Good afternoon to all those living in and visiting the Virgin Islands.
A meeting was convened earlier today with the Premier, Deputy Premier, Minister of Health and Social Development and representatives of key response agencies across the public service to discuss the current global outbreak of COVID-19. In order to facilitate the best possible response in our Territory to the ongoing global COVID-19 outbreak, the National Emergency Operations Centre has now been activated at a Level 1.
Residents should not fear this announcement, but should be reassured that Government is taking the risk of a new virus arriving on our shores very seriously. I remind you all that at Level 1, key agencies within the NEOC are closely monitoring the situation and are standing by to escalate our activation level, should that prove necessary.
In practical terms, this means that the Ministry of Health, advised by our experts in the Environmental Health, Public Health and Epidemiology units, continue to lead the way as the Territory takes all prudent precautionary measures. Activating the NEOC will mean that our health sector experts will be supported in their work by the Department of Disaster Management in their function as a coordinating body, and by the other NEOC support structures to help share information, activate sectoral plans, identify relevant resources, and intensify all readiness actions to ensure that the Territory is adequately prepared to deal with COVID-19.
We have had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Territory, but considering the spread worldwide and now, sadly in the Caribbean region, many of you will no doubt wonder what precautionary measures are being taken now to help prevent the virus from coming here. Earlier this month, an exercise was carried out to test intake and screening procedures in place at the hospital, which allowed the Health Services Authority to strengthen their protocols and staff education.
At ports of entry, surveillance has been increased to ensure that travelers from areas that are already being affected by the virus receive all the appropriate screenings. The Ministry of Health continues to work closely with regional and global health agencies to make sure that we are operating from the most up-to-date information about the characteristics of the virus as well as its prevalence. They have stood up the Quarantine Authority so that our Ports, Customs and Immigration officers can be advised of the latest safety and screening precautions. Prevention and safety information from the Ministry of Health and Social Development has also been released regularly via the Department of Information and Public Relations. The Ministry of Health and our Government is in regular touch with regional health organisations and also Public Health England.
Even with all this and more, the Territory needs you, the people of the Virgin Islands, to do your part. As with other viruses, the best protection is prevention; and the best prevention is to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly. Cover your sneezes and coughs with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Avoid touching your face, as this is how the virus has the opportunity to infect you.
I know that this is a stressful time, especially for those of you who are caring for young children, the elderly, or others who may have compromised immune systems. Please continue to take every precaution at your homes, schools and businesses, and be assured that the government is doing the same.