March 17, 2020 — My dear Virgin Islanders, Residents and Visitors, a pleasant good day and God’s blessings be upon each of you.
The safety and wellbeing of our Virgin Islands people and residents are your Government’s highest priority as we continue to monitor regional and international developments with respect to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and to implement precautionary measures to prevent the virus from getting across our borders.
As you are aware, your Government has put measures in place so that the BVI has the capabilities to test for the virus. This allows us to get quicker access to test results so that we can be more proactive.
Just last week 15 persons were tested. Thanks be to God, all 15 results were negative.
So, I repeat, as of this time, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in the BVI. We thank God for his continued favour. However, our mission as your Government, as I am sure it is the mission of every person in this Territory, is to keep us all healthy and safe.
I would have announced last week,
- Cabinet has stepped up our meetings from once weekly to daily meetings, recognising that this is a fluid situation. Our first priority is to protect the people of these Virgin Islands, our home.
- Additionally, the House of Assembly Members has also met on different occasions to discuss the Territory’s response strategies in the best interest of the health and safety of the people of this Territory.
- Last week we put all the necessary measures, based on international protocols and best practices in effect to protect the Virgin Islands public.
- For example, we made the decision to limit international travel to the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport, and the Road Town and West End Ferry Dock.
- We also heightened the screening of all passengers at those ports of entry to protect the health and safety of our people and this Territory.
- We placed a 30-day suspension, in the first instance, on the accepting of cruise ships in the BVI to protect the health and safety of our people of the Virgin Islands.
- We are mindful of the impacts that the Coronavirus control measures can, and will, have on the local economy and the livelihood of our people. Your Government has met with the taxi operators, vendors and other affected stakeholders to discuss issues that will impact them. Together we will continue to be our own solutions.
- Your Government has established a Coronavirus Economic and Fiscal Sustainability Task Force that is responsible for monitoring the situation and presenting proactive solutions so that we can remain ahead of the curve. That task force is examining the real, possible and probable impact of the virus from multiple angles, and is using this analysis to devise strategies for the BVI to successfully overcome those challenges. This again is in the best interest of the health and safety of our people of the Virgin Islands.
- Your Government has also been holding meetings with a wide range of stakeholders including the supermarket operators, wholesalers, importers, banks and insurance companies, just to name a few to ensure that we continue to look out for the wellbeing of our people.
- Meetings at the levels of the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) continue to take place to ensure that we cover all of our bases in being prepared, and the Minister for Health will continue to update us on these efforts.
- Additionally, approximately $3 million thus far has been allocated thus far to ensure that the procurement of the necessary supplies and structure needed for preparedness to manage this Territory.
Your Government continues to do all that is necessary and beyond to put the health and safety of the people first.
Today, we had another Special Sitting of Cabinet to be furnished with the necessary information to make an informed decision in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands.
I would like to share those decisions with you.
- Cabinet agreed that visits to and from Her Majesty’s Prison are restricted mandatorily for a period of 30 days, with the exception of emergency situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit, subject to advice from the Attorney General;
- Cabinet endorsed that all facilities that serve as residential establishments, namely, the Adina Donovan Home for the Elderly, Virgin Gorda Elderly Home, Rainbow Children’s Home, Safe Haven Transitional Centre and other private residential facilities, and as may be amended by the Cabinet, are advised to prohibit visits in and visits out, with the exception of emergency situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit;
- Cabinet agreed that all private and public schools, pre-schools, day care centres and extra-curricular activities are mandated to close with effect from Thursday, 19th March, 2020 for 14 days, in the first instance;
- Cabinet also agreed that all social gatherings (including weddings and funerals), faith-based, sporting, cultural, recreational and commercial activities and other non-essential events are advised to restrict numbers to a limit of 30 persons at a time, and a maximum of 10 people for those in vulnerable categories with effect from Thursday, 19th March, 2020 for a period of 30 days;
- Cabinet agreed that restaurants, bars, night clubs and other entertainment and hospitality services are advised to implement sanitisation and social distancing measures within their establishments, as advised by the Ministry of Health and Social Development;
- Cabinet endorsed that entry into the British Virgin Islands by sea or air be prohibited with effect from Thursday, 19th March, 2020 for all passengers, who are not nationals, Belongers, Work Permit Holders or persons ordinarily resident in the Territory, or their dependents. The travel restriction will not apply to flight crews, diplomats or freight, cargo or courier craft or vessels;
- Cabinet also agreed that visitors and crew members to the BVI, who are not nationals, Belongers, Work Permit Holders or persons ordinarily resident in the Territory, or their dependents and permanent resident, who have traveled to, from or through countries specified on the Special Interest Group List and the Very High Risk Country List within a period of 14 days or less will not be allowed to enter the British Virgin Islands. (These lists are reviewed daily and Special Interest Group List includes China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany and the Very High Risk Country List includes: United States of America, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway).
All these decisions have been made to put you the people of the Virgin Islands first.
I want to take this opportunity to remind all persons to exercise the necessary precaution to protect themselves, their families and the entire population.
Practicing social distancing, regular hand-washing, avoiding touching the face and covering your mouth when you cough, are very important. Minimising movement helps significantly in the prevention of the spread of the Coronavirus, hence why most of these preventative measures are now being put in place.
Remember, if you feel sick, do not go to the doctor. Instead, call the medical hotline at 852-7650, so that you can get the appropriate treatment and to protect others. Vigilance is very important.
I also urge persons in positions of influence to be responsible in their actions and utterances.
In all our actions, your Government is being guided by the law, international protocols and international best practice. In particular, we are being guided by the provisions of the Public Health Ordinance, the Quarantine Act and the Infectious Diseases (Notification) Act, all of which are designed to treat with circumstances such as these.
Other major decisions and announcements to strengthen our ongoing efforts for prevention will be taken as the necessity arises, and this will be done in accordance with the international protocols and based on the advice from the technical officers. As promised, we will keep you updated!
I wish to thank our team at the Ministry of Health, led by the Minister, Honourable Carvin Malone, for their tireless efforts to keep the BVI ahead of the curve. I also want to thank all my elected colleagues for their continued support, also those in the Cabinet and the Chairman of Cabinet His Excellency the Governor.
For the most part, our Virgin Islands people have been conducting ourselves with calm and consideration, and in an orderly fashion. Let us continue to be an example to the world.
We can and we will successfully overcome the challenges of this time through the Grace and Love of God, and by working together. Your Government is with you in this.
By supporting each other, being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and by following the advice that is coming to us from the health professionals, we can and we will stop the Coronavirus from reaching our shores.
Let us also continue to keep our Trust and Faith in The Almighty God.
Let us pray individually and collectively that He will continue to protect our people and our Territory.
My people of the Virgin Islands we are cognisant that some of these preventative measures will create some temporary inconveniences.
As the old saying goes, it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
I thank you.