Statement by His Excellency, Governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert
On the Relaxation of COVID-19 Restrictions from 26th April Onwards
24th April, 2020
I would like to start with a thank you to all of the people of this Territory. I know these are challenging times and people are worried – worried about their finances, their health, the limitations on their life, and their friends and family. I know it probably feels like your Government is asking a lot of you and that the path ahead is very uncertain.
Nonetheless, by staying at home and complying with the measures in place to date, despite a small number of cases, you have played a vital role in containing and over-coming this virus so far.
I know these sacrifices have not come without cost – financial and personal. I thank every child who has stayed home and not been able to play outside; every business that has closed knowing the impact it has on its finances; every parent supporting their child’s education whilst schools are shut; every teacher helping with online tuition; every individual and family that stayed home not able to connect with loved ones; and every essential worker and volunteer who has helped get us through the last period.
Your actions have saved lives. You should all be proud of what you have done to protect this Territory and in particular to protect our elderly and most vulnerable. Thank you.
As you have heard, there has been another confirmed case and contact tracing is actively underway. We pray for their speedy recovery. The additional case should though not be a shock or a cause for panic, but should be a reminder about the importance of the measures we need to take. If you had not stayed at home the risks of the virus spreading across our Territory would have been much greater. So again - thank you very much.
Cabinet have been working hard to plan the next phase of our COVID-19 response. We have considered the advice of the National Security Council and BVI’s leading medical professionals, as well as the needs, safety and wellbeing of the people we serve. Decisions have not been easy.
Nonetheless, Cabinet has collectively agreed to amend the measures in place under the Curfew Act to allow for some lifting of the restrictions that have been in place over the past few weeks. As Governor, I will sign a new Curfew Order that will come in to effect on Sunday 26th April.
You have heard the Premier set out the details of this next phase and what will happen when it comes into effect.
· In short, the full lockdown will continue on Sunday 26th April,
· From Monday 27th April, and daily thereafter, Cabinet have decided that a curfew will remain in place between 1pm to 6am. This is an afternoon and evening lockdown – where you must remain in your homes.
· Between 6am and 1pm daily, you will be able to leave your homes to shop for essential supplies and to exercise safely.
· The curfew will be in place for 2 weeks until Sunday 10 May, but subject to constant review.
· Only essential businesses as set out by the remarks by the Premier and as will be published will be allowed to operate during those hours.
· Schools will remain closed, but teachers can access schools to provide online instruction
The full details will be shared on Government channels so I won’t say more on them now. Instead, I would like to emphasise that the success of this next phase will very much depend on each of us taking individual responsibility.
This is not a return to our way of life before COVID-19
This is the next stage in an adaptation of our entire way of life to deal with this virus. An adaptation of how we interact, of how businesses operate, of how we exercise, of how we live our lives. Adapting is down to you. Our success as a community and as a Territory is down to you.
We, your Government, are asking you to be sensible and safe, and to do the right thing in complying with the measures. We will regularly review them - we hope we can keep lifting them over time but we will be driven by our top priority – your safety.
The limited opening does not mean that everyone should go out for the full hours between 6am -1pm. You should not. Those are the hours that you go out for essential business only – for essential shopping and essential exercise. Remember – you need to take responsibility for your own safety. Please continue to stay at home as much as possible. If you do need to go out for work or essential supplies, please wear a facemask to cover your nose and mouth. A facemask doesn’t stop you getting the virus – the best protection on that is safe social distancing, practising good hygiene with washing your hands – but a facemask does reduce the risk of you spreading it to others. You won’t know who may have the virus, and that may include you.
If you own an essential business that is permitted to open, you need to comply with the curfew and social distancing rules. You will be inspected by our new social distancing monitoring task force over the next days ahead of Monday and will require their agreement that your business is safe prior to opening. Please also ensure that your operating hours align to the curfew hours, allowing staff and customers time to travel to and from their destination.
If you wish to go out for exercise, please do so only with members of your household and keep your distance from others. Beaches will remain closed so please do not visit them. Public gatherings of more than 20 people will remain off limits.
Gatherings of no more than 20 does not mean that people should be generally socialising. As bars, restaurants, beaches and parks remain closed, this does not mean those activities should instead take place in private households. Family groups are expected to stay together and at home as much as possible as they have been doing until now.
Private and commercial boats (except ferries and freight) are prohibited from moving in our Territorial waters (except where authorised for essential supplies).
Our borders will remain closed to incoming passengers.
We as Government are placing huge trust in you, the people of BVI, to comply with these measures and to adapt. We are taking forward limited opening with the good faith that you will continue to play your part. We need every single person to play their part for this approach to work. It is the only way to fight the virus. It is invisible, many carriers may not show symptoms, and as we sadly know, it can be deadly. We will get through this virus as one community. One community supporting each other, with every individual adapting to protect themselves and our community.
I know many of you will be wondering how long this will go on for. It is a question we would all like answered throughout the world. For us, it very much depends on how the virus affects the Territory. As always, we will be guided by the latest medical advice and how best to ensure the safety of people. That means we will keep our response under constant review. If we need to tighten up control again, then we stand ready to do so – and will do so in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of the people of this Territory. You can help now by staying at home, bar for essential needs, and complying with the measures in place.
I would also like to take this opportunity to update you, the people of BVI, on other work being done to help counter this virus.
At the start of the week, I was proud to witness the food distribution programme teams at work. We know there have been teething problems, but this nonetheless has been a huge undertaking. Up to today almost 5,000 food packages have been delivered. We reallocated public officers to support the distribution. I would like to thank all the public officers, supermarket and delivery staff and importantly the incredible volunteers who have been working tirelessly around the clock to distribute essential items to those in need.
This week has also seen the arrival of more medical support in the Territory. This includes both a shipment of medical equipment provided by the UK Government and the release of BVI’s shipment which was delayed by US Customs and Border Protection. I would like to say thank you again to US and UK diplomatic colleagues and the BVI Health Services Authority for their hard work in resolving this issue with us. Further supplies donated from the UK Government will also follow.
I would also like to say thank you to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, HM Customs, Immigration and volunteers from the marine sector for their work in patrolling our Territorial waters. They are keeping us safe from unauthorised entry whilst our borders remain closed.
The Public Service should also be commended for their work this week. Essential public services have continued to serve the Territory, and where possible, many public services are being offered remotely. Over the next week the public service will be making further adaptations to ensure public offices are in a position to open safely. As we take forward measures to get more services online and offices adapted, we will look to expand the services available. As part of this new phase in our COVID-19 response, we will be setting up a taskforce, to monitor social distancing protocols and ensure businesses comply; and a task force will ensure the same for the public service. Further information on the opening of the public service and the reallocation of public officers to specific task forces will be confirmed by the Deputy Governor but in the meantime, thank you to public servants for your commitment and hard work and flexibility in responding to this crisis. Thank you also to essential workers and our RVIPF in particular for their hard work and dedication.
Finally, I want to remind everyone that there is no stigma attached to this virus and we should not stigmatise anyone who may have it. People should feel confident to contact the Medical Helpline on 852 7650.
I will end as I started with a final thank you to the people of BVI. With your help and cooperation, we will overcome the challenges posed by this pandemic and we will emerge a united, stronger and healthy Territory.
May God continue to protect and bless this Territory.