STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
COVID-19 UPDATE – THE COUNT DOWN IS ON!
JUNE 29TH 2021
Let me first extend greetings to everyone in the British Virgin Islands, the Region and to those tuning in by radio and other media platforms throughout the World. I am Carvin Malone and as Minister for Health and Social Development I wish to update you on the Territory’s COVID-19 status and response; the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout and Cabinet’s decisions of Wednesday June 23rd, 2021.
During my last update, there were significant changes made by Cabinet to ensure that we as a Territory we continue to adjust our travel protocols with the aim of returning our livelihoods to some sort of normalcy and sustainability. Several adjustments were made considering the safety of the population and the allowance afforded to persons who are fully vaccinated.
In recent decisions:
Cabinet considered and approved the COVID-19 Small Vessel Entry Protocols to facilitate travel to the Territory on board marine vessels measuring less than 78 feet in length with fully vaccinated passengers and crew only.
Cabinet also considered and approved the COVID-19 Water Taxi Protocol which would provide practical guidance for the safe operation of BVI-based Water Taxis with fully vaccinated persons, noting that it is not intended to enable foreign based Water Taxis to be able to operate commercially in the Territory, at this time.
These new measures are expected to be Gazetted for full implementation shortly.
Your Government continues to work for you to further Reboot & Revive the economy. Most recently your Government through the BVI Ports Authority announced the upcoming arrival of the Territory’s first passenger cruise ship since the Covid-19 era.
As you would be aware operations at the cruise pier for passenger calls were halted more than 12 months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Ministry of Health and Social Development, the Premier’s Office, BVI Ports Authority, BVI Tourist Board, Taxi and Livery Commission, the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park along with other agencies have worked diligently to develop cruise protocols for a healthy and safe return of this important tourism sector.
The Celebrity Millennium of Royal Caribbean Group’s Celebrity Cruises, will call to the Territory on 1st July, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. with requirements that all guests over the age of 16 years will be fully vaccinated along with a fully vaccinated crew. Further, testing, pre-screening and embarkation measures are in place, along with other onboard mitigation measures to ensure the health and safety of the communities which the ship’s guest, may visit.
While on land, cruise travelers must be in accordance with the existing BVI public health protocols as do all local businesses working in this sector. Cruise guests are permitted to access tours independently and explore our islands, but must follow our public health measures. These include the wearing of face masks by guests and crew in public and communal settings, physical distancing of 6 feet must be observed during both embarkation and disembarkation as well as for on-island and sea-based excursions, and hand washing and sanitising must be easily available during excursions.
The management of Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park will have an upcoming announcement to provide further updates on how the cruise call will affect daily operations at the facility. But we ask all vendors, taxi operators, tour guides and all other industry stakeholders to get ready to welcome the return of Cruise Tourism to the BVI while adhering to all approved health measures.
As we embrace the countdown to this ship’s berthing on Thursday, let us all get ready to welcome our guest with BVI Love, while remaining safe as far as humanly possible.
The recently launched Vaccinate to Participate Programme encourages all tourism stakeholders and partners to get fully vaccinated for a healthy return to cruise.
Let’s all do our part- Don’t Hesitate, Vaccinate!
I continue to highlight the fact COVID-19 is not going anywhere! We are NOT out of the woods, YET! We must continue to make executive decision while weighing the balance of managing lives and enhancing livelihoods.
As of yesterday, 28th June, 2021, a total of 56,092 tests were conducted on individuals swabbed throughout the Territory and assessed at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital. The Virgin Islands now records a total of 313 cases, with 299 recoveries and 1 death. There are presently 13 active positive cases in the Territory, three of which were presented with symptoms and had no travel history. Active contact tracing of these cases continues with a number of primary contacts having been quarantined and scheduled for testing at the appropriate time.
The Public Health Department is currently also actively looking for any other persons who may have come in contact with these positive cases. All persons who have attended the following events are therefore asked to contact the Department at 468-4936 to provide their names for contact tracing and testing for COVID-19. The locations and times of interest are:
- June 20th Club Aqua between the hours of 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
- June 20th Club Crystals 10:00 p.m. – 12:00 midnight
- June 20th Deuces 11:00 p.m. - Until
- June 18th Island Sizzle
Persons who have attended these locations at the specified times are asked to self-isolate. A further two of the three local cases have been identified as workers at a local grocery and are being actively contact traced and followed up. Testing for these individuals will be administered on day 10 after the suspected exposure. Let’s work together to avoid community spread of COVID-19 by contacting the Department and self-isolating if you think you were exposed at one of these locations. The remaining positive cases are presently located on the island of Tortola and have a history of travel. The Public Health Unit Team continues to monitor all positive cases closely and these persons will remain in mandatory quarantine until they are deemed fully recovered.
While our present positive cases remain on the main island of Tortola, let me admonish all of us including our sister islands of Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke to remain vigilant! I must applaud this business proprietor for taking the bold step to inform the populace of this situation and to act appropriately as a responsible cooperate citizen. The fact is, we have to live with this disease, however, opportunities exist to support the safety of us all through vaccination. Based on reports I have received, this business has encouraged their employees to be vaccinated, and because of this proactive measure, they can adjust appropriately and still continue to operate.
I have said and will continue to say that we are not out of the woods yet. We can only prepare as best as we can for the inevitable events that may happen from time to time. Just over the weekend we learned that St. Kitts and Nevis instituted a lockdown to help curtail a surge in positive cases and we have witnessed this same event happen across the region as in Trinidad and Tobago and in Anguilla to name a few. We know that it only takes one person to infect scores of others. Sadly, we continue to ignore the severity of what could happen should we experience such a spike.
Again, let us take nothing and no one for granted because COVID-19 has no name tag! And we cannot be paralyzed with fear – but at the same time we have to take stock of the real possibilities that can happen when COVID-19 is able to get past the stop gaps put in place for the safety of ourselves, our families and our Territory that we love so dear.
Now I want to highlight vaccine rollout statistics.
In previous reports, I informed of the 34,000 doses of vaccines which were donated to the British Virgin Islands by the United Kingdom Government. We had anticipated that 17,000 qualifying persons would be able to have free access to the required two doses per person.
To date, 12,681 persons have received their first doses, while 8,918 have received their second doses. An analysis of these totals shows that:
- On Tortola, 10,561 first doses and 7,643 second doses have been administered to date;
- On Virgin Gorda 1,896 first doses and 1,160 second doses were administered;
- On Jost Van Dyke 98 first doses and 50 second doses were administered; and
- On Anegada 126 first doses and 65 second doses were administered to date.
To all listening, I want to make it clear that all vaccines in stock that are accessible from the BVI Health Services Authority and private medical healthcare facility partners are expiring on July 31. I am appealing to everyone who has not received their first dose to do so before July 3 to ensure that they receive the second dose within a four-week timeframe and are fully vaccinated as per the vaccine manufacturers’ guidelines.
We often hear the question on when will be the best time to get vaccinated? The best time is now! We often here the concerns on the lack of choice or which vaccine is the best? And I am here to say that the best vaccine available is the one that we have in stock!
We cannot determine what our fate may be with the regional and global events surrounding COVID-19 but we can do what is necessary to continue to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones. We must continue to follow public health protocols such as wearing face masks; we must practice frequent hand hygiene; we must maintain physical distance in public spaces; and we must get vaccinated as our best tool to reduce transmission, prevent severe illness and prevent hospitalisation caused by COVID-19.
The vaccine has been proven safe and effective as millions of persons not only have been vaccinated but have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. And to see that as the world demand increases, our numbers show reluctance that would lead to wastage should we not act NOW!
Your Government has done all that we can to prepare and prevent this disease from impacting us all severely. But we must now take personal responsibility for the lives and livelihoods of ourselves and by extension our family members. So as we embrace this count down, because YES we are on a count down! There are 5 days remaining for persons (who wish to receive 2 doses of the AstraZenca Vaccine available to us here in the BVI) to make up their minds to get vaccinated and just DO IT!
If you are not going to do it for you, then do it for your parents, grandparents, your great aunts and uncles! They are our most vulnerable who are impacted by this disease!
If you are not going to do it for you, then do it for your children. At the end of the day we are hoping the protection of the adult population will in turn protect each child under the age of 17 in this Territory.
If you are not going to do it for you, then do it for your employers! Every person vaccinated in a workplace continues to protect other employees and ensures that work continues, services continue to be rendered and you can get paid.
I will continue to reiterate the fact that new, more aggressive variants continue to emerge, as the virus mutates and spreads rapidly from one region to another, increasing the risk of severe illness and death. The reality is none of us knows how the virus will affect us. We simply must be vigilant and do the next best thing, so please do not wait and get VACCINATED! Protect yourself, your loved ones and our economy! I thank you.