STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
AT THE FOURTEENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON TUESDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER, 2020
covid-19 SITUATION AND RESPONSE
Mister Speaker thank you for yet another opportunity, to inform the public about the work that is happening in the Territory in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I begin by pointing out that the BVI has implemented a coordinated national response that seeks to engage all sectors of Government and Society to mitigate the human, social and economic impacts of this pandemic.
The stark reality is that both of our economic pillars, financial services and tourism, have been affected from the onset of this crisis, as a result of events that lie far beyond our immediate control.
We are keenly aware, Mr. Speaker, of the significant social impacts felt in areas such as health, education, employment and overall living conditions in the Territory. While these impacts have been experienced by everyone to some degree, persons living on lower incomes and other vulnerable groups are prone to experience more severe setbacks.
With these considerations in mind, your Government continues to take proactive measures to protect the public’s health and limit the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives. Your Government has also made significant investments in strengthening the healthcare system to ensure that we are well positioned to provide an appropriate level of treatment and care as the need arises. Over $12 Million is being expended on new facilities, health workers, supplies and state-of-the-art equipment in direct response to this COVID-19 crisis, and additional resources have been contributed by various donors and partners in Public Health. We again express sincere gratitude for their generosity towards the people of the Virgin Islands.
Further to this, Mr. Speaker, your Government has brought to the people of this community the Complete Health Improvement Programme as a proven and effective means of strengthening the body’s ability to prevent, arrest, and reverse chronic diseases, and improve overall health and wellbeing. A healthy immune system is better able to defend against viral infections.
In addition to this balanced and comprehensive approach by the health sector, Mr. Speaker, the Government has rolled out an Economic Stimulus Package to help bolster and expand the Social Protection System to meet people’s basic needs, while stimulating economic activity.
Direct relief to households has been delivered through initiatives such as grocery provisioning, food vouchers, expanded feeding services, free water delivery and amnesties on water and electricity payments; which all helped to ensure that people’s basic needs could be met.
Another significant Social Protection Intervention has been the introduction of a new unemployment and under-employment grant programme at the Social Security Board.
While this unemployment programme provides redress for many persons, we recognise that there is still a segment of the working population whose needs will go unmet by this programme.
To help meet the coverage gap, an Income Support Programme has been designed to be administered by the Social Development Department, and is awaiting formal approval. Funding in the amount of $1M has been earmarked for this programme.
In designing this new Income Support Programme for COVID-19, lessons learned from the Household Assistance Programme that was implemented in collaboration with the BVI Red Cross following the 2017 hurricanes have been considered.
Mr. Speaker, this is just to illustrate some of the ways in which your Government has taken a balanced and comprehensive approach in its pandemic response throughout various sectors. While no one could predict how long the economic disruptions would last, the resources available to the country are limited, and therefore need to be managed carefully.
The current phase of our pandemic response, ‘Manage It’, recognises that the virus is present in our population, and we must all do our part to keep safe. Until a vaccine or treatment is available, Mr. Speaker, our best defense against COVID-19 is to incorporate simple but effective prevention strategies into our daily lives. We can all do our part to protect ourselves and our families. We can isolate and prevent transmission by using physical distancing, face masks and sensible hygiene practices. We can get through this together, if we all do our part.
This phase, therefore, calls for a renewed emphasis on personal responsibility, as well as the protection of the community through effective enforcement of border controls and Suppression Measures. This work is reinforced by the Joint Task Force comprised of law enforcement agencies, as well as the Social Distancing Task Force in the Environmental Health Division. If you see or know something, say something by dialing 311 to contact the Police at any time of the day or night.
With effective border control and public health enforcement arrangements in place, the Territory is better positioned to continue opening its economy and its borders in a COVID-19 environment.
Mr. Speaker, I turn now to the current situation in terms of the disease occurrence in the Virgin Islands.
But, before I do, I would set the BVI’s experience in to both the world and more closely to the regional experience.
Of the 31,527,831 positive cases reported throughout the world 73% have recovered and 3% have succumbed to the virus.
In the region, of the 198,582 positive cases, 73% have recovered and 2% have been reported as having succumbed to the virus.
As we make this presentation Mr. Speaker, first, second and third-world countries and island nations are preparing to reinstitute 24 hours lockdowns in response to second and third waves of the virus while others are preparing to open their borders to regional and international travel.
At our shores in the BVI -- As of the 21st of September, after conducting PCR testing on 4,546 individuals at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith laboratory, a total of 4,455 persons tested negative, 71 were positive, and 20 results are pending. Of this amount, 61 persons (or 86%) have now recovered, 1 person (or 1%) has died, and 9 cases (or 13%) remain active.
As previously reported, Mr. Speaker, the majority of persons infected with the virus were between 20 and 60 years old. However, cases have also been detected among children, teens, and older persons. Seven (7) patients were between ten months old to ten years old, three (3) were between 10 and 20 years old, and three (3) patients were over the age of 60.
More males than females tested positive, with 52 percent of cases recorded among males.
The majority of cases – 81 percent – were detected through case contact and surveillance. The remaining 19 percent were among returning individuals and residents seeking health care.
I wish to again record my deep appreciation for the talented and committed teams of health workers that have dedicated countless hours to case finding, surveillance, quarantine, isolation, contact tracing, testing and treatment services.
My gratitude is also extended to all the members of the Health Emergency Operations Centre, including its Unified Command and various operational cells, Joint Information Centre and administrative teams that have worked tirelessly to develop and execute the National Action Plan against the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Mr. Speaker, I am also indebted to my honourable Colleagues, the members of Cabinet, including the skillful Attorney General, Public Officers and persons throughout the community that have contributed so generously of their time and talents.
As we navigate and learn from this unprecedented pandemic and look towards the future:
- I pray that we will continue to take a comprehensive approach by working together across all sectors of government and society;
- I pray that we will seize the opportunity to digitize our society and improve efficiency through the wider application of technology;
- I pray that we will continue to engage each other and nurture open communication and trust between Government and the public;
- I pray that our collaboration with the international community will be grounded in principles of respect and cooperation and rebound to the benefit of the people of the Virgin Islands; and
- I pray that we will emerge from this pandemic a stronger, fairer, healthier and more resilient BVI.
- I pray that GOD will continue to bless the people of these beautiful British Virgin Island as we move in one accord with BVI LOVE!
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.