STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
13 March, 2020
BVI GOVERNMENT RESPONDING PROACTIVELY TO COVID-19
My dear Virgin Islanders, residents and visitors, a pleasant good day and God’s blessings to you and yours. As this is your Premier of the Virgin Islands, Andrew A. Fahie.
As you are aware, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the COVID-19 Coronavirus a pandemic.
Across the world, many countries are experiencing confirmed cases of the virus and everyone is taking steps to try and contain further spread.
One of the lessons we have learnt is that no country is immune.
In the Virgin Islands, through the Grace and Protection of God Almighty, we are fortunate that to date there have been no confirmed cases of the virus on our shores.
Let us continue to pray that the situation stays this way, but we are mindful of the reality that this is a fluid situation, and, day by day, it changes.
Your Government recognises that human life is a most precious gift from God, and the safety of the public is our highest concern and priority.
We also recognise that we have to be proactive, not only in protecting our people, but in protecting the long-term viability of our economy.
This is why the BVI was one of the first countries in the region to turn away a cruise ship that may have posed a potential risk to all of us here in the Virgin Islands.
Your Government is taking every possible step to try to prevent the coronavirus from reaching our shores.
Stringent measures have been put in place and will continue to be put in place to do our best to detect the coronavirus and stop it from getting through our borders.
We are in this together! We are going to manage this issue together with Faith in God! We are going to manage this issue together in the same manner that our forefathers would have done whenever they were faced with a challenge.
We will continue to plan. We will continue to educate through awareness. And, we will continue to be vigilant because this is who we are as people of the Virgin Islands.
In the worst-case scenario of a positive case presenting itself, if it comes, we will do all that we can as a people working together to manage it.
As your leader, I will keep you informed and, I repeat, we will go through this together.
We recognise now more than ever we must unite.
As a result, we have had meetings as a Government; as Members of the House of Assembly; as a business community; as a Cabinet; as the National Emergency Operations Centre; as the Health Emergency Operations Centre; among many other stakeholders in our society to formulate the best plans forward that will assist us in mitigating the effects of this global pandemic.
At this time, I wish to advise you of some of the measures that are being put in place for the safety of us all.
- First, let me inform that on Friday 13th March, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands convened a Special Meeting and endorsed the decision taken by your Government that effective Saturday, 14th March, 2020 no cruise ships would be allowed to call on the Territory of the Virgin Islands within a 30 day period, in the first instance. I know that you are following the international and regional news and you are aware of developments in the global cruise industry. So, you will understand that this is an unfortunate but necessary measure required at this time in the lifespan of humanity and the British Virgin Islands. We have contacted our cruise partners and advised them of our decision and we are committed to working with them when and wherever safely possible to transition our businesses and economies through this period. This is a sacrifice that we must make now to keep us all safe.
- Cabinet also agreed to the limiting of the number of international ports of entry in terms of passengers to three. The ports are Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, Road Town and West End Ferry Terminals, and one (1) cargo port of entry – Port Purcell subject to relevant Order or legislative amendment. These measures are necessary to facilitate the effective screening of passengers.
- Cabinet endorsed the establishment of a technical team named the Coronavirus Economic and Fiscal Stability Taskforce to make recommendations and provide advice on the economic sustainability of the Territory over a six-month period. The objective is to address the possible economic challenges that our people may encounter as a result of what is happening. The Task Force will be responsible for monitoring the situation and presenting proactive solutions so that we can remain ahead of the curve. This task force is examining the real, possible and probable impact of the virus from multiple angles, and using this analysis to devise strategies for the BVI to successfully overcome those challenges.
- Cabinet noted that discussions on price gouging and other related matters would be held with the Department of Trade, Investment Promotions and, as well as other stakeholders. Your Government has zero tolerance for this type of negative behavior.
- Cabinet agreed, effective Sunday, 15th March, 2020, to suspend travel to the Territory by visitors, where that person has travelled to, from or through affected countries as defined by the WHO in its list of special interest countries.
- Cabinet decided that visitors who travelled to, from or through a high risk country within a period of 14 days or less, immediately preceding the visitor’s arrival in the Territory will be subject to enhanced screening procedures and may be quarantined for a period of up to 14 days.
- Cabinet decided that the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival and the 2020 Spring Regatta be postponed and that other future mass gatherings will be further reviewed at a meeting of the National Emergency Operations Centre on Monday, 16th March.
Further measures taken by your Government to ensure the safety of us all includes, but is not limited to:
- Your Government has met with the supermarket operators and wholesalers, as well as local freight and cargo shipping companies, to discuss precautionary measures in response to the virus. We discussed with them the current protocols and procedures in place, challenges and the advised approach to increase awareness and the prevention of COVID-19.
- We are mindful of the impacts that regional and international developments with respect to the Coronavirus can, and will, have on the local economy and the livelihood of our people. As such, we are in discussions with the banks and insurance companies with respect to precautionary measures in response to this unfolding situation.
- I have written to the Governor requesting the support of the UK Government for the provision of a suitably-equipped ship for the purpose of quarantining of persons in the event that we need to do so. I have also asked for the UK’s support in setting up temporary quarantine facilities on land, among other resources, if needed.
- We will continue to monitor the developments nationally and globally.
Many other measures are being put in place and this is an all-round team-effort. Every Department, agency and committee, is working closely in a unified effort, and this includes the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) and National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC).
At this juncture, I must thank the Minister for Health, Honourable Carvin Malone, and his team, for the work they are doing in the management of this situation.
Please note that your Government will be meeting with the taxi-operators, vendors and other affected stakeholders on Saturday to discuss issues that impact on them as a result of the implementation of some of these measures.
Your Government is taking these measures because the safety and health of our people comes first.
We are also urging you to exercise safe practices such as frequent hand-washing with soap for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, cover your mouth when you cough, and keep your immune system strong by taking the necessary vitamins.
Should you develop the symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath, do not visit the doctor. Instead, call the medical hotline at 852-7650. This is important to ensure that you get the appropriate treatment and to protect those around you such as your family members. Vigilance is very important.
There is no benefit to be derived from panicking, absolutely no benefit to be derived, and panic buying. The way to get through this is by being level-headed, informed, and calm. The measures mentioned above will ensure that all aspects of this challenge can and will be handled in an orderly fashion.
We in the BVI are all too familiar with the power of Prayer. Nothing is too big for GOD!
I am calling on our Kingdom Ambassadors and prayer warriors to petition God. Let us pray individually and collectively that God will protect our Territory and people from this plague. Together we must use what is in our hands, the Power of Prayer and Faith in God that he will protect us.
By His Grace and Love we shall overcome this challenge. We will get through this together.
I thank you and I promise that we will keep you informed.