STATEMENT BY PREMIER OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
8TH May, 2020
COVID-19 UPDATE – CONTINUED INTERNAL REBOOTING OF THE BVI ECONOMY
Today, I greet you in the wonderful name of the Great God of the Universe who continues to have mercy on us as a Territory.
On Monday, April 27 we lifted the 24hour 14-day curfew and we entered the ‘New Regular’—the new way of life living and working with COVID-19 in the British Virgin Islands.
We all stepped out in Faith, trusting in God, under a new curfew from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 P.M. daily, and this would be for the next 14 days until May 10, 2020.
I stand here pleased because you the people of the Virgin Islands have shown your commitment in so many ways.
You are social distancing.
You are wearing your masks.
You are sanitising your hands.
Those of you who were and are in mandatory quarantine, I thank you for keeping yourselves safe, and that of the rest of us.
For those who have called the COVID-19 hotline at 852-7650, I thank you for keeping yourselves and all of us safe. Please continue to call if you feel any symptom.
You see, your cooperation in all of the preventative measures supports the efforts of the Public Health Officials and this is needed and allows them to continue to do the needed work that they have continue to do so admirably, such as thorough and aggressive contact tracing, to make sure that every possible risk is identified and addressed, and that we are all safe.
Remember that we are not out of the woods as yet and truth be told COVID-19 will be around for a little while. We must now adapt to it to live in it.
Because of our proactive actions in putting the preventative measures in place, including curfews, through the different institutions like Cabinet, House of Assembly, Health Emergency Operating Centre, we were not behind the eight ball because we stuck with the rules, we stuck with the protocols and guidelines and we made adjustments along the way—writing the BVI’s COVID-19 Playbook that would benefit generations to come.
So we continue to be on target and will continue to gradually reopen internally, defining a new regular for life and business in the 21st century.
I had announced that Cabinet on May 4 made the decision that the next phase of internal reopening of our economy starts on Sunday, May 10 where a Curfew will be imposed from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. daily.
This means that Cabinet approved businesses will be able to operate between the hours of 6:01 a.m. and 6:59 p.m. daily under the new Imposition of the Curfew Order which would also commence on Sunday, May 10 for 14 days in the first instance.
I want to say at this time, kudos to the approved businesses that are currently opened for sticking to the script to remain COVIID-19 clean.
I welcome all those additional businesses that are now approved by Cabinet to prepare for inspection. You should now be ensuring sanitisation, safe distance and hygiene modifications of your establishments to facilitate inspections and certification from the Safe Social Distancing Task Force.
Although your business is approved by Cabinet to open, each business or entity, recreational or otherwise must call or email to be inspected and approved first. If you are not inspected, approved and certified you cannot open. I repeat, if your business not inspected, approved and certified you cannot open. You cannot operate.
It is important to note that Cabinet decided that the following category of businesses will remain closed temporarily:
- Hotels, villas or other accommodation facilities;
- public swimming pools;
- night clubs;
- and other entertainment facilities.
Another announcement will be made on when these types of businesses can open and what protocols will have to be followed, bearing in mind that these businesses attracts large crowds.
I wish to inform you that Cabinet decided that beaches will reopen from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. effective from May, 10 2020, for the purposes of exercise and therapy. Persons visiting the beaches must adhere to safe distancing protocols and mass gathering restrictions. Also, activity on the beaches will be monitored and the beaches may be closed should people not comply with the safe distancing protocols and mass gathering restrictions.
I cannot emphasise how important it is for everyone to take this invisible threat of COVID-19 seriously.
This invisible enemy, COVID-19, is something that we cannot see.
We cannot smell COVID-19. We cannot taste COVID-19. We cannot hear COVID-19 coming.
The only way to know that you have caught COVID-19 is when you feel it inside your body; and by then it is too late to talk about prevention because you may have already passed it on to everyone you have come into contact with, especially your family at home.
The reality is, we now have to adapt in order to live and work in this New Regular—and this means putting people first.
I want to thank our law enforcement agencies— Customs, Police, and Immigration officers—for their combined efforts to ensure the safety of our borders and safety on land.
I want to encourage our people in this Territory to continue to work hard, continue to live in unity, and continue to show BVILOVE to your neighbours and have zero tolerance to crime.
The borders of the BVI remains closed.
And I want everyone locally, regionally and internationally to know that when the borders do open up on June 2, 2020, only persons deemed to belong to the Territory and persons with resident status will be allowed entry, but with strict conditions. At that time, such entry will only be allowed at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, subject to a pre-approval of passenger information a minimum of seven (7) days in advance of travel, among other measures.
We will be informing everyone how this process will work in a subsequent COVID-19 Update. But in the meantime, I need all of us to understand that there is zero tolerance for nefarious and illegal behaviors in our waters. I know that you understand this and you will all do your part to keep the BVI safe.
To God be the Glory for we in the BVI have been doing quite well.
We have been able to make successful strides because of the hard work, dedication, and cooperation of all of us who are part of this mission –the Cabinet, the Governor, Members of the House of Assembly, the Minister for Health, professionals in the Ministry of Health, the team at the Health Emergency Operation Centre, Joint Information Cell, our protective services, the private sector, NGOs and you the people of these beautiful Virgin Islands.
Our collective mission is to prevent the loss of lives and to keep us all safe.
Remember, we are in a pandemic, not a disaster.
And any leader who thinks that COVID-19 is going away anytime soon will be fooling themselves and their country.
We have to work together to come up with ways to live through this health pandemic.
I am aware that come June begins that start of the hurricane season, in the midst of COVID-19.
As a people, let us draw on what we know best—the power of prayer. And as the Bible says, Faith without works is dead. I therefore wish to encourage us to continue to remain in the ‘Get Ready, Stay Ready’ mode where we are putting the preventative measures in place both for COVID-19 as we prepare to welcome our people home, and we are glad to have them back home and as we start the hurricane season.
I really want to thank and congratulate our people for how we have conducted ourselves as we responded to COVID-19.
Your Government is proud of you just as much as you are happy that we have been able to put the necessary measures in place to keep you safe as we possible could in this COVID-19 era.
We have all read the stories of other countries and territories where crime had escalated during this COVID-19 era especially during the curfew periods to the level where military assistance was requested on land and for the borders because it was needed in those areas.
But you my people have proven time and time again that we can police ourselves. Yes there will always be a minority who will seek to do otherwise, but the majority of you continue to conduct yourselves with distinction.
And, I truly want to thank you.
So, let us continue to respect what is in our DNA as a people of the Virgin Islands.
Our good behavior around our Borders and on land coupled with the fine work of our joint border control authorities namely members of the Customs, Immigration and Police teams has showed that together we will always achieve more.
Their joint efforts have allowed me as your Premier and the Cabinet from ever having to do like other countries have to do because of their situation which was request Military assistance to restore law and order or to plan for potential disorderly conduct of any high level. We all can remember where we faltered in 2017 and so we have learned from our past and have been able to stay the course, and for this I say to GOD be all the GLORY great things HE has done.
Let us continue to hold each other accountable for our behaviours so that we can keep these Virgin Islands safe to ensure that the BVI remain in the hands of you the people.
The COVID-19 remains active. The hurricane season is expected to be active, but none of them is more active than activeness of Abba Father.
The blood of our ancestors remains the root of our strength.
The sweat of our ancestors remains the nerve system of our lifeline.
The prayers of our ancestors remain the core of our success.
Nothing can erase what they have started as a free-spirited people because they did it with God, thinking about the future of this Territory.
As we continue to launch out into the deep and into the unknown, on one hand working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to keep us all safe; and we need everyone working together but on one hand working together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to keep us all safe, on the other hand rebooting and reawakening the economy and preparing for an active hurricane season; let me say this:
Do not be afraid of unknown, for if there is one Virgin Islands history lesson we all know, is that in all things we will remain faithful to God and in turn He will keep the Territory of the Virgin Islands in the palm of His hands.
For where GOD IS we are, and where we are GOD IS! And, where God is, ALL IS WELL.
We continue to move forward with firming up the economic response plan that has already been approved in principle by Cabinet with some tedious details now being worked out.
The Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration would have asked persons and businesses to call into the Labour and Workforce department so that we could get accurate data to help inform one areas of the economic response. For all reports, you have been doing so and we thank you.
In this new regular, education is taking on a different approach from the traditional classroom to online learning. We are aware that with anything new there will always be teething pains, but let’s now allow the perfect to become the enemy of the greater good. We are aware that there are some students who do not have all the equipment they need to function effectively in this new type of learning environment. As a result, and in order to support their online schooling, as well as a few teachers who have the same needs, Cabinet realised the need for an economic stimulus response in this area as well. Hence, Cabinet made a decision to allow for the purchase of laptops to assist those students and teachers who still have a need. Cabinet approved the waiving of the tender process to purchase 500 laptops for students and teachers to support online education as a result of the disruption to the traditional education caused by COVID-19. Cabinet also decided that the contract be awarded to Infinite Solutions for the supply of laptops in the amount of $138,800 to facilitate online education. We now look forward to our children and teachers receiving those laptops so that they can continue to prepare for the future of this Territory. Please be mindful that in this new regular, even to the education system will have to make adjustments.
We recognise the need to ease some of the financial burden of those of our people who would be in a position to purchase property during this COVID-19 era in a manner that encourages the properties to remain in local hands. As such, part of the COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Response is the waiver of stamp duty on the sale or transfer of property to Belongers. Hence Cabinet approved the following:
Cabinet agreed the amendment of the Schedule of the Stamp Duty Act to allow for the waiver of stamp duty fees payable on the sale or transfer of property by a Belonger to another Belonger no matter the amount even if it’s just a transfer of love and affection.
Cabinet made these decisions in the best interest of you the people and during the Economic Response we will go more into the details of the waiver. So I am just giving you, two new aspects of the Territory’s Economic Stimulus Response- that will be part of the implementation of the Economic Stimulus Response.
The overall response is being tweaked so that it is practical, realistic and gets into the hands of the people in an accountable and transparent manner. We are glad to know that during the COVID-19 era that we can help our people who may be in a position to purchase lands or if the need be transfer, that we can waive the Stamp Duty fees to Belonger’s only the other areas of this initiative will be forthcoming.
Nonetheless, we have informed you about other parts of the response such as the Fishing and Farmers stimulus of $2M approved by Cabinet; the free water delivery to Water and Sewerage Customers who have interruption in services from the Government's water distribution systems; the House to House Garbage Collection and as I just stated now the laptops for students and teachers to facilitate online education and the waiver of the stamp duty for Belongers who may be in a financial position to purchase property during the COVID-19 era. These are just a few with many more to come.
People of the Virgin Islands let's show the world that the people of the BVI can lead the way and we will always police ourselves.
With God’s Hand guiding us as a Territory, WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER!
Please remember that we are not out of the woods at yet. I repeat, please remember that we are not out of the woods at yet.
This is a marathon, but we must celebrate every lap where we have achieved success, which is a low number of persons confirmed with COVID-19. Let us do our part to keep it this way and eventually eliminate the COVID-19 from our shores.
During the 24-HR curfew we all were forced to recognise that we have so many devices to allow for connectivity, but rarely prior to COVID-19 were we connecting with each other.
I pray that as families and as a Territory that through this pandemic we continue to forge stronger bonds of connection with each other.
We must continue to build on our strengths to work in unity to reawaken our economy.
God will help us, once we continue to help ourselves.
I thank you again and May God Bless our Virgin Islands and may we continue to be steadfast in purpose and diligent in actions in our work to reawaken the economy, but more so in the fight against COVID-19.
I thank you.