STATEMENT GIVEN BY THE DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT,
HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
AT THE NINTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON THURSDAY 11TH JUNE, 2020
SITUATION REPORT OF THE HEALTH EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTRE
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report the decisions made at the Special meeting of Cabinet on 10th June, 2020, convened to consider the 15th Situation Report of the Health Emergency Operations Centre.
Mr. Speaker Cabinet:
a. noted and endorsed the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC): COVID-19 Situation Report #15 of which I will elaborate;
b. decided that the Attorney General be instructed to draft a new Immigration and Passport (Prohibition of Entry) Order, 2020;
c. reinstated internal and external visitations based on a 24-hour notification at Her Majesty's Prison and elderly homes and other residential facilities, subject to the use of protocols that are approved by the HEOC;
d. exempted locally-based flight crew from mandatory quarantine requirements, subject to the compliance with public health protocols;
e. approved the re-entry of vessels operated by Virgin Islander/Belonger captains, based on protocols to be developed by the HEOC and Cabinet;
f. issued Guidance and Protocols to be followed by all Sports & Recreation disciplines; The Minister of Sports would further elaborate.
Mr. Speaker HEOC in its COVID-19 Situation Report indicated that 95 additional swabs and tests were conducted at our fully operational COVID-19 LAB FACILITY at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital since report #14 and AGAIN is thankful and pleased to report that NO NEW CASES of COVID-19 has been determined.
In summary Mr. Speaker, of the 212 persons tested in the British Virgin Islands, 204 were determined NEGATIVE while 8 were deemed POSITIVE. As previously reported 7 cases have fully recovered while 1 person succumbed to the COVID-19 virus.
ACTIONS TAKEN TO DATE
As a result of its aggressive COVID-19 control measures, the Territory prevented the escalation of COVID-19 transmission and has maintained a steady state of low-level with no evidence of community transmission or active cases as at 10th June 2020.
Since the activation of Phase 1 of the Restricted Border Re-Opening Plan, attention has been focused on managing the risk of imported cases while simultaneously augmenting the health system and monitoring the workplace preventive measures that were implemented for the businesses that re-opened since the lifting of the 24 hour curfew.
To date 681 registrations were submitted with 362 verified by Immigration and cleared for processing by Environmental Health. Sixty-two of the registrations did not meet the requirements established for individuals to re-enter the Territory during Phase 1 of the Restricted Border Re-Opening Plan.
Of the 362 that have been cleared to re-enter under Phase, a quarter of the individuals (n=91) have re-entered the Territory during the seven day period (3 – 9 June 2020).
Eighty-three more nationals are expected to arrive in the Territory by 13 June 2020 with 19 of these approved for government quarantine to date.
HEOC has flagged several issues related to the mandatory quarantine arrangements for persons who have been cleared to re-enter the Territory since 2 June 2020.
- Discrimination against and eviction of returning nationals, who are subject to mandatory quarantine, by landlords due to fears and stigma around COVID-19.
- The need to limit the number of weekly arrivals based on the available private security complement and the rooms available in the government quarantine facilities.
- Building human resources capacity with the Ministry of Health and Social Development and wider Public Service to fully operationalize the transition from the Red Alert ‘Stamp It Out’ Phase to the Orange Alert ‘Manage It’ Phase of the Heath Emergency Operations Centre National Acton Plan against the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Mr. Speaker, all the works by this Government; all the findings by the HEOC; all the protocols established MUST NOW BE PLACED IN CONTEXT. There are those who for reasons known only to them and a few others are SEEMINGLY intent on creating a narrative seeking to sow seeds of discontent and confusion in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, it was conceded very early that:
If our efforts resulted in minimal deaths and acute cases, the propaganda would be centered on how our ACTIONS affected LIVELIHOODS; and
If there were not an aggressive, proactive approach to COVID-19 by this Government and if our inactions had resulted in numerous deaths and acute cases then the propaganda would have been centered on how our INACTIONS had caused LIVES.
THE DEBATE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD IS NOW CENTERED ON THE BALANCE OF LIVES AND LIVELIHOODS. The narrative MUST NOT be controlled by those merely seeking to sow seeds of discontent while offering very little substance to the solutions. The BVI deserves a complete look and narrative for consideration.
Mr. Speaker, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a group of 34 member countries that discuss and develop economic and social policy. OECD members are democratic countries that support free-market economies. The June 2020 report of OECD was entitled “THE WORLD ECONOMY ON A TIGHT ROPE”.
Mr. Speaker, please allow me to cite excerpts from the report, as it states:
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis without precedent in living memory. It has triggered the most severe economic recession in nearly a century and is causing enormous damage to people’s health, jobs and well-being.
The outlook focuses on two equally probable scenarios – one in which a second wave of infections, with renewed lock-downs, hits before the end of 2020, and one in which another major outbreak is avoided.
The lockdown measures brought in by most governments have succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus and in reducing the death toll but they have also frozen business activity in many sectors, widened inequality, disrupted education and undermined confidence in the future.
As restrictions begin to be eased, the path to economic recovery remains highly uncertain and vulnerable to a second wave of infections.
With or without a second outbreak, the consequences will be severe and long-lasting.
The economic impact of strict and relatively lengthy lockdowns in Europe will be particularly harsh. Emerging economies face the challenge of strained health systems adding to difficulties caused by a collapse in commodity prices.
Many countries have introduced support measures to protect jobs in the near-term in hard-hit sectors, but young workers in particular are vulnerable.
Mr. Speaker, first, second and third worlds countries are encouraged to:
- Invest in Health Care.
- Strengthen health care systems and build the supply of medical equipment.
- Use test, track, trace and isolate and distancing strategies to limit virus outbreaks.
- Ensure global cooperation to develop and distribute a vaccine and treatments.
- Support the transition.
- Help people and businesses in hard-hit sectors move into new activities, strengthen income protection.
- Facilitate rapid firm restructuring and accelerate digitalisation.
- Maintain liquidity support and be prepared for renewed financial turmoil.
Plan the recovery
- Build more resilient supply chains with larger stocks and more diversification of sources.
- Keep interest rates low and ensure public spending and taxation policies support economic activity.
- Invest public finances for people’s well-being, focus on fairness.
The report cites that --- strong fiscal support is warranted but it has consequences. Public spending should be well-targeted to support the most vulnerable and provide the investment needed for a sustainable recovery.
OECD and emerging economies face recession and uncertainty.
The global economy is now experiencing the deepest recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s, with GDP declines of more than 20% and a surge in unemployment in many countries. Even in countries where containment measures have been relatively light, early data are already making clear that the economic and social costs of the pandemic will be large. Growth prospects depend on many factors, including how COVID-19 evolves, the duration of any shutdowns, the impact on activity, and the implementation of fiscal and monetary policy support. Uncertainty will likely prevail for an extended period. Given this uncertainty, two scenarios have been developed to reflect the possible evolution of the global economy.
In the United Kingdom -- The COVID-19 crisis has led to a severe economic contraction. GDP is projected to fall by 14% in 2020 if there is a second virus outbreak later in the year (the double-hit scenario). An equally likely single-hit scenario would still see GDP fall sharply by 11.5%. In the double-hit scenario, the unemployment rate is set to more than double to 10% and remains elevated throughout 2021, despite widespread use of furloughing. Measures to limit the effects of the crisis in that scenario would push the fiscal deficit up to at least 14% of GDP in 2020.
The UK government swiftly put in place a comprehensive economic support package. Fiscal measures include income support for workers and self-employed, around GBP 330 billion in state loan guarantees to keep firms in business, tax deferrals, and an improved dispute resolution mechanism as an alternative to bankruptcy. Moving forward, these measures should be kept in place as long as they are needed and fiscal policy should remain supportive. Higher unemployment benefits should be extended beyond the fiscal year 2020-21 to help support demand during the recovery. Given the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, a temporary extension of existing trading relationships with the EU beyond the end of 2020 would help reduce uncertainty. Public investment supporting the recovery should underpin progress in digitalisation, sustainability and inclusiveness.
In the United States of America -- The COVID-19 outbreak has brought the longest economic expansion on record to a juddering halt. GDP contracted by 5% in the first quarter at an annualised rate, and the unemployment rate has risen precipitously. If there is another virus outbreak later in the year, GDP is expected to fall by over 8% in 2020 (the double-hit scenario). If, on the other hand, the virus outbreak subsides by the summer and further lockdowns are avoided (the single-hit scenario), the impact on annual growth is estimated to be a percentage point less. The unemployment rate will remain elevated after states lift their shelter-in-place orders, reflecting ongoing difficulties in sectors such as hospitality and transportation, and the sheer scale of job losses. With unemployment remaining high, inflation is projected to stay low, although less so if subsequent lockdowns are avoided.
Massive monetary and fiscal responses have shielded households and businesses, but more will be needed to reduce lingering effects such as large numbers of bankruptcies and labour-market exits. Complementary payments to augment unemployment insurance should continue, while the tax burden of households and businesses should be lowered when they are directly affected by the lockdown. Additional support will be needed to help workers return to work. Some states and local governments will face financial difficulties as their main revenue sources have dried up, and their debt burden will need to be addressed. Importantly, well-designed public financial support for developing a vaccine and treatment of COVID-19 could help prevent a recurrence of a pandemic again leading to deaths and debilitating the economy.
Mr. Speaker I presented excerpts of the OECD report because, save for the scale, the BVI is a part of the World Economy and is NOT immune from the effects of COVID-19. In consideration of our ECONOMIC STABILIZATION RESPONSE to the COVID-19 pandemic we are forced to take into consideration:
- The consequences of funding recoveries from pandemics and natural catastrophic events by loans and from the Reserves mandated in the PROTOCOLS FOR EFFECTIVE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT DOCUMENT.
- The consequences of BREXIT and its effects on our relationship with the European Community.
- The pressures from OECD for Open Registries.
- The consequences of the requirements for Economic Substances.
Mr. Speaker, we have a Territory to build and a destiny to protect. Our PEOPLE have fought LONG and OUR PEOPLE have fought LONG.
WE MUST NOT FAIL THEM.