Good afternoon. The spread of COVID-19 across the globe highlights that it is highly infectious and therefore it will remain a threat to the British Virgin Islands for the foreseeable future. This public health risk must be mitigated. Such a historic threat can only be managed by an unusually high level of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity.
In the face of the unprecedented, we are responding at pace. There are still no confirmed cases in the Virgin Islands. But across the Caribbean region the number of confirmed cases has more than doubled in the last 24 hours. We must ramp up our approaches to prevent cases entering and to reduce the risks of transmission within our community. And we must have all of the people in the Territory abiding by and supporting the measures taken. This is not a drill – this is serious action to protect the lives of the people in our Territory.
Our Government continues to work diligently to ensure that that we are taking every step we can to protect the people of the Virgin Islands and I thank all involved in our response. Our Government’s strategy to detect, prevent, mitigate and manage the threat presented to the Territory by the COVID-19 Coronavirus is aggressive. As we saw in 2017, this Territory is highly capable of responding to crises when we work together. But this crisis is different and we must respond accordingly. It is global and it will be sustained.
That is why Cabinet has put unprecedented measures in place to protect the Territory. That is why we have closed the ports and airports to incoming passengers and are restricting groups of more than twenty people from gathering. We are requesting businesses to close to the public between 8pm and 6am to limit interaction between people. We recognize that the effects of these measures on us all will be difficult but I would urge everyone to play their part and follow advice on basic hygiene, social distancing and self-isolating.
Last week I chaired special daily meetings of Cabinet to discuss measures being taken to prepare for and minimise the impacts of the coronavirus. I am grateful for the support of the Premier, Minister and Health and indeed all members of Cabinet as Cabinet agree measures to protect our Territory. These measures included the public health response, and approaches for the Public Service and the criminal justice system. The latter has included measures that we can take to protect all those involved in court matters. Separately the RVIPF has been working with other law enforcement agencies to put plans in place to protect the Territory.
These are difficult times. It is a time to remain calm and to come together as a community. The British Virgin Islands has a strong tradition of helping each other and we must continue to do that. Panic buying of essentials is unnecessary. Our supply routes are robust and ships and cargo flights continue to operate. I would urge you to continue to follow our Government’s guidance on measures we can all take as individuals to protect ourselves.
The media and those on social media have a responsibility for the community. You should only get your information from official government sources. Please act responsibility and please support our medical personnel and other officials as they work to help us all.
These are difficult times and will likely remain difficult for some time to come. One way this crisis is different is that we have no idea how long it will last. We must not focus or fret on a particular date by which we expect to be through the worst. We must ensure that we make every effort to follow official advice and know that it will pass.
I want to thank Cabinet and all of our teams across the public service who are working so hard to protect the Territory. Particularly those men and women in health services and our essential services who have continued to demonstrate their skill and to provide excellent service. I remain confident in their abilities during this time.
May God bless us as we face this new challenge together.