Governor, Premier, Fellow Virgin Islanders, residents and friends, good evening.
I begin my remarks by making reference to the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros, who recently cautioned that “we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time”. He added that “the world cannot go back to the way things were. There must be a “new normal” – a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared”.
Certainly we all hope and strive for a healthier, safer and better prepared Virgin Islands in the face of the staggering effects of this COVID-19 pandemic.
As predicted, “though not out of the woods” we are faced with pertinent analysis and discussions that could have gone both ways:
If the positive cases remain low, our debate would be “Have we gone too far with the curfew measures?”
If the positive cases were to become high and additional lives are lost, our debate would pivot to, “Could we have done more to prevent the outbreak!” Look around us. We are in this with our neighbors to the West and South of us. We are in this with the Region. With North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia! THE WORLD.
Over the past 2 weeks I have logged onto electronic meetings of WHO; PAHO and CARPHA that were attended by Leaders and with Ministers of Health throughout the World; Meetings with members of Cabinet; Meetings with members of the House of Assembly; Meetings with members of the Government Caucus; Meetings with the HEOC Teams and WE have appeared before you with updates. Of this I am sure We are in this together.
As of 23rd April 2020 the World Health Organization reported Two million, Five hundred Forty-four thousand, and Seven hundred and Ninety-two (2,544,792) confirmed cases globally with One hundred Seventy-five thousand, Six hundred Ninety-four (175,694) deaths. Of these, and of specific interest to the BVI, the numbers in the United States and in the United Kingdom, continue to rise.
Worldometer reports that as at 23 April 2020, a total of Seven hundred and Forty-four thousand, Nine hundred Sixty-one (744,961) recoveries were recorded.
The Caribbean region has recorded 9,877 COVID-19 confirmed cases, 1701 recoveries, and 479 deaths. Of these and of specific interest to the BVI, the numbers in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico also continue to rice.
Here in the Virgin Islands an aggressive contact tracing strategy has been implemented which resulted in 189 persons currently placed in quarantine and one (1) person in isolation at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital. Since my last update, an additional nine (9) samples were tested by CARPHA. Eight (8) of those samples were negative for the virus that causes COVID-19 and one (1) additional positive case was detected.
This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases detected in the BVI to date to six (6), with three (3) recoveries, one (1) death, and two (2) active cases. Ten (10) additional samples are expected to be transported to CARPHA today for confirmatory testing.
We again encourage anyone experiencing a fever with cough or difficulty breathing, or other respiratory symptoms to call the Medical Hotline at 852-7650.
A dedicated home visiting service has now been introduced to allow for COVID-19 testing to be done in private homes. The deployment of healthcare workers or contact tracing teams in the community wearing protective gear does not necessarily indicate that a new COVID-19 case has been discovered at that location.
As we move towards lifting some of the curfew restrictions, an important aspect of our readiness to reclaim some level of normalcy while keeping safe in this new environment, is the capacity of our healthcare system to detect, isolate and treat all active cases.
I am pleased to report that the BVI Health Services Authority continues apace to ensure a high level of readiness to meet the new challenges presented by COVID-19:
- A screening and assessment area has been constructed outside the Emergency Room with capacity to treat 20 to 30 mild cases per hour with severe cases being referred into the main Emergency Room.
- Medical/Surgical Wards have been relocated to the 5th floor of the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital which has allowed us to set up an a dedicated special care unit on the 3rd floor of the Hospital to isolate and treat COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization or isolation.
- The BVI Health Services Authority has also revised workflows, guidelines and protocols in all clinical areas to ensure adequate COVID-19 prevention measures, conducted extensive training in PPEs, and provided for psycho-social support to healthcare workers.
- Significant investments and donations have been made towards the procurement of a large stock of PPEs and additional ventilators and other medical equipment.
- The BVIHSA has also set up a dedicated telemedicine service with a call centre and the use of a new Electronic Medical Record and Patient Application. This will go well for our accreditation process.
- An online prescription refill and delivery system is also now available to the entire Territory.
- An advanced triage and screening facility has also been constructed on the 3rd floor car park of the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital, and
- Construction drawings have been finalised for the construction of new facilities at the Major Peebles Wing.
These are but a few of the many initiatives being rolled out on a daily basis across the health sector to ensure that our health system is at its highest attainable state of preparedness to cope with the new demands that it could face in the weeks and months ahead. Our goal, of course, is to need none of the specialised medical equipment, treatment facilities and other resources. This goal is only attainable if we all do our part to protect ourselves from the virus that causes COVID-19.
We will continue to strengthen the capacity of the health system to respond to the life-threatening impacts of COVID-19 whenever the need arises.
Every sector across the entire Territory will also need to make significant adjustments in order to operate safely in this new environment. A multi-agency Compliance Task Force has been deployed to support and monitor businesses to ensure compliance with Public Health guidelines and standards.
Health and well-being is a shared responsibility across all communities, businesses, faith-based and social organizations, households, and at the individual level. We must make urgent and serious efforts to adjust to new realities in our every-day lives. This means adhering more closely than ever to physical distancing, hygiene and sanitisation measures wherever we go as if our lives depend on it, because they do.
I once again express my sincere appreciation to all the courageous women and men working on the frontlines and behind the scenes in this valiant response to the daunting COVID-19 threat; our Healthcare workers, Public Health professionals, law enforcement and other emergency services and the hardworking professionals across the public, private and voluntary sectors. And NO, I will NOT forget our hard working staff from the Department of Waste Management with special focus on Solid Waste and the teams at the Pockwood Pond land fill and incinerator. The House to House Waste Collection Program is being perfected and is being fully supported by this Government.
I also wish to thank you, the people of the Virgin Islands, for your sacrifices and your active cooperation with the Public Health measures that are sometimes difficult to endure, but so vitally necessary for our collective safety, protection and well-being.
We have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time. We are in a better position to deal with the issues that are common to all nations. And as we roll out from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting on the 27th April Monday, we are assured that we will get through this together.
By coming together and supporting each other as a resilient Virgin Islands, we will be able to build on our past triumphs, bravely confront our current challenges, and look towards the future with hope and determination. I thank you kindly.