Statement by Minister for Health and Social Development
Honourable Carvin Malone
COVID-19 Situation and Response
7th January, 2021
I extend New Year’s greetings to everyone in the Virgin Islands and throughout the World.
Since my last status report on the COVID-19 situation delivered from the House of Assembly on Thursday, 31st December, there have been some developments which need to be brought to your attention as I’ve pledged to keep you fully informed.
Let me begin by providing you with statistics regarding the number of cases and their distribution. As of January 7th, one hundred and fourteen (114) persons have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus; 95 cases have recovered; 18 are currently active while one (1) death was sadly recorded.
While in the past weeks we have been informed that reported cases were discovered in persons who recently travelled into the Territory and completed testing on their day of entry (Day 0) or on Day 4; sad to say, that is not our present situation.
Of the 18 active cases, five (5) are located on Tortola, 12 on Virgin Gorda and one (1) on a marine vessel. There are six (6) persons among the active numbers that are ordinarily resident in this Territory. The remaining 12 are all visitors. Though NOT critical, one person is presently hospitalised at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital and is responding well to treatment.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is currently investigating two (2) persons of interest from among the active cases. Both of these persons tested negative and were cleared from quarantine on Day 4 but subsequently tested positive during their exit screening that was required for departure.
Both individuals and their close contacts are under secured mandatory 14-day quarantine and subject to testing as directed by the Protocols.
To date one of the persons of interest has three contacts that have tested positive for COVID-19 while others are scheduled for testing at the most appropriate time to detect the virus.
It is also important to note that one of the persons of interest visited a number of establishments on Virgin Gorda and after an aggressive contact tracing exercise most of the close contacts have been identified, interviewed, quarantined and is being monitored.
The Ministry has reviewed each of the establishments and has determined that they are in full compliance with the appropriate protocols.
As an extra layer of security aimed at easing the minds of patrons and the general public, the Ministry of Health is asking persons who attended the New Year’s Party at Coco Maya Restaurant between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. to call the Ministry of Health at 468-2274 and 468-4936, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a COVID-19 rt-PCR test. This request is for everyone who was in attendance, whether you live on Virgin Gorda or any other of the sister islands.
Testing will be available in Virgin Gorda at the Anglican Church Hall from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital Tent between the hours of 12:00 midday and 2:00 p.m. from Friday the 8th of January 2021 through Sunday the 10th!
Persons are encouraged to call or email to schedule their time for testing. To avoid crowding at testing locations, it is preferred that persons first call or email and do not just show up for testing.
I am pleased that so far persons have been coming in to get tested and some businesses have been voluntarily erring on the side of caution and are temporarily closing their doors to help safeguard our community.
However, it is sad and regrettable to report that over the holiday weekend, far too many flagrant breaches of social distancing and public health protocols occurred at several restaurants, bars and night clubs. These actions have the potential of putting all of us at risk.
Investigations have been conducted and a number of these businesses have been placed under additional scrutiny by the Environmental Health Division and the Social Distancing Task Force. Fines have also been levied and remedial actions have been taken.
I am taking this opportunity to advise persons who may have attended these events and have developed any symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, respiratory symptoms, cough, cold, loss of smell or taste or any symptoms associated with COVID-19 to likewise call 468-2274 and 468-4936, or email email@example.com to schedule a test.
The Government has also become aware that a number of persons are utilising the entry procedures to import exotic dancers and other persons for employment into the Territory under the guise of being family members or friends.
These flagrant episodes of disregard for public safety and the protocols that have been established to ensure protection of lives and livelihoods during this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic will not be tolerated.
The Government has recently instituted a number of fines and penalties and expanded the categories of officers designated to administer tickets.
In addition, the Social Distancing Task Force will continue to make unannounced visits and will hold persons and businesses accountable to being responsible.
We cannot play with the health and lives of each other. We are in this together BUT each of us MUST do our part.
I wish to remind persons that the following fines have been approved by Cabinet and passed in the House of Assembly including:
- A person who tampers with or damages a geofencing device (what we call the bracelet) you pay $2,000
- A person who visits a quarantined person $5,000
- A person who contravenes the protocols or guidelines under these regulations $10,000
- A person who refuses to return a geofencing device or approved monitoring device $500
- A person who provides false information when submitting an application for entry to a designated Public Health Officer enforcing a quarantine order $5,000
- Public Health Officers have been included in the categories of officers who can issue fixed penalty tickets
- All fixed penalty tickets must be paid at the Magistrate’s Court within 21 days or before a person issued the fixed penalty is scheduled to leave the country.
These fines have been put in place, and we will ensure compliance.
I wish to say here as well that Cabinet met and it was decided that EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, all persons approved to travel to the BVI originating or transiting through the Dominican Republic or the United Kingdom are required to provide a five-day rt-PCR negative test prior to entry and must undergo a mandatory 14-days quarantine and a testing regimen on the day of entry; on day 7 and finally on day 14 when in the Territory.
Cabinet has also decided that in light of concerning information and of the prevalence of increasing cases of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic -- to implement a travel ban effective Monday, 11th January, 2021 of persons travelling from the Dominican Republic to the British Virgin Islands, except for Nationals, Belongers, Residents, work permit holders, persons permitted to reside in the Territory, diplomats and persons employed by Government and Statutory agencies.
Additionally, as previously announced, Cabinet decided that in light of the new strain of COVID-19 prevalent in the United Kingdom (UK), to implement a travel ban effective Monday, 11th January, 2020 of persons travelling from the UK to the British Virgin Islands except for Nationals, Belongers, Residents, work permit holders, persons permitted to reside in the Territory, diplomats and persons employed by Government and Statutory agencies.
I want to echo this loudly.
COVID-19 is not playing around with us, and we will not play around with COVID-19. We are in this together! We are NOT out of the woods!
Person caught violating these provisions – we will find you and we will fine you!
The Government take these breaches very seriously because it is costly to lock down! All of our hard work and efforts for the last 9 months will not go down the drain.
Again as Health Minister, I am reminding persons that we all must adhere to all social distancing and public health measures and comply with all lawful instructions of the officers who have been designated to enforce and uphold them.
These measures are being taken to reduce the risk to the public and maintain our safety and health in a rapidly evolving situation.
To date we have total of 114 persons who have tested positive in the Territory with 95 recoveries and a total of 18 cases active currently. These cases are all being managed in quarantine with their close contacts.
As mentioned previously, one of the cases under quarantine has developed symptoms and has been transferred to the Dr. D Orlando Smith Hospital and has been admitted for further care. All other cases are being managed in the community and the arrangements for these cases are secure and they do not pose a risk to the general population.
An additional three residents are contacts of one of the persons of interest whom I previously mentioned. That situation is evolving with all close contacts having been identified, isolated and scheduled for testing at the most appropriate time to detect if they have passed through the incubation period. The focus has now turned to identifying persons who may have been exposed by casual contact through targeted mass testing.
At this point the Cabinet is re-assessing the situation and as information evolves will take advice from the public health team with respect to any further measures that may be required to mitigate any potential further impact. Results of mass testing is expected to begin to be available over the next two to three days, after which time any further decisions will be taken. The Public is advised to continue to heed and adhere to the established public health measures and report any instances of breaches of quarantine to Public Health at 468- 2274 or the Police at 311. Anyone experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 including fever, respiratory symptoms, cough or cold are asked to call the Medical Hotline at 852-7650.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is committed to keeping everyone informed and will bring you regular updates. You can also access information on the Territory’s COVID-19 response on government’s website, www.bvi.gov.vg
Everyone should also beware of misinformation on the coronavirus disease circulating on social media platforms. Always double check the facts before sharing by visiting official websites. www.bvi.gov.vg/novel-coronavirus-info/
Thank you for your attention.
May GOD continue to bless and protect, we the people of these Virgin Islands!