STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR AUGUSTUS J.U. JASPERT
ON THE FURTHER EXTENSION OF THE CURFEW
24th APRIL, 2020
Good evening all.
A few days ago we were not expecting to be here before you this evening to talk about a further extension to the full 24 hour a day lockdown. As you know, we had hoped that we would have seen shops opening, and a number of essential and businesses reopening tomorrow. And a slow but gradual relaxation of the curfew rules. Unfortunately, that will not be now the case as the Premier indicated in his statement last night and as he has just outlined now. The lockdown will be extended for a further 7 days until 6am on Sunday 26th April.
You are all aware of the tragic death of one of our community on Friday. We have also now had confirmation that another of those who were in close contact with the deceased has also now tested positive, as confirmed by Carpha this morning.
As such, we have as a Cabinet, upon the advice of our medical experts taken the decision to extend the full 24 hours a day curfew for a further week. Which means we must ask you all to continue to remain in your homes.
I recognise this is a frustration for all, and creates a large degree of uncertainty, confusion and concern for all. Particularly those who worry about where and how they might be able to receive vital and pay for vital supplies. I want to reassure you that all people will have access to basic essentials during this time. I also want to underline that our over-riding motivation is to keep all in the Territory safe.
We cannot rule out the risk of the virus transmitting in our community, but we can reduce the risks by minimising the interaction with people by staying at home.
Cabinet has met and been working closely with our medical experts, health teams, supermarkets, police, public servants, volunteers and others to ensure we have a plan that will facilitate this as safely as possible. There are no easy decisions – no set playbook for what we face and I am hugely grateful for the hard work by our HEOC team and the Minister for Health’s leadership in coordinating that approach.
We want to ensure that this lockdown does not lead to further hardship. Over the next week, the majority of people will be expected to order any essential food/basic needs by calling or submitting online deliveries from many shops for home delivery. Many of the food supply shops have set up arrangements through telephone orders and a network of delivery services is in place. I am grateful for rapid work by our business community for assisting customers in this new way.
I will sign a revised curfew order that allows for key services to operate for the purposes of providing supplies for delivery. This includes supermarkets, wholesale food and drink providers, gas and fuel, water production and delivery, bakeries, pharmacies. The details of which businesses can be approved will be published fully. The critical thing will be that no shop will be open for public access – they will only be open for staff to fulfil orders for delivery. Supermarket businesses may have staff working 24 hours a day so that they can prepare orders and restock during the night if required. However, all deliveries will take place only during the daytime (from 6am-7pm).
For those who are not able to access online shopping, are vulnerable or unable to pay for their basic needs you will be able to register to get an essential supply package. The hotline for this is 852 7688. Food/essential supply packages will then be provided directly and funded by Government. This will be an essential supply package only and will be delivered to your home. Please only use this service if it is absolutely necessary. We are relying on you to do the right thing and to not abuse the system. Please think of the whole community and help us to prioritise supplies to those who need it most.
I am very grateful for the support of suppliers, delivery teams, public servants and volunteers who will ensure that all will be able to access food and essential supplies. Cabinet today decided that we will surge support from across the public service to ensure that we are able to support you best. The Deputy Governor is taking forward plans with the HEOC for public officers to support our food need helpline and to support deliveries to those in need as required. I also want to assure everyone across the whole territory that the arrangement will cater for ensuring that people from across all of our sister islands have access to food, medical and essential supplies as well.
We appreciate also that there are some who live or are staying on boats. It is critical that our marine borders remain closed so that we do not risk any new potential cases of the virus coming in to the Territory. We have formed a joint team of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and HM Customs, supported by allocated Immigration Officers, to enhance our surveillance on the water. We have also agreed extra boats for our teams. To help our enforcement efforts we have restricted the movement of private and commercial boats on our waters except those for freight and cargo. However, we will ensure that boats with people on them in our waters can get approval to move to access essential supplies and arrangements are being taken forward with our marine police unit.
We have also taken measures to ensure that we can boost our fresh food supply. Therefore commercial farmers, once approved, will be able to deliver their produce; and a limited set of commercial fishing will be approved.
We will also allow approval for essential work that can only be done physically in an office for a limited number of legal and financial services staff, apostils and related staff, to ensure that our financial services industry continues effectively.
Businesses and those involved in supplying or delivery supplies will need to get an approval pass. Passes for this curfew period will only be issued for persons listed in the approved list of essential services. Passes for persons on this list will be managed by the Ministry of Health and issued by the Deputy Governor’s Office under the authority of the Curfew Act which I will sign. Applications for passes should be sent to Ministryofhealth@gov.vg by listing the business name, pass holder, email address, phone number and general reason for the application. Passes can only be used within the specified period and businesses assigned and only whilst on duty and is only valid to the one assignee. They will be sent out electronically and people must carry ID with them to accompany the electronic pass if needed. Further details will be set out in social media and people can text or WhatsApp 540-5946.
Businesses must also comply with the HEOC health protocols, including the protocols for safe home delivery. Breaching of that will result in the approval to operate or deliver being removed.
This, as I am sure you can imagine, is a massive undertaking for Government, so we will be operating the system with the support of public officers and volunteers. And I am hugely grateful for all their support. I am also hugely grateful for the support of our essential businesses. This is a national effort - to make sure that we can keep people safe, and ensure that everyone can access essential supplies.
We recognise this is unsettling and you will have many questions. And I want to be honest in that there will likely be some teething problems as we sort out the mechanics of ensuring everybody is catered for. This is something we have never done before. These are unprecedented times. I ask for your patience, forbearance and support. Please know that we will ensure everyone can access supplies.
I also want to ask you to look out for one another. Support each other (virtually, on the phone) to stay positive during this period. Support each other to stay calm. Support each other to identify who may be vulnerable in the community and if they need help. And support each other to stay together as one strong, collective community. I said yesterday but I repeat again – this virus does not discriminate or target any one section of our community; and no-one should do likewise. There is no stigma attached to the virus. We will get through these times as one community; and I believe we will emerge stronger as one community.
We also want to encourage those who may be experiencing Covid-19 symptoms to ensure they contact the hotline. So that we can identify who needs to be tested, track primary contacts and then reduce the risk of any further infection within the Territory. The extension of the lockdown buys our health teams critical time to trace, isolate and assess the virus. We need your help to stay at home, but also to ring the hotline should you experience symptoms.
I thank all our health teams, public servants and essential businesses, services and volunteers for their work. The best of the BVI is shining through – as we get through difficult times by working together, staying resilient and by finding solutions to the challenges.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your continued patience, understanding and cooperation in these unprecedented times. The best thing you can to keep yourself and our Territory safe is to stay home. Please stay home and stay healthy.
Thank you and may God Bless this Territory.