STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
COVID-19 UPDATE & CABINET DECISIONS TO ADDRESS THE SURGE!
JULY 5TH 2021
Today as we celebrate Virgin Islands Day, I wish to extend greetings to everyone in these beautiful islands and to those joining us by radio and other social media platforms throughout the world.
In the Virgin Islands, as we have turned the page into the new month of July, it would appear that we have turned to a new page in our experience as a Territory, battling this dreaded COVID-19 disease. No doubt the reports and statistics have affected the general mood in these islands and have been a concerning one for most, if not all of us.
As the Minister of Health and Social Development I want to assure you that I empathise with you. I too feel your worries and I too feel your concerns.
As a Government we are mindful of the impact this disease has already made to the economy of these islands; but now more than ever we are mindful of the impact this disease will also make to the health and safety of we the people. It is on this premise that we will continue to make the necessary adjustments in the interest of this Territory, balancing lives and livelihoods, for the safety and benefit of us all.
In recent days, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Georges have issued updates on the COVID-19 upsurge in the Territory and has highlighted measures taken to address this growing situation. While the CMO will issue his report on the latest findings at a later date, I will give a summary of the findings and test results as at Monday, July 5th 2021.
Since the onset of this Global Pandemic an estimated 49,927 persons have been tested at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital and has resulted in the discovery of 793 positive COVID-19 cases with 312 recoveries and 1 reported death. As of today, July 5th, I am sadly reporting that there exist 480 reported active COVID-19 cases in the British Virgin Islands. This total includes a number of persons at some of our resident and treatment facilities. At best, this situation is troubling and all measures MUST and WILL be taken to arrest and stop this upsurge.
We are in this together but you must do your part.
Your Government has:
Constructed physical facilities;
Purchased Lab Equipment:
Trained Medical Staff;
Recruited Specialists from Cuba;
Upgraded our Laws;
Established safety protocols;
Engaged Social Distancing personnel, and;
Provided FREE VACCINES (compliments of the UK Government);
The investments made in the Territory are for a time such as this. In his report tomorrow, the CMO will issue a Community Testing Schedule for screenings to be conducted on Tortola and Virgin Gorda. The schedule is comprehensive and will include: Exposure locations; Testing Dates; Testing Sites and Testing Times.
We are not out of the woods yet! The forest has thickened! We are in this together but you must do your part.
As I have indicated, members of our hard working HEOC met over the weekend and updated the Government Caucus together with members of the Opposition on the current situation. Today, Monday, July 5th 2021 Cabinet convened an Emergency Meeting to consider measures to be taken to address this upsurge.
In this regard Cabinet has advised that in-person visits to and from Her Majesty’s Prison (Balsum Ghut) are restricted, mandatorily effective 6th July, 2021 for a period of 14 days in the first instance, with the exception of emergency situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit, subject to the contrary advice from the Attorney General, and with the opportunity to be reviewed thereafter;
Cabinet further advised that all facilities that serve as residential establishments, namely, the Adina Donovan Home for the Elderly, Virgin Gorda Elderly Home and Rainbow Children’s Home; Safe Haven Transitional Centre and private residential facilities, prohibit visits in and visits out effective 6th July, 2021 for a period of 14 days in the first instance, with the exception of emergency situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit;
Cabinet also decided that all private and public schools (including pre-schools), child care centres, summer programmes and extra-curricular activities are mandated to cease in-person activities with effect from Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 for 14 days in the first instance, and subject to a review by the Cabinet after seven (7) days; provided that all external/regional examinations may continue to be administered at public and private schools with the approval by the Ministry of Education, in consultation the Chief Environmental Health Officer and the Chief Medical Officer.
In addition, Cabinet decided that, except with the approval of the Minister for Health and Social Development, all businesses and/or workplaces be required to restrict numbers to a limit of up to 65 persons at a time, per location, subject to adequate social distancing protocols being maintained in accordance with guidance from the Chief Environmental Health Officer, with effect from Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 for a period of 14 days in the first instance.
Cabinet also decided that social gatherings, including faith-based organisations, weddings and funerals, should be limited to 25 persons at a time for a period of 14 days effective 6th July, 2021, and subject to a review by the Cabinet after seven (7) days; and noted that SI No. 61 of 2021 - Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) (No. 3) (Amendment) (No. 5) Order, 2021 be amended accordingly;
Cabinet further decided that, except with the approval of the Minister for Health and Social Development, all ferries be required to restrict numbers to a limit of up to 65 persons at a time, subject to adequate social distancing protocols being maintained in accordance with guidance from the Chief Environmental Health Officer, with effect from Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 for a period of 14 days in the first instance;
Cabinet also decided that hairdressers, barbers, gyms, bars, clubs and entertainment establishments be closed; and that restaurants, for in-house dining, be limited to one (1) person per 36 square feet to a maximum occupancy of 25 persons, all inclusive of staff and patrons, with effect from Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 for a period of 14 days in the first instance.
In addition, Cabinet decided to test for COVID-19 at least once per fortnight, or as advised by the Chief Medical Officer, the employees of the following organisations: police, customs, immigration, prison, sea and airport authorities, and residential facilities as outlined in item c. and other high vulnerability settings during high incidences of the disease in the Territory, subject to contrary advice from the Attorney General;
Cabinet further decided that, in addition to existing measures, all vaccinated persons be subject to a rapid test upon arrival, effective 12th July, 2021, at a fee of $50.00;
Cabinet also decided that Cabinet advise the National Security Council to instruct the Attorney General to draft a new curfew order to implement a night time curfew from Tuesday, 6th July, 2021 from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. for a period of 14 days in the first instance; and
These new measures are expected to be Gazetted for full implementation shortly.
I continue to highlight the fact that COVID-19 is not going anywhere! We are NOT out of the woods, YET! We must continue to make executive decision while weighing the balance of managing lives and enhancing livelihoods.
I now wish to highlight the status of the vaccine rollout.
The United Kingdom Government donated 34,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines in February of 2021 to the British Virgin Islands. It was anticipated that 17,000 qualifying persons would be able to have free access to the required two doses per person.
To date, 13,761 persons have received their first doses, while 9,517 have received their second doses. An analysis of these totals shows that:
- On Tortola, 11,414 first doses and 8,146 second doses have been administered.
- On Virgin Gorda 2,094 first doses and 1,210 second doses were administered;
- On Jost Van Dyke 107 first doses and 66 second doses were administered; and
- On Anegada 146 first doses and 95 second doses were administered to date.
Governor Rankin has advised Cabinet that, given the continuing upsurge throughout the Territory, his office has made an appeal to the UK Government for the supply of additional vaccines. He has further reported that the current UK stock of vaccines will expire on August 31, 2021 and therefore it is preferred that any new supply to the BVI would be secured from new deliveries to the United Kingdom. The Premier has resolved that your Government will continue to do everything within our means to secure additional vaccines for administration throughout the Territory, IF our people are desirous of being vaccinated.
The current supply within the Territory will expire on July 31st, 2021. In addition to the 2nd doses that have been reserved for persons who have already received their 1st dose by July 3rd, Cabinet has decided to continue the administration of 1st doses to persons NOW desirous of being vaccinated. Additional UK donation of vaccines would, in large part, depend on the number of additional persons receiving their first doses between July 4th and July 31st.
We are in this together but you must do your part.
We cannot determine what our fate may be with the regional and global events surrounding COVID-19 but we can do what is necessary to continue to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones. We must continue to follow public health protocols such as wearing face masks; we must practice frequent hand hygiene; we must maintain physical distance in public spaces; and we must get vaccinated as our best tool to reduce transmission, prevent severe illness and prevent hospitalisation caused by COVID-19.
Your Government has done all that we can to prepare and prevent this disease from impacting us all severely. But we must now take personal responsibility for the lives and livelihoods of ourselves and by extension our family members. You can DO THIS!
If you are not going to do it for you, then do it for your parents, grandparents, your great aunts and uncles! Our most vulnerable are already being impacted by this disease!
If you are not going to do it for you, then do it for your children. At the end of the day we are hoping the protection of the adult population will in turn protect each child under the age of 17 in this Territory. Our learning Institutions are already being impacted!
If you are not going to do it for you, then do it for your employers! Every person vaccinated in a workplace continues to protect other employees and ensures that work continues, services continue and you can get paid. Work places are already being affected!
I will continue to reiterate the fact that new, more agressive variants continue to emerge. The virus mutates and spreads rapidly from one region to another, increasing the risk of severe illness and death. The reality is none of us knows how the virus will affect us. We simply must be vigilant and do the next best thing. Do not wait, VACCINATE! Protect yourself, your loved ones and our economy! I Thank you.