Our team, here in the British Virgin Islands, continues to work extremely hard to keep you, the members of the public, safe from the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Cabinet has been meeting regularly to ensure that the Territory is prepared and proactive.
The Ministry of Health and the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC), under the leadership of the Minister for Health, Honourable Carvin Malone, and the Administrative and Technical personnel in the Ministry, have been working around the clock to ensure that there is early and efficient access to relevant information for decision making, and to execute the public health response.
Other Government departments and agencies have been playing their supporting roles in maintaining order and ensuring that essential services, such as public utilities, are available.
The business sector and NGOs have also been working hand-in-hand with Government departments to ensure that citizens’ critical needs are met. And most importantly, you, the people, have been understanding, patient and cooperative – bearing with the sacrifices for the greater good and the bigger picture of protecting and saving lives.
We have always put our best foot forward knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic is a very fluid situation. In other words, it is a situation that is constantly and rapidly changing – second-by-second, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day.
We are dealing with an enemy that we cannot see. We are dealing with a virus that shows no symptoms in some people, but at the same time will make others extremely sick and even cause death.
We are dealing with a situation where the only thing that we can say we know for sure, is that the virus is contagious and it spreads by contact.
The records stand as testimony that those countries and those communities that have taken the virus seriously, and that have adhered to the warnings to practice social distancing and self-isolation, have fared better than those that have not.
We in the British Virgin Islands took the matter seriously from the very beginning.
We secured our borders and we secured our communities. Our results have been better than most.
Based on test results verified by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad, the BVI recorded three confirmed positive cases, of which there were two recoveries. Test samples from the third patient have been sent to CARPHA to verify whether that individual has also recovered.
On Thursday, 16 April, 2020, the Territory received the sad news that a fourth possible case of the virus was reported in the BVI. The patient was admitted to the isolation ward of the Dr. D Orlando Smith Hospital for emergency treatment.
Sadly, the patient, a 52-year-old female, succumbed to the symptoms of her illness this morning. Our sympathies go out to the family and loved ones of the deceased.
Preliminary test results for COVID-19 in this patient returned positive, but this still has to be verified by CARPHA. So, officially, this is a suspected case.
Several other persons who had contact with this individual were also tested for the virus. Preliminary results for these persons returned as negative for the virus, but this also has to be verified by CARPHA.
In these circumstances, even though we have to wait for formal results to come back from CARPHA, we are proceeding on the basis that Patient #4 was indeed COVID-19 positive, and that her death is suspected to be COVID-19 related – unless it is proved otherwise when the results come back from CARPHA.
The safety and well-being of every person on these islands is the number one priority for your Government, and for all our stakeholders who have joined with us in this united effort against the virus.
Your life and the lives of your loved-ones – and the public – must come first. And therefore, in the interest of saving lives, we are called upon to make some additional sacrifices.
We were all looking forward to the phased relaxing of the curfews and restrictions next week. Businesses and individuals were in the process of preparing for the phased reopening of essential businesses and services from Monday.
But, you would understand that the present circumstances leave us no choice but to adjust these plans to ensure your safety.
In this regard, the phased re-opening of business has to be pushed back and we need to extend the 24-hour curfew for just a few days more from today onwards, until we are certain that it is safe.
If we do not do this, we open the door to the possibility of us losing everything that we have already invested, and all that we have worked and sacrificed for over the past few weeks.
If we do not do this, and the situation gets worse, it will prolong the shutdown of our economy, and it will worsen the impact on businesses and persons who are presently without income due to the closures.
Please note, as I have been always saying, that we cannot afford to play around with COVID-19 because COVID-19 is not playing around with us.
The best way to shorten this fall-out, is to batten down now for just a little bit longer.
All indications lead us to be extremely hopeful that what we are asking of you will only be for a short time.
Please be mindful that the nature of COVID-19 is one that is always changing.
The one thing that we will ensure, is that your Government will not compromise your safety.
For us to get through this, we all must play our role.
We must replace our fear with your Faith. You must replace your panic by remaining focused on our purpose.
We must stay calm, maintain our patience, and continue to cooperate with the measures that are put in place for the safety of us all.
This means, just like how you are counting on us to do what you have to do, we are counting on you to continue to adhere to the curfews, practice social distancing and isolation. We’re in this together.
Your Government is mindful that persons are concerned about getting access to food, and many are worried about how they will be able to feed their families since they are out of work.
Your Government, through Cabinet with HEOC, is working on a plan to ensure that you have access to food supply during the next few days of the extended curfew period. Hence, believe me when I tell you there is no need to panic.
Your Government understands the need for some persons to replenish on needed medication, your Government through Cabinet with HEOC is working on a plan to ensure that you have access to your medication during the next few days of the extended curfew period.
Further details on how this will work will be provided to you later this evening after Cabinet has finished ironing out all the necessary logistics.
We must keep our efforts up and understand that we must keep our hope alive.
And, while it may be an old cliché, it is only fitting to remind you at this time, that tough times do not last, but tough people do.
As people of the Virgin Islands, persevering through tough times is in our DNA.
As people of the Virgin Islands, increasing our Faith has always been in our DNA.
With this we must now draw from our well of hope and our well of perseverance because this too shall pass.
Believe it or not, we are in a good place; just give us all a few more days to be in an even better place.
May God Bless our Virgin Islands and may He always watch over His people.
Because despite this sad news never doubt that God is with us.
I thank you.