Statement by Hon Andrew A. Fahie
Premier of the Virgin Islands
And Minister for Finance
3 June, 2020
Welcome Home Virgin Islanders
My dear Virgin Islands people, a pleasant Good Day and God’s Blessings.
On June 2, our Territory successfully crossed another milestone in the journey of living and working with COVID-19 under the New Regular. We began the phased and controlled reopening of our borders, particularly at the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport.
Under this phase, only nationals, belongers, holders of permanent residence, and naturalised citizens of the Virgin Islands are being allowed entry into the Territory.
Two flights are expected to arrive this afternoon for the first time.
In preparation for this arrival, this morning, I was able to visit the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport to see a simulation conducted by the respective Government agencies and statutory agencies in preparation for the resumption of air traffic.
I was able to get a first-hand view of the processes at work. I must say that the performance of our teams was remarkable, and I wish to publicly commend all of them for their hard work and commitment at this time.
We are happy to be in this phase to welcome our people home.
Although we do not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, I must say here that we are not out of the woods with COVID-19. We will all continue to do our part to keep each other safe.
It is important to emphasise that our returning nationals and residents must adhere to the health and safety requirements that are in place. This includes following the mandatory quarantine procedures.
A measure such as security has been implemented to ensure that persons adhere to the mandatory procedures.
We are hoping that a sense of responsibility will prevail and that all persons will comply so that we are not forced to consider other measures.
As a Territory, due to hard work and sacrifice by all of our people and our guests who were in the Territory, we have been able to put measures in place to keep us all safe.
Our professionals in the Health Emergency Operations Centre, Ministry of Health, and all the supporting agencies, Cabinet, House of Assembly, have worked long hours to lead us to where we are today.
Our people have given up a lot in this collaborative effort to minimise the spread of COVID-19 on our shores.
We have seen what COVID-19 can do to our economy and to jobs. So, we are not taking any chances. COVID-19 is not playing around with us, so we are not playing around with COVID-19.
We have come this far by following the guidelines from the Ministry of Health and the Health Emergency Operations Centre. We have seen the positive results that kept everyone safe. Therefore, by continuing along this path, we will get through this together.
We thank God for His continued Favour.
Earlier today, June 3, Cabinet held its regular meeting, and took the opportunity to discuss and decide upon urgent matters, including those related to COVID-19.
- advised that the National Security Council (NSC) instruct the Attorney General to amend Curfew Order No. 20 of 2020 to move the curfew hours to 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. effective 4 June, 2020;
- endorsed the decision taken by the NSC to amend Section 6 of Curfew Order No. 20 to permit the movement of vessels within Territorial waters, except in waters that are classified as an exclusion zone and the reference points on the map, outlined in the Regulations as follows:
- all additional regulations related to COVID-19 restrictions are to be applied in addition to regulation that already exists;
- unrestricted marine traffic and activity will be allowed only between 05:00 and 17:00 hours, notwithstanding further curfew restrictions;
- unrestricted marine traffic and activity will be permitted East of 64.38300'W on the south side of Tortola and an area East of the dividing line between the western most tip of Jost Van Dyke and Western most tip of Tortola. (This area will be further confined by navigational limits to the North, East and South);
- traffic through the exclusion zone and outside of the navigational limits is restricted and requires pre-clearance from the Multi-Agency Operational Command prior to transit;
- vessels fitted with Automatic Identification System technology will be required to use same while navigating within the territorial waters, especially in the exclusion zone to make them easily identifiable to law enforcement from a distance; and
- decided that all businesses re-open, subject to inspection by the Social Distancing and Monitoring Task Force and certification by the Environmental Health Division with effect from 4th June, 2020.
I am glad that our boaters can now traverse the waters. Remember that no one should be in exclusion zone without prior approval. Please sail our waters safely and comply with all the guidelines that are in place to ensure the safety of us all.
Additionally, today Cabinet:
- decided that security guards be assigned to persons approved for self-quarantine in isolated accommodation that satisfy requirements to ensure adherence to the quarantine protocols, with effect from 3 June, 2020; and
- noted that the budget and appropriate funding will be handled between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance.
In discussing regular matters, not COVID-19 related, Cabinet:
- approved the making of Regulation by the Minister in accordance Road Traffic Act, (CAP. 218), Section 56 to restrict the movement of three-wheel or less vehicles, which includes motorbikes and scooters, from 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. for the safety and convenience of the public, for a period that will not exceed three (3) weeks; and
- noted that the Minister for Transportation, Works and Utilities will instruct the Attorney General to draft the required Regulation.
We want to ensure the safety of our bikers in this Territory.
Before I close, let me say that it is good to see that Virgin Islands citizens are already taking steps to access the programmes under your Government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, which was announced last week.
In particular, I am happy that those families, who were affected by the loss of earnings by their breadwinners due to the hardships caused by COVID-19 are able to now sign up and get some financial assistance under the $10 million COVID-19 unemployment relief fund.
I want to again thank the Social Security Board, Management and Staff for their continuing service and support to the people of the BVI in providing a grant, which is an investment in the BVI people, our businesses and our economy.
I am happy that small businesses will be getting the assistance through the economic response they need to regroup, retool and reorient for the new era of living and working with COVID-19. We have to remember that COVID-19 has shocked the world. It was not foreseen and everyone was caught by surprise.
But, out of every storm there are opportunities. COVID-19 is churning up new opportunities for innovation. COVID-19 has shown us that we need to be digitised. We must all use this time and opportunity to create the new BVI we want to see so that generations to come will benefit and continue the story of the Virgin Islands.
There are other aspects of the economic response package that will be coming on stream over the next few days. Look out for the announcements and make sure and submit your applications early.
Remember as well, there is the housing programme to help persons to ‘watertight’ their home for the hurricane season which is upon us. Please do your part and access these programmes which are there for your benefit.
As we move forward, your Government will keep you further informed.
Let us continue to work together, and may God continue to watch over his Virgin Islands people.
I thank you.