Statement by Minister for Health and Social Development
Honourable Carvin Malone
March 4, 2021
I extend greetings to everyone in the Virgin Islands, the Region and the World.
COVID-19 was declared a GLOBAL PANDEMIC on March 11, 2020.
Empowered by The Public Health Ordinance of 1977; The Infectious Diseases (Notification) Act, 2013; Quarantine Act, 2014 and the Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Orders of 2020, the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) was activated as the primary advisory body in the Territory’s defense against COVID-19.
With the advice, decisions, and actions of the HEOC, the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands, the House of Assembly and the efficient works of public, private and voluntary institutions and individuals, as a Territory we did the following:
- Enacted nine (9) Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Orders;
- Supported the enactment of 45 Curfew Orders;
- Redesigned and commissioned a COVID-19 isolation ward on the third floor of the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital;
- Expanded the facilities and ensured the certification of laboratory services for on-site COVID-19 testing in the Territory and to date have conducted 24,597 tests, of which 154 were positive. One hundred and fifty two (152) cases have recovered; one (1) untimely death has occurred and there exists presently one (1) active case, resulting from a returning resident who was tested while in quarantine.
- Developed and commissioned COVID-19 permanent and mobile swabbing stations at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital; at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport and at various interim locations throughout the Virgin Islands;
- Approved and funded quarantine accommodations, transportation and meals, free of cost, to qualified individuals from June 1st 2020 to February 28th 2021; and
- Proactively contracted, in August of 2020, the COVAX consortium for the provision of vaccines when they become available. Notifications of the delivery of 12,000 doses have been received and receipt is being finalised.
On the 4th of February 2021 the Virgin Islands received the first 8,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine compliments of the United Kingdom Government. It is confirmed that all vaccines required to be administered to everyone in the population desirous of being vaccinated will be supplied as a gift from the United Kingdom coupled with the vaccines to be received through our proactive measures with COVAX that was initiated during August 2020.
As you are aware, five members of the House of Assembly, inclusive of yours truly were amongst the 33 persons vaccinated on the 11th of February 2021.
Further, a roll out of vaccines began in a phased manner, starting with healthcare and frontline workers in Phase I followed by elderly and those with chronic disease in Phase II during the week of the February 15th. During the week of the 21st, Phase III, including all essential workers, was commenced. Though with reasons, it is admitted that the planned orderly rollout of the vaccination programme did not materialise exactly as envisioned as a result of the delay of the arrival of the second shipment of AstraZeneca from the U.K.
The vaccine rollout was structured using community vaccination centres at the R&R Malone Complex in Pockwood Pond; Nurse Theresa Smith Blyden Clinic, Cappoon’s Bay; St. Williams Catholic Church Hall in Road Town; East End Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fat Hog’s Bay and the Cane Garden Bay Baptist Church on Tortola; the Nurse Iris O’Neal Clinic and the North Sound Clinics on Virgin Gorda and the clinics on Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.
Using this Community vaccination approach, we have been able to achieve between 500 to 600 vaccinations daily and, as of the March 3rd, we have completed 4,474 vaccinations.
3,625 on Tortola
703 on Virgin Gorda
71 on Anegada
75 on Jost van Dyke
A decision was made to pause vaccinations until we secured firm delivery dates for the next two tranches of 12,000 vaccines each. This also gave us the opportunity to consolidate and fine tune the process further.
Subsequently, correspondence was received from Governor John Rankin and reads as follows:
“I write to confirm that the United Kingdom now has in its possession adequate quantities of the AstraZeneca vaccine required for the BVI and that the charter flight is being booked for the planned second consignment of vaccines (12,000 doses) for delivery to the BVI on 17th March, which, if the second doses are to be administered from 25th March, allows sufficient time for a further 4000 persons to have their first dose.
Again, please be minded that we have secured enough doses for the entire adult population of the BVI and will continue to work closely with the Chief Medical Officer to ensure BVI has the supply when it needs – with the caveat that this will need to be planned in advance.
Provisionally, we have a further 12,000 doses pencilled in for 31st March. Providing we continue a steady planned approach, I hope you will agree that there is no need to further pause the vaccination programme and we should continue together to encourage people to come forward for that all important first dose. I look forward to our continued close working on this very important and time critical programme.”
Additionally, plans are being finalised with COVAX for the delivery of 12,000 units of AstraZeneca based on prior mentioned contractual arrangements.
When we receive the new batches of vaccination, which was originally due on 3rd March but now confirmed to arrive on 17th March, we will bring the private sector on board through a Memorandum of Understanding. The Memorandum of Understanding will be executed with qualified private health care providers and require them to conduct vaccinations at no administrative or product costs to persons or the National Health Insurance programme.
At present, the pace of vaccine uptake has increased significantly. It is unfortunate that we had to pause. The Government sincerely regrets the inconvenience caused to persons, but we found it necessary to take these steps to safeguard persons already vaccinated to ensure, as promised, that they would not have to restart their vaccination courses.
Now that we have secured several paths forward, we are able to restart the programme in an orderly and coordinated manner.
It is hoped that we do not experience any further delays but rest assured that all persons wishing to be vaccinated shall have access. The Government and people of the Virgin Islands are grateful for the generous donation of vaccines provided by the United Kingdom to the residents of this Territory. The Government and people of the Virgin Islands also are grateful for our hard working Public Officers and our regional affiliates for working hard to secure the vaccines from COVAX.
As far as possible we will accommodate all persons who want to be vaccinated, while adhering to the priority groups mentioned. Persons in the various categories wishing to be vaccinated can register their interest through the portal www.bvi.gov.vg/COVID-19. In addition, if persons are having any issues with the registration process online, they are encouraged to call 468-2286 or 468-2287.
The Government will be making community vaccination sites available after the initial phases of vaccination of essential and health care workers. These sites will be strategically situated around the Territory for the ease of access of residents, including locations on all of our Sister Islands, as previously mentioned.
Vaccination is an important tool for us and the world as we do our part to combat the COVID-19 pandemic here in the Virgin Islands and globally.
If we vaccinate sufficient numbers of our population not only will we be protected, but we will begin to break the chain of transmission. With BVILOVE do not procrastinate; vaccinate.
I take this time to further echo my mantra of the last 11 months in regards to COVID-19; “We are not out of the woods yet!”
“VIGILANCE!” is the key word. Do your part!
We must continue to adhere to all of the measures of social distancing, hand hygiene and public health measures which are in place.
As more and more of us get vaccinated here in the Virgin Islands and in the wider global community, we can begin to look at how this will impact our entry requirements and begin to reopen our borders and our economy and further restore our lives and livelihoods.
While there are those who are apprehensive about taking any vaccine, let me admonish and encourage you to take this step with me, and get vaccinated! It is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, our families and humanity, but, most importantly, for the BVI We Love!
I cannot and will not close without a plug for the COMPLETE HEALTH IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM (CHIP). The best defense against any virus is attaining a healthy body. CHIP is a sound alternative!
Thank you and may GOD continue to bless You these beautiful Virgin Islands.