His Excellency the Governor, J. U Jaspert
Statement on The Next Steps on the Curfew
1 September, 2020
Good day to all,
Thank you for joining us this morning. I stand here with the Honourable Premier and Honourable Minister for Health to deliver an update on our COVID-19 response and for us to set out the next stage in our response.
Yesterday, Cabinet met to review our current COVID-19 measures and the newly identified cases of COVID-19 within the Territory – which now stands at 38 active cases. The Minister of Health will set out more details on the current health situation including the huge amount of work being done by medical professionals to test and trace the virus. Our law enforcement agencies have also been doing good work to ensure our safety, including our maritime security, which is essential to protecting against imported cases and transmission. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them.
We - your Government - have always said that an agile response to COVID-19 is required. Cabinet must constantly review the data, expert opinions and the challenges before us and adapt. Just as important as the efforts of medical professionals and law enforcers, is the efforts of our community. The time has come for us to adapt again to fight this virus and protect our islands. We have moved to the next phase in our response plans – and we need everyone to support us in this.
Let me start by saying, we are not introducing a full 24 hour lockdown in BVI. Whilst this is an option, it comes with significant cost – economically, socially,and mentally. Therefore, we want to avoid this if at all possible, so not to put additional hardship on individuals who are already facing a very challenging time.
It is also worth remembering that we are facing a long-term threat from this virus, a threat which would not disappear if BVI was to go into lockdown for a couple of weeks. Much as we would like it, we cannot plan for being completely COVID-19 free in the near future and it would be unrealistic to do so. It could be many months, even longer, until the world emerges from this period. So instead, we need to use the next period to learn to function with COVID-19 so that our society and economy can keep going in the long-term, rather than repeatedly closing and opening.
The best way to do this and stop transmission is to adapt our behaviours. That means social distancing, wearing face masks, following hygiene measures and limiting chances for transmission through a curfew.
Therefore, a new Curfew Order will come into force tomorrow for two weeks. From Wednesday 2 September the following key measures will apply:
- There will be a hard lock-down from 1:01 p.m. each day until 5:00 a.m. each morning. This means you must stay within the confines of your home or yard between these hours.
- We need everyone to stay at home as much as possible. The limited hours of movement are for essential trips only, such as purchasing groceries or medicine or taking limited exercise.
- Please do not gather in groups, visit another household or engage in non-essential activities. When you do go out, you must wear a face mask that fully covers your nose and mouth.
- During the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 1pm a limited number of essential businesses will be open. Every establishment – businesses, offices and shops – must ensure their staff and customers maintain a 6ft distance inside and outside of the establishment and that everyone wears a face mask. They must provide hand sanitation facilities, ensure thorough and regular cleaning and put policies in place for staff and customers to report symptoms.
- The restrictions on movement of vessels on the Territorial waters remain in place – there is no movement allowed except for those authorised to do so.
- All beaches will be closed at 12 noon to ensure individuals can be back at home by 1:00 p.m. in compliance with the curfew. You may only visit beaches for exercise, not for meeting with groups or having parties.
- Schools remain closed and this position will be reviewed every two weeks for which the Minister of Education can set out more detail. Teachers will be allowed to access their classrooms to prepare learning materials and online resources.
To ensure full compliance, we are enhancing the Police enforcement and Social Monitoring Task Force who will be visiting establishments and patrolling public places. There will be a zero-tolerance policy for individuals or businesses breaking the rules. The law is being changed to remove warnings for first offences. If you are found to be breaking the curfew or failing to wear a face mask or social distance, you could be issued a fine on the spot - $100 for individuals and $1000 for businesses. Businesses can risk being shut down if they fail to enforce social distancing measures or open without authorisation. Individuals will also be able to report non-compliance or any concerns to the Police by calling 311. Please all take responsibility for keeping us all safe.
As you would expect, we must reorganise some parts of the public service to meet the new demand for social monitoring, public health planning and the overall COVID-19 response. Officers from across the public service will be reassigned as required to support the Social Monitoring Task Force. They will hold responsibility for enforcing the measures and monitoring compliance. We aim to continue our business as usual work and provide essential services to the public – albeit via digital channels or whilst working remotely. I’d like to say thank you to the public service for their flexibility and dedication at this time.
I’ll shortly hand over to the Minister for Health who will go into more detail on the reasons behind these measures. The Premier will then set out details from Cabinet discussions.
I’d like to close by making a final appeal to the public to please comply with these measures – namely, stay at home, follow the curfew, wear face coverings and social distance. The past week or so has been a sobering reminder of the threat we face. I know most people have been complying with the measures and I’d like to say thank you to each of you. Your actions have made a real difference and helped to keep us safe.
To those individuals and businesses not complying – this is the moment you need to change the approach for the sake of the community. Failure to follow these measures is selfish and puts everyone at risk. The only way to avoid a full 24 hour lockdown is for every single individual to comply.
I know it must feel as though your Government is asking a lot of you. I know that many people have lost their incomes and faced a great deal of uncertainty and stress over the past months. This period has been extremely hard for us all. How we manage the next phase will be crucial as we continue to learn to manage with COVID-19 and balance our society and economy with the health threat. We will be successful if we remain together as a community to fight this virus united.
So please, stay at home, protect each other and help us overcome COVID-19.