You heard last night the extraordinary measures that Cabinet is putting in place to protect you, the people of the Virgin Islands.
I know many of you have questions about what this means for each of you in practical terms particularly over the next few days in relation to the curfew that requires you to stay at home for a number of days which will come into effect tomorrow evening. Simply put unless you are classified as an essential worker under the Curfew Act you will be required to remain at home from 8 pm tonight until 06 am tomorrow morning and then from 8pm tomorrow Friday evening to stay at home continuously until 6 am on Thursday 02 April. This means that for this entire period – you should not go out, you should not be on the streets at any time during the day or night.
This is an unprecedented situation, and it requires unprecedented actions to protect public health and save lives. As a Cabinet, we know that this will be difficult. These restrictions will create hardships for businesses and employees and for all of us as individuals. But they are necessary, and we do not undertake them lightly. I am calling on all in the Virgin Islands to make what we sincerely hope will be short-term sacrifices now, so that we can get through this together.
The measures we are taking will, overnight, significantly reduce the chance of the virus spreading further. As you know, sadly we do now have confirmed cases and our wishes go to them for a speedy recovery. It is therefore absolutely vital that we do everything we can to ensure these cases are hopefully isolated and there is not transmission of the Coronavirus across our community. The best way to do that is to distance ourselves from each other. That is why you have to stay at home to break the chain of this virus. Our overall priority is to stop any potential spread of the virus within the Territory and protect all those within our shores.
As a reminder, from 8pm this evening, Thursday 26 March until 6am tomorrow morning, a curfew will be in place. Curfew will lift at 6am on Friday. The curfew will then come into effect at 8pm on Friday and will remain in effect until 6am on Thursday 2 April. This is in effect a shut down of the Territory where we are asking people to stay at home. Shops, including supermarkets and pharmacies, will not be open. Businesses will not be open. Support will be available to those who need it and the Minister of Health will set out the details of this.
I know a number of you have questions over the legalities of these measures. They are being taken under the Curfew Act of 2017 and are in line with our Constitution. The specific Curfew Order will be amended slightly to learn from earlier experiences to include both essential and a new category of critical workers – such as those critical to maintaining areas such as the supply chain on key food and fuel services, service emergencies and vets. The Minister for Health will outline the full list and it will be published in the morning together with details of how critical and essential workers should obtain their passes from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.
These exceptions will cover only a limited number of essential workers for when they are travelling to and from their place of work and only when they are engaged in that specific travel or work related activity.
Friday therefore will be the last normal day in terms of being able to go out. You will be expected to remain in your homes, with your family or those living under the same roof as you. Think of it as a day-time and night-time curfew which will last until 2nd April at 6am. No travelling to the nearest garbage roadside collection and no extended dog walks. This also means that the curfew extends to the beaches and any activities in or on the water. Police will be patrolling and will enforce the curfew and can arrest for breach of the curfew if necessary.
Please understand what we are trying to do and use your own good judgement. We are doing all we can to stop the spread and if a case is identified rapidly control the numbers impacted.
Working from home will be the order of the day. Much can be done and we expect key areas of the public service to continue to work from home, as required.
Whether we collectively succeed, or not, the one thing I know above all others is that our behaviours here, to one another, and putting our future and our society before the immediacy of the moment, is going to be remembered.
At Cabinet, we are taking and will take the necessary decisions. But I want to repeat, this is a joint effort with all of us playing a part. We can’t see this disease but we know that you can help stop being a chain to spread it. Your actions can help protect us all, and in particular our most vulnerable and elderly in the community. As I said yesterday – you are the front line in fighting this disease. The Government will do all it deems necessary, but the actions you take will determine how successful we are as a Territory in reducing the impact of the Coronavirus.
Once again, I want to thank all staff in our public and statutory agencies for all that they are doing. In particular, I thank our dedicated health teams and all in the police force as they take forward the measures necessary to protect us.
Finally, I want to thank you for what we are asking everyone in this Territory to do.
Thank you, stay healthy and may God Bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.