The announcement that we have confirmed cases COVID-19 the Coronavirus in the British Virgin Islands I know will be of great concern to everyone.
However, as the Premier said, this was not unexpected. We have seen an increase in cases in the region and I want to reassure you that we have been putting plans in place to minimise the impact. We have excellent infrastructure and medical professionals in the Virgin Islands. Public health teams, as the Premier has said and as the Minister of Health will talk more about, are already tracing any contacts. Cabinet is discussing any further measures we may need to take and is meeting regularly to assess the situation.
For all of the public and all of us, this a time to remain calm and to come together, not physically though, but in our resolve as a community. We have a tradition of helping each other. The majority of us may only get mild symptoms if we contract COVID-19 but some may be more seriously impacted. This is why it is so important to follow the measures to look after all of us, to look after our elderly, to look after those with underlying health issues, please do follow all of the advice.
The measures we are taking through Cabinet are taking have been driven by one motivation; to protect you and to protect the overall population of the Territory. We have – for some days – been working on the assumption that coronavirus may be present in the Territory.
Our strategy as a Cabinet has always been to put safety first – to be safe rather than sorry. That is why Cabinet has been putting unprecedented measures in place to protect the Territory. That is why as you heard-we have closed the ports and airports to incoming passengers and are restricting groups of more than twenty people from gathering. That is why we have told businesses to close to the public between 8pm and 6am to limit interaction between people and we want to encourage responsible actions.
As we saw in 2017, this Territory is highly capable of responding to crises when we work together. But this crisis is different and we must respond accordingly. It is global and it will be sustained. The world will change in a way that it wouldn’t had it not occurred.
For now: Whoever you are on in the Territory: old or young; citizen, resident or visitor; whichever Island you live on; whatever your ethnicity; however you make your living; whether you are rich or poor, this impacts us all equally.
We are about to go through one shared experience. How we get through and come out the other end will almost entirely depend on your sense of selfishness and your civic duty; it will depend on your sense of community spirit.
What we decide at Cabinet is driven by the determination that we do not lose the advantage we presently enjoyed compared to most. There is a window here where if we are bold we might just come through this far less impacted than others. And Cabinet, I know, doesn’t intend to shy away from that opportunity or responsibility.
Globally, everyone who is now gripped by the virus tells us to move early, not late.
At Cabinet, we are taking and will take the necessary decisions. But I want to repeat, this is a joint effort with all of us.
Because we understand disaster, we are well prepared for them. There’s no indication our food supply chains will be impacted and in the coming days please be as responsible in our supermarkets and stores as you have been to date.
As the Premier said, there should be no stigma about being confirmed with a case or registering concern with the Medical Hotline-and again to repeat, that number is 852 7650. It’s ok to seek support and to be tested and we are ramping up our testing capability.
You must abide by the social distancing advice. Please follow those guidelines as the Premier said -washing your hands for 20 seconds, limiting physical contact with people and the other areas of advice.
These are difficult times and will likely remain difficult for some time to come. One way this crisis is different is that we have no idea how long it will last. We must not focus or fret on a particular date by which we expect the world, or even ourselves, to be through the worst. We must ensure that we make every effort to follow the sensible steps and know that it will pass.
I want to thank Cabinet and all of our teams across the public service who are working so hard to protect the Territory. Particularly those men and women in our health services and our essential services who have continued to demonstrate their skill and to provide excellent service and commitment.
Finally, I want to thank you for what we are asking everyone in this territory to do.
Let me re-iterate. This is not a time for selfishness – it is not a time for overly panicking or fear. It is a time for community spirit where that is not shopping more than you need; not spreading social media fear, and not thinking you are invincible or can’t spread this virus.
We can’t see this disease but we know that you can help stop being a chain to spread it. Your actions can help protect us all, and in particular our most vulnerable and elderly in the community.
I thank you and may God bless us as we face this new challenge together.