Mr. Speaker, in fulfillment of our commitment to keep the community informed and updated on COVID-19 developments, as reported, the Government of the Virgin Islands was officially informed on Saturday, 18 July that an airline passenger who travelled from the Territory to St. Vincent and the Grenadines through St. Lucia on Wednesday, 15 July was swabbed on arrival in St. Vincent and subsequently reported as positive for COVID-19.
Following the Sitting of the House of Assembly, a Special Meeting of Cabinet was convened with the officers of the Health Emergency Operations Center on Monday 21st July 2020 at 9:00pm and resultantly Cabinet decided to instruct the Attorney General to draft an Order for a 24 hour a day curfew which now reads as follows ….. (Curfew Order)
Further Mr. Speaker Cabinet decided:
To instruct the Attorney General to make provision for restricting the movement of persons and vessels to and from Jost Van Dyke except with the permission of the Minister for Health and Social Development in consultation with the Joint Task Force;
To authorize the HEOC and the Ministry of Health and Social Development to make arrangements to provide adequate food and other essential supplies to all residents of Jost Van Dyke adversely affected by the proposed 24 hour curfew in accordance with the Logistics Plan to Support the Provisioning of Jost Van Dyke Residents.
To charge the Provisioning and associated cost to the Head and Subhead in the Ministry of Health and Social Development that has already been approved for such expenditures during the COVID19 era. Additional funding if needed to cover this expenditure is also approved but must be verified;
To instruct the BVI Health Services Authority to conduct COVID-19 testing for the entire resident population of Jost Van Dyke and the HEOC to report on its findings and recommendations by Monday, 27 July 2020;
Mr. Speaker to be clear, this individual was not tested in the BVI and was therefore not previously suspected or known to us as an active COVID-19 case.
Our Public Health team has been deployed to actively investigate the matter by identifying the persons with whom this passenger is reported to have been in contact, in order to quarantine and test close contacts who remain in the Territory.
Contact tracing and follow-up testing will provide additional information regarding the level of exposure to the virus so that steps can be taken to rapidly contain and suppress the potential for further spread in the interest of public safety.
Mr. Speaker, the effects of moderate and severe cases of the COVID-19 virus is devesting to economies, lives and livelihood. A second wave is swirling all around us. We cannot overlook the realities. Medical facilities are being overwhelmed throughout the world.
The public is well aware and is therefore reminded that if the BVI is to avoid COVID-19 community spread and thereafter the return to a COMPLETE LOCK-DOWN protocol, everyone is strongly encouraged to strictly adhere to all Public Health measures that have been put in place for our protection:
frequent hand washing,
physical distancing of 6 feet between persons,
cough etiquette, and
wearing of face masks when in public places.
Testing remains an important element of our strategy to limit the transmission of the virus. As last reported, the BVI Health Services Authority had tested 741 individuals, with 633 returning negative and 8 positive results to date. The laboratory currently has capacity to conduct over 3,000 COVID-19 tests in-house and is actively seeking to purchase an additional 20,000 testing kits with the assistance of Public Health England. Currently, testing is mainly being carried out on:
- Persons who meet the case definition for COVID-19
- All Emergency Room admissions
- All Hospital Inpatients
- All persons undergoing surgery
- Persons requiring COVID-19 tests for travel
- Health Care Workers based on exposure risk
- Health Care Workers requesting COVID 19 testing;
- Persons being detained who entered the Territory illegally; and
- All returning residents exiting mandatory quarantine.
In terms of workplace preventive measures, the members of the Compliance Teams and Social Distancing Task Force inspected close to 1,400 businesses with approximately 96% of these meeting the requirements for re-opening. In addition to the businesses that met the re-opening criteria, 64 churches were approved based on their compliance with established procedures. Engagement was also had with entities that provide janitorial, car rental, taxi and trucking service. Sixteen of the 18 schools inspected were approved subject to reopen once a decision is made by Cabinet on the re-opening of educational facilities. A more robust and continuous monitoring of the entities that were approved to reopen will be ongoing. Patrons of bars, restaurants and other social spaces must be made aware of the need to adhere to ALL protocols. To date 514 post-approval inspections were conducted to ensure sustained compliance with the requisite COVID-19 prevention measures related to physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory etiquette.
These steps are necessary if we are to continue to enjoy the freedoms of internal re-opening, economic re-booting, and opening of our borders to international travelers returning home or coming to our shores to contribute to our economy.
As reported previously, provisions are being made for the wearing of face masks and other measures to become mandatory in the interest of public safety.
I’ll close by indicating that the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are: fever, dry cough, and tiredness.
Less common symptoms are: aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, headache, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin.
Serious symptoms include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or loss of speech or movement.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek help by calling the Medical Hotline at 852-7650.
Look around you!
Follow the COVID-19 developments and measures in region and throughout the world.
Value the hard work of all engaged and dedicated to keeping you safe.
I urge us all to remain vigilant and do our part to detect, contain, and stamp out the COVID-19 virus in the Virgin Islands, and take sensible precautions in order to keep ourselves, our family our friends safe, and each other safe.
GOD Bless the Virgin Islands
Thank you Mr. Speaker