remind you to adhere to distancing, hygiene and sanitation guidelines in order to minimise your risk of exposure to the virus; and I thank you sincerely for your sacrificial service to our community.
We observe, with concern that the rates of infection are steadily increasing in neighboring jurisdictions and in countries that have close ties with the Virgin Islands. The Government continues to push ahead with strengthening the capacity of our ports, public health, law enforcement and healthcare delivery systems in order to rapidly detect, contain and manage any cases that may be brought to our shores when our borders eventually re-open.
In the meantime we must continue to:
- carefully manage the closure of our ports while facilitating the movement of freight and cargo vessels;
- secure our borders to curtail illegal entry;
- update our risk classifications of countries, territories and areas of Special Interest and High Risk, based on WHO Situation Reports and other Public Health data. Entry to the BVI would continue to be prohibited based on travel history to or from high risk areas within a 14-day period; and
- maintain physical distance between people and avoid gathering in large groups.
To some, these measures may seem like an extreme response when the Territory still has only three (3) confirmed cases of the virus. Those of us tasked with steering the Territory through this unprecedented storm have agreed that it is vitally important to take all possible precautions when it comes to protecting our people. We only have one chance to get this right.
All the measures taken so far are in line with one main objective: to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 in the British Virgin Islands.
In addition to the travel restrictions and social distancing measures mentioned before we have:
- Invested heavily in medical equipment, supplies and the public health facilities in order to be prepared to safely and effectively manage and treat COVID-19 patients. In this regard I wish to place on record our deep appreciation for the contributions received and pledged from Public Health England, the Bank of Asia, Unite BVI, the Rotary and Lions Clubs Family and a host of other donors who in fact will be recognised in a later broadcast.
- With the approval of the United Kingdom Government, we have arranged for the deployment of essential medical personnel from Cuba to the BVI under an initiative being spearheaded by the OECS Commission;
- We have also expanded social services to ease the burden on vulnerable households, such as home deliveries of groceries and essential supplies, distribution of vouchers and care packages, feeding programmes, and psycho-social support through various hotlines with professionals poised to respond to reports of child abuse and other forms of domestic violence. We are grateful to the hardworking teams at the Social Development Department and the BVI Red Cross for their leadership in delivering and coordinating these services. I also recognise the many NGOs and volunteers on Tortola and the Sister Islands that have mobilised to bring support and relief to their communities during this challenging time.
- Roadside collection of waste has been rolled out to all communities. Residents are directed to put out their household waste in sealed bags between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
During this period of Curfew the Government has found no better time to implement or roll-out the 7R’s of our Waste Management Strategy: Reform; Restrict; Reduce; Recycle; Reuse; Return and Rethink. Details of our strategy will be disseminated and all stakeholders will be invited to participate and contribute to their areas of expertise. In the meanwhile — clean plastics bottles, glass and aluminum cans should be stored at home and recycled after the curfew. I will announce a VILLAGE COMPETITION for students and the households or maybe the village that collects the most recyclable items would be awarded lap top computers or other prices to enhance their learning experience
The Ministry will also use this opportunity to advance the introduction of its Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP). Together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Natural Resources, we will collaborate and implement a holistic approach to healthy living. I am assured that no medication or vaccines can substitute for proper diets; proper exercise; proper rest and proper state of mind.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development and the entire Government of the Virgin Islands will continue to exert our best efforts, based on scientific evidence and best practices, to put effective measures in place to safeguard the health and well-being of our people.
I urge everyone to continue to do your part to protect yourselves and your families by adhering to all legal requirements and Public Health guidelines.
We will continue to keep you informed and I invite you to keep aware of the latest advice and information with updates on Government’s website, bvi.gov.vg/covid-19.
Thank you, and may God continue to protect and bless the Virgin Islands.