Greetings to all in these Virgin Islands.
For the last few weeks, this Territory has shown remarkable strength and unity in the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Restrictions have been introduced by our Government to contain the spread of the virus, ensure public safety and hopefully, save lives. But I recognise that these restrictions, particularly during the recent 24-hour curfew, have caused us to miss out on important celebrations, business opportunities, schooling and the opportunity to see our loved ones. All this social distancing may leave some with a feeling that our lives are on pause.
The reality is that neither time nor Mother Nature have stopped.
Soon it will be the Atlantic Hurricane Season again. Early forecasts indicate that this season will be more active than the statistical average, although as we know already, it only takes one storm on our shores to have serious impacts.
Thankfully, the work of Government in preparing for hurricane season has not stopped either, and Cabinet remains focused on this agenda alongside COVID-19. The public service has also been busy making preparations as part of our annual readiness assessment. This includes the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) which is collaborating with other ministries and departments to do what is needed to serve the Territory during any potential crisis. DDM are also conducting valuable work with health colleagues as part of the HEOC response to COVID-19. Thank you to all the public servants for their hard work in helping this Territory prepare.
It would be fair to say that the people of BVI are experienced in working together to prepare for possible emergencies. Most of us know what to do to prepare for hurricane season. However, we must not become complacent or be distracted by COVID-19. Preparation is more important this year than ever before, as there is a chance we could face a storm and COVID-19 restrictions simultaneously. As usual, I urge you to:
- Stay informed by monitoring government communication channels. You should also have backup methods for keeping informed, such as a battery powered radio in addition to your mobile phone.
- Update your plan. Everyone in your family or business should know what to do during an emergency, including what extra precautions might be needed for persons under quarantine during a storm.
- Gather your supplies. An emergency kit should include plenty of food and water for everyone in your home, plus battery powered lights and a radio. Don’t forget to include medications and appropriate hygiene items like a mask, hand sanitizer and disinfectant.
- Secure your space. Make sure your home has adequate protection from strong wind and heavy rains. Ensure that you have secure shutters, well maintained gutters, and that all drainage paths and ghuts are clear and free of debris.
- Finally, consider who in your family or neighborhood might need a little extra assistance this season. Many in the Territory have already extended such consideration and helped ensure that the lockdown didn’t cut off their friends and neighbors from the critical supplies. We should all continue to look out for vulnerable people, including anyone who is unwell, the elderly and children.
In the coming weeks, our Government will continue to share advice to help you prepare your family and business. This will be posted on the websites and social media channels of central Government and the Department of Disaster Management. You will also hear more from me, the Premier, and other leaders of our Territory and have the chance to ask questions via virtual meetings.
The United Kingdom is also ready to support. You will all be aware of the ship, RFA Argus, which was deployed to the Caribbean earlier this year with immediate relief capabilities and supplies. It will stay stationed here throughout the season. We are also discussing further support to bring extra resilience, should we require it given the added risk this year of tackling a storm and COVID-19 simultaneously.
Atlantic Hurricane Season may seem familiar, but this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be an unprecedented challenge. However, I know that by working together, being prepared and having faith, we are well equipped to face anything together as a Territory.
Continue to stay safe and take care of each other.
Thank you and may God bless and protect this Territory.