STATEMENT BY DEPUTY PREMIER
AND MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
DURING THE SEVENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
ON THE ON-GOING RESPONSE TO COVID-19
16th APRIL 2020
PRESERVING OUR SUCCESS TO PROTECT OUR FUTURE
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be allowed to issue this statement regarding the ongoing response in the BVI to pandemic corona virus (COVID-19).
In my address yesterday (15th April 2020) I informed that I was guided to call on three of my prayer-warriors to LIFT-UP this nation in PRAYERS! They did and I as I reported it will be well, we will get through this together.
Mr. Speaker -- this entire COVID-19 response operation has been the joint efforts of the Health Emergency Operations Council (HEOC) – headed by the “Unified Command Team” of; Permanent Secretary -- Ministry of Health and Social Development, Ms. Petrona Smith-Davies; Chief Medical Officier, Dr. Irad Potter; CEO of The Hospital Services Authority, Dr. Ronald Georges; Ag. Director of the Department of Disaster Management, Dr. Evan Innis and the Director of Communications, Ms. Arliene Penn; by the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands; the House of Assembly; and of public, private and non-governmental entities.
Mister Speaker, I begin by bringing you the latest Situation Update on the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the cases reported globally and regionally, I will give an overview of the situation here in the British Virgin Islands from a Public Health perspective.
Though constantly changing, as of 15th April 2020 the World Health Organization has reported One million, nine hundred and fourteen thousand, nine hundred and sixteen, (1,914,916) confirmed cases globally. Of the global cases, five hundred and twenty thousand, nine hundred and forty-six (520,946) persons have been reported as recovered while; One hundred and twenty three thousand, and ten (123,010) deaths have been recorded.
In the Caribbean region, as of April 14th there have been more than 6,283 positive cases reported in 32 countries and territories. It is noted that of these numbers, 19 Caribbean countries have reported and confirmed community transmission. Four percent (4%) of these patients are severely ill or in critical condition, and there have been 323 deaths. The good news is that 725 recoveries are recorded.
Here in the Virgin Islands, Mr. Speaker, we have, so far, been able to moderate or manage the impacts of this deadly coronavirus on our Territory. This has been accomplished by implementing a comprehensive range of measures to detect, contain, mitigate and manage the disease.
As a result of active health surveillance 67 Persons Under Investigation were tested, and the results have been confirmed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) regional reference lab.
- 64 persons were confirmed negative
- 3 persons with travel history were confirmed positive with mild symptoms – not requiring hospitalization.
- of the 3 persons -- 2 have been declared as recovered after our Health Officials have followed stringent recovery procedure of tests and verification over a twenty one days period, Today, there remains one (1) active case whose final sample is being readied for submittal to CARPHA. The result would be communicated on receipt thereof.
Mister Speaker Of the 143 persons quarantined five (5) persons remain in mandatory quarantine, and our health surveillance teams continue to conduct screening and monitoring in order to detect any active cases of the disease that may not have been detected.
Anyone experiencing a fever with cough or difficulty breathing is encouraged to call the Medical Hotline at 852-7650.
It is with God’s Grace that, to-date, no local transmission of the virus has been detected in the Territory. Mister. Speaker, we cannot let our guard down. As a people, if we are to prevent local transmission, each of us MUST comply with the measures put in place to protect all of us. This virus is real [and] it kills. Fourteen (14) days is the incubation period of the virus.
Having made it past the halfway point of the 24-hour curfew period; in order to avoid greater hardship in the future as challenging as this maybe it is more important than ever to continue to abide by these requirements. Public trust is crucial in our efforts to beat this disease but so is public co-operation.
The Director General of W.H.O. in his briefing highlighted the fact that the world is still learning more about this new strain of coronavirus.
We know that COVID-19 spreads fast, and we know that it is deadly. We know that the virus can spread more easily in crowded environments. As a result of this, some countries and communities have now endured several weeks of social and economic restrictions.
In thinking about whether and how to ease some of these restrictions our decisions are based first and foremost on protecting human health. We also have a duty to safeguard the rights of every citizen and resident of the Territory and put special measures in place to protect the most vulnerable, especially our children and our golden gems.
The W.H.O. also announced new strategic guidance for moving towards lifting some of the restrictions that have been put in place, based on six key considerations. When applied to the BVI context, I call this a strategy for “PRESERVING OUR SUCCESS TO PROTECT OUR FUTURE”.
First -- transmission must be controlled. As of today, all indications point in this direction, as we have not yet detected any evidence of local transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Second, that health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact. I will once again remind everyone that, “The BVI can only have all of the equipment and advanced facilities that we need IF the BVI need none of the equipment and advanced facilities that we have”.
Mister Speaker, we are blessed to have well-trained surveillance and contact tracing teams; in-country PCR testing capabilities supplemented by test kits donated by Public Health England, and a 14-bed isolation ward at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital.
Arrangements are being finalised to launch a patient application for Android and iPhone to assist patients who may be diagnosed, suspected, or on quarantine to be able to communicate with the physician conducting their care and track their symptoms. Configuration is largely complete, and testing begins this week.
The BVI Health Services Authority has constructed a screening and assessment area outside the Emergency Room. Its capacity is 20 to 30 mild cases per hour with severe cases being referred into the main Emergency Room.
The Government has received four (4) new Hamilton C3 Ventilators and associated equipment to supplement existing capacity at the Hospital. This brings the total ventilator ICU bed capacity up to nine (9). Two of the new ventilators were purchased with special funds approved by the Cabinet. The additional two were special donations from Dr. Henry Jarecki. I wish to publicly acknowledge and thank Dr. Jarecki for his kindness and generosity towards the people of the Virgin Islands.
The third criterion is that outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes. The BVI continues to implement vigorous infection control measures and steadily increase our stock of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) despite being impacted by the supply chain restrictions experienced globally. The BVIHSA was pleased to receive a donation of PPEs including masks, Tyvek suits, and related items through the generous donations of The Bank of Asia, Unite BVI and others to be named. An additional supply is expected in the coming weeks via the UK Government Crown Agents.
The fourth area of focus is to ensure that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go. In this regard we are renewing the appeal to businesses owners, managers, employees, customers and volunteers throughout the public, private and non-profit sectors to install and make consistent use of facilities for hand sanitization, personal hygiene, and physical distancing of at least six (6) feet between persons.
Mister Speaker I pause to issue very strong words of caution to those of us who have insisted that you must have the services of hair dressers and barbers. Let us not win the battle and lose the war. Even at the risk of being accused of fear mongering the total membership of the House of Assembly would rather err on the side of caution. It is strongly advised that persons venturing into the personal spaces of others must wear their protective gloves and N-95 masks and ensure that equipment and surfaces are constantly sanitized. Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 and the effects of it is real. Let us not get weary in well doing. The fifth consideration is to ensure that importation risks can be managed.
[As the Premier and Governor have stated], our borders remain closed to inbound passenger planes and vessels, which allows us the opportunity to carefully manage the phased Internal Reopening of the Territory. During this period we continue to build capacity to manage the risk associated with the arrival of our family and friends who would have travelled through or from affected countries.
Critical elements of our preparedness include enhanced Port Health screening arrangements and the commissioning of facilities to ensure that all arriving travelers can be safely and securely quarantined for 14 days. We urgently need the support and cooperation of the hospitality industry in order to make any border re-opening plan a success. It is our goal to secure 150 or more rooms that would be utilized to house returning authorized Nationals, Belongers and Unrestricted Residents.
And finally, it is important to ensure that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to transition through this period. Many things in life will never be the same again because of the COVID-19 disruption. We all need to address our minds to this new reality as many aspects of it remain unknown.
I encourage you to remain abreast of current information from credible sources such as the World Health Organisation, Pan American Health Organisation, Caribbean Public Health Agency and the BVI Government media resources. The sources cited are frequently updated by the Joint Information Cell of the Health Emergency Operations Centre. Vulnerable households that are experiencing hardship at this time are reminded that Social Workers can be reached by dialing 468-9371 and 468-9384.
The Social Development Department, working in tandem with the BVI Red Cross and the Family Support Network, continue to field requests for special assistance. Arrangements have been made for homeless individuals to be provided with meals and other support services.
Arrangements are also in place for persons needing prescription refills. Prescriptions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by WhatsApp to 440-1726. Information including the patient’s phone number and address should be included. Once filled BVIHSA staff will deliver the prescription directly to the patient. Persons needing any COVID-19 related or any other medical consultation can call the medical hotline on 852-7650 and can be booked for an online appointment review.
Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot thank enough, all our frontline workers, including health professionals, emergency and essential workers, for their selfless service in helping to protect the people of the Virgin Islands from this deadly disease.
I also acknowledge the personal sacrifices that each woman, man and child in the Virgin Islands is making at this time in order to keep us all safe. By staying at home and complying with the Curfew Order despite the inconvenience that it brings, you are doing your part to help stop this deadly virus and save lives.
In a subsequent broadcast I will give updates on a number of initiatives, including the House to House Waste Collection Program; our 7R Waste Management Strategy of reform, restrict, reduce, recycle reuse, return and rethink; and the Health and Wellness Council Initiatives of; Combatting Non Communicable Diseases; the Complete Health Improvement Program; the Healthy Schools Program; the Food & Nutrition Programs and more. Mister Speaker, I urge everyone, do your part, be safe. Once again, I thank you!