Statement by His Excellency Governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert
On the Territory’s First Suspected COVID-19 Related Death
18th April, 2020
On Thursday you heard from the Honourable Minister of Health on a further case of COVID-19 within the Territory. We are deeply sorry to have to confirm that the patient has since died, despite the best efforts of our medical professionals.
The news of this death is incredibly sad. It is a sad moment for the Territory. The loss of one member of our community, is a loss for all of us. As one community we grieve together. I know all of our prayers and thoughts today will be with the family of the deceased and for a life cut short in such a tragic way. I would like to express my heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the family and friends at this awful and incredibly difficult time.
I also want to thank all of the health professionals, involved in both caring for this patient and more widely for everything they have done and continue to do. I understand this tragic development will affect our front line health professionals most keenly.
As the Minister of Health has said since this case was first confirmed, our public health teams have been tracing, isolating and testing those who may have been exposed to the risks. As we have been doing to date, our teams are taking a preventative and a proactive approach. The complex where the individual lived has been quarantined, including both the specific and neighbouring apartments. Further contact tracing is underway today; we are increasing our testing capability.
Anyone with related health concerns should ring the health number on 852 7650.
Earlier this week Cabinet announced a series of measures on the next phases of a gradual re-opening of services. This was based on health advice and, at that point, with no evidence of community transmission of this disease. However, in light of these developments we have had to re-assess plans with our Health Emergency Operations Centre team. This morning I chaired a meeting of the National Security Council and subsequently of Cabinet to be updated by the HEOC on the situation and to assess the implications on our plans for tackling the Coronavirus.
Our priority is and will always remain your safety. With these new developments, we need to ensure that our health teams can trace, isolate and contain any risks without the public being put at risk.
Therefore, we will need to ask you to stay in your homes for a few days longer whilst the risks are assessed and managed. For those businesses that are today preparing their stores for opening – we need your staff to now return home.
We know that this will be unwelcome news and so shortly before the limited re-opening was due to commence. However, we must continue to put our safety first.
We know also that everyone will be concerned about how they get access to essential supplies, to restock on food, medicines and other critical stocks. Our HEOC team is finalising plans and Cabinet will meet again later today to discuss them. We will communicate later the details of how everyone will get critical supplies; as well as the further details on next steps. Please rest assured that we will not let anyone in this Territory go without food or essential supplies at any point.
This tragic news will, I know, cause deep sadness about the death, and frustration and concern about continuing to stay at home. But I want to emphasise that this is a moment to stay calm. The lockdown that we have all been under for the last 14 days has meant that we have helped to reduce the risk of this virus spreading. Had you not stayed home over the last period, we would be in a much worse position now with potential wider spread of the virus. Your support in staying at home is saving lives.
This is also a moment to show the determined resilience that is such a strength of the people of the British Virgin Islands. The deprivations and hardships of staying in lockdown need to be balanced against the real risk to people’s lives if this virus spreads. I thank you for your understanding and support.
This is also a moment for showing the great community spirit and unity that we have in the British Virgin Islands. This disease respects no boundaries of income, gender, race, or nationality. It does not care if you are a resident, work permit holder, belonger or visitor. We will get through these times by acting together and collectively. No one should have any fear of, or delay coming forward to report health concerns through the health telephone line, or to seek treatment. There is no stigma attached to having the virus. And there should be no stigmatising of any individuals or communities in this Territory. We are only one community – the people of the British Virgin Islands and we will beat this virus as one community. I deplore some of the social media circulating about the recently confirmed case, who has since sadly died. This despicable behaviour does not in any way represent the views of the people of the BVI. It may also be illegal behaviour and the police will investigate should crimes under our Computer Misuse Act have been committed. And the plethora of false news stories circulating the Territory do not help, they add fuel to the worries and concerns we all share. All official updates come through Government channels.
As I said earlier, Cabinet is meeting later this afternoon. We will provide further communications following that meeting setting out the details of the next steps and importantly, how we will ensure that everybody in the Territory is able to get critical supplies safely.
For now, please continue to stay at home.
Finally, can I once again offer our collective prayers to the family of the deceased and for all those around the world suffering from this virus. I thank our health professionals and all others involved in our response for all they are doing.
May we ask that God bless the family of the deceased and also to bless and protect all of us in these British Virgin Islands.