The primary question that everyone has is why the need for a curfew at this time. It is important that we lay this out carefully so that each of us will have a full understanding. The Governor has just stated the legality of this curfew and as the Minister for Health of Social Development, with the responsibility of the Public Health Ordinance CAP194, the infectious disease notification and the Quarantine Act, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands have been meeting for the past two weeks, even on weekend to ensure the safety of all residents.
As we are aware, on March 11, 2020 the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. As we speak, there are over 465,915 confirmed cases with approximately 21,031 deaths in over 200 countries, territories and areas. It is important to note that the majority of cases, approximately 95 percent are mild and rarely require hospitalization. It is important to note that in fact, only 5 percent of these cases would be assessed as critical.
In the British Virgin Islands the epidemiological summary reports to date on March 26, that 36 persons were tested of that, 25 returned as negative, 2 have now been confirmed positive and we await the results of 9 persons under investigation. 107 persons remain under self-quarantine at home.
Testing, containment, quarantine, contact tracing and follow-up strategies are on-going and are being carried out around the clock in accordance with the World Health Organization technical guidelines.
With respect our readiness, we look at our BVI Health Services Authority; the authority continues to be on high alert and has fully implemented its incident command system. A number of changes have been made to prepare for the eventuality of cases as we now have it with the 2 cases. Visitation has been curtailed with entry screening at points of entry through the main lobby, emergency room, and old emergency room entrance to the Annex. Elective and non-emergency services are presently reduced to prevent gathering of numerous persons and to minimize risk of disease transmission to patients visitors and staff. The community clinics and outpatient clinics are utilizing telephone follow up to keep track of patients with limited clinic services by appointment only. Patients are urged to phone ahead rather than turn up at the services. You must call your healthcare provider first before you arrive whether private or public facilities.
All visitation at the Dr. D Orlando Smith Hospital has been suspended with the exception of Obstetrics and Pediatrics which are restricted to one designated visitor only. Client services staff will be available outside the lobby to handle persons presenting at the lobby entrance and address concerns. Ladies and gentlemen, we have to be careful with how we proceed even at the Health Services Authority.
It is important to note that the third floor of the Dr. D Orland Hospital has been transformed into a special isolation unit specifically to handle any suspect or confirmed severe cases of COVID-19 who are deemed as requiring hospital administration. The unit has 14 beds expandable to 18 beds and has designated staffing with considerations for infection control and donning and removal of personal protective equipment as well as an area for staff to shower and change before leaving the unit.
The Emergency Room has been reconfigured to provide rapid identification of patient who may have COVID-19 and their rapid isolation and handling. Why do I go through our preparation stages? We are in the process of qualifying the use of rapid test kits.
It is important to note that in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and all through the world, there is a fact that we do not have enough equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) that are required.
Today we received donated items compliments of the Bank of Asia. But the only way that we are going to have enough equipment is for us to need none of them. The only way to obtain that objective is to practice the social distance protocols announced at the beginning of this campaign.
We advised you to wipe surfaces, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, cough in your elbow and dispose of napkins after the first use. These are important. We also advised that if you showed any symptoms of this virus that you self-quarantine. We had a partial close of the border for incoming persons, we were limited to the fact that those who were deemed to belong to the Virgin Islands and those who were resident in the Virgin Islands could enter the border.
Tomorrow, at the House of Assembly will look at the provision for being legally able to have mandatory quarantine as too many of us on returning home did not follow these protocols. We continue to monitor and track all those persons that have come into contact with the two cases that have been proven as positive. We will continue to track primary and secondary contacts because we do not know who all may have been affected and those persons will have to be tested. If it is found that any additional amounts have been notified then we have to provide all the services that I have outlined and more in doing this. It will be a strain on the resources as it is in every country in the world.
The curfew as outlined by the Governor is intended to reduce our need for any more equipment. We have to make sure that the curfew is in place so that we can keep you safe those persons who continue to violate the quarantine and social distancing have caused us, in order to help you to implement this so that we can break the cycle.
The cycle has to be broken and cycle cannot continue because we do not have the resources. So we have created and signed the order. In terms of the businesses that the Governor outlined, the persons employed in the essential services as defined in section 3 of the Labour Code 2010, if they are on duty. This list will be printed and can be found the website.
- officers of private security service providers as defined in section 2 of the Private Security Industry Act, 2007, if they are on duty;
- customs and immigration officers, if they are on duty;
- public and private sector waste management services;
- fuel distribution and delivery services;
- public and private sector social care providers;
- Courts (Senior Magistrate and Coroner);
- mortuary services;
- humanitarian support;
- emergency call handlers;
- freight, courier and cargo distribution;
- Apostille and related statutory services;
- laundry services;
- media and broadcast providers;
- farming, agriculture, fisheries and veterinary service;
- transportation services (providing transportation for essential and critical operations);
- supermarkets and restaurants (providing services to and for essential and critical operations); and
- health and emergency operations centre.This list would be analyzed from time to time because no doubt, there would be those who may have made the list that we have to revise and those who may have been left off would have to be added. But this important for us to provide, if you are on this list and you do not have a cause to be out, for your very own safety, for the life of others, we are asking you to abide by the rules in which we have. This period, especially from 8 o’clock on Friday March 27 until 6 o’clock on April 2 is short compared to some for the Territories that have a month up to two months. If or when the curfew is lifted and we do not abide by it and we cause for a concern for the spread of this virus, we would have to re-look this in terms of what this is.
When we received the results of the other 9 tests, we would have to see if from those persons in the Territory, if we have any primary and secondary contacts that we would have to further explore. We are hoping that we can get these results returned to us in short order whether it is 3 or 4 days and then we can complete the tracking if it is found that anyone of the 9 persons has this diseased which we cannot risk a person not knowing whether or not any of the 9 have been tested and they are out there having social events with you, with me, with your family and with my golden gems. So I want to thank you very much for your cooperation, thank you very much for understanding, I thank the Government of the Virgin Islands, the Governor’s Office and all those frontline persons who are here even tonight. But at the end of the day, we have a duty to protect and with this I say God bless you and God bless the Virgin Islands.