Statement by His Excellency the Governor
Mr. Augustus J.U. Jaspert
On the Extension of the Curfew in Light of COVID-19
1st April, 2020
Good evening all,
Yesterday we announced that when this current curfew ends tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m., a new curfew will be put in place and that this will last for a further 14 days. Yesterday, we also announced that there would be limited and managed arrangements for people to get essential supplies before returning to a lockdown in their homes.
As the Premier announced just now, Cabinet met today to decide how these arrangements will work. As you have heard from the Premier, this is an unprecedented situation and it requires unprecedented actions to protect public health and save lives. On the advice of our healthcare teams, it was agreed a full curfew for a an extended 14 day period was the best way we could stop this virus in its tracks. Staying in our homes and breaking the chain of this virus gives us the best chance to stamp it out before it takes hold in our community. Safety and saving lives, as the Premier said is our overriding priority.
Tonight I will sign a curfew order that will go into effect from tomorrow morning at 6:00am that will be in place 24 hours a day. That means all through the day and all through the night, until Thursday, 16th April. Aside from essential workers and only when those essential workers are on duty, everyone will be required to stay in their homes during the next 14 days, except from in specific limited arrangements over the next three days which I will go through in detail.
For the next three days, we are adopting a limited and managed approach to ensure that people are able to stock up for the full lockdown period. The best thing to break the disease is for everyone to stay at home, I cannot repeat that enough. But we recognise, of course, that we all need to stock up before we return to lockdown in our homes. What we don’t want though is for everyone to rush to the stores at once creating a risk of the disease spreading in crowded spaces. Therefore, we will have a strict managed approach to how you can re-stock for the next period.
I will not repeat everything the Premier has said, but over the next three days, the people will be permitted to leave their homes, according to the criteria agreed by Cabinet and for very limited purposes. This will be phased as follows over Thursday, Friday and Saturday before everyone is locked down:
- Essential workers and those persons shopping for those in vulnerable categories will have access to stores from 6am to 8am as well as when their designated surname day is. This is to reflect that they may be required to work during the other times.
2. At 8am until 6pm tomorrow Thursday, 2nd April, a limited range of essential stores will be open to those whose surnames start with the letters A-I,
3. on Friday, 3rd April for those with surnames starting J through R
4. and on Saturday, 4th April for those with surnames starting S through Z.
Only people in these categories can be out on those days and only for the limited purposes. Also, only one member per household should go shopping as set out by Cabinet. Also, a limited ferry service will run during those three days for people from the Sister Islands.
Stores will check Identification and the RVIPF will be ensuring that those who are out of their homes restocking for the curfew, are eligible to do so based on surname and based on the day that you are allowed to be out. People will be asked to carry ID with them.
On the day allocated to your surname, you are allowed only to go to get essential supplies. It does not mean you can go out for other reasons, make rounds to friends houses, go to the beach, or to the park. You can not.
The stores open will be limited to basic and essential services (pharmacies, supermarkets, banks, gas stations, private medical facilities, fisherfolks, farmers, (only when they are tending to their livestocks and crops,) bakeries, office supplies stores, money transfer services, hardware stores and mini markets will be allowed to open and be encouraged to offer on-line shopping for curbside and home delivery. Businesses that are allowed to open during this period are mandated to maintain the protocols for social distancing and implement increased sanitisation measures.
During the whole 14-day period, including Thursday, Friday and Saturday no one under mandatory quarantine will be allowed to leave his or her home during this period and measures will be implemented as to how they would receive essential supplies.
For those persons quarantined due to the COVID-19, Cabinet has approved the establishment of a Client Support Centre to monitor and support those quarantined individuals.
Earlier today I signed assent to the COVID-19 Control and Suppression Act, 2020 which now makes quarantine mandatory and it is an offense to break it —to leave your home if quarantined.
Also, those persons in the vulnerable categories must also remain at home and receive their essential and basic supplies through home deliveries.
During Thursday, Friday and Saturday, only burials will be allowed to take place with a limit of 20 people and with social distancing. Funerals will not be allowed at any time and Burials will not be allowed after Saturday for the remainder of the 14 day period.
After your day has passed and you have got your essential supplies, you are required to stay in your home until Thursday 16th April. So after Saturday, everyone will be in their homes apart from essential workers on duty.
This is in effect a shut down of the Territory, with just limited access up to Saturday. Now beginning Saturday 6:00 p.m. Shops, including supermarkets and pharmacies, will not be open. Businesses will not be open. The Public Service will continue to operate only essential services remotely and Government offices will not be open. Support will be available to those who need it, including for those who cannot afford to purchase sufficient food for the 14 day period at once; or cannot get to the stores because of their vulnerabilities. Cabinet has made plans for this and the Minister of Health will set out the details of this shortly including the Family Support Network.
A key concern for many has been the issue of garbage collection. From tomorrow, Thursday 2nd until Thursday 16th April, Solid Waste Management will be operating a curbside collection system. Full details will be posted on the Government’s social media channels.
I want to re-iterate that apart from going for essential supplies on the day allocated to your surname, this means again not leaving your house or yard for any reason unless it is an emergency. Police will be patrolling and will enforce the curfew and they can arrest for breach of the curfew if necessary.
As a Cabinet, we have had to make difficult decisions. This includes not allowing people to leave their homes or go further than their yards for exercise. People must excercies in their homes or their yards.We know this will be hard, but a full lockdown is the best way to stamp out the virus.
We have also reviewed the policy for issuing passes and have established a new list of essential workers. This will be published imminently. If you received a pass to cover the period from Friday 28 March to Thursday 2 April and you are no longer listed as having an essential role, your pass is no longer valid. As a reminder, curfew passes must only be used when individuals are undertaking essential duties, or traveling to and from their work place for essential duties. Pass holders are otherwise expected to uphold the restrictions of the curfew in line with all other people in this territory. Details of the pass will be shared via the Government’s social media sites.
As a Cabinet, we know that this will be very difficult. These restrictions are continuing to create hardships for businesses and employees and for all individuals. Cabinet will shortly be looking at measures of how to support businesses and individuals affected financially or made unemployed due to COVID-19.
We know this is difficult and these measures are difficult, but all of the measures that we are taking through Cabinet are driven by one motivation; to protect you and to protect the overall population of the Territory. But these measures are necessary, and we do not undertake them lightly. I am calling on all in the British Virgin Islands to make what we sincerely hope will be short-term sacrifices now, so that we can get through this together sooner and healthy.
This is our best chance to reduce the risk that the Coronavirus spreads in our Territory. The better we comply with staying at home, the better the chance that this is a short disruption to our lives.
Can I once again thank all of our public services and statutory teams for all of their work and thank all the public for complying with these measures.
Stay healthy and May God bless this Territory.