STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
VIGILANCE AND VACCINATION – OUR TOOLS TO FIGHT COVID-19
23rd JULY, 2021
Good evening and God's Blessings to all the people of the Virgin Islands and beyond.
Through the strength and grace of our Almighty God, we continue together as one people to fight the silent and unseen killer – COVID-19, the worst pandemic to hit the world in more than 100 years.
As a close-knit community, the pain of one is felt by all, and the loss of one is grieved by all. To those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and otherwise, I once again extend sympathies on behalf of the Government and people of the Virgin Islands as well as on behalf of my family and myself. And we pray that the dearly departed will find peace and comfort in the Kingdom of our Lord.
I continue to make contact with the families who have lost loved ones to remind them that we are all sharing in their loss and that as a community we are with them.
Today we crossed the mid-way point in our 21 days of national Prayer and Fast, where we are coming together as one people with one voice and one heart to petition God for the continued safety and protection of all Virgin Islanders and residents, and for our economy, in the face of this major spike in COVID-19 on our shores.
We also pray for the recovery of those persons in our community who have tested positive for the virus, and especially for those who are hospitalised – as well as for their families.
We know and we understand that this is a very traumatic time for our people. But we also know that with the help of God and the cooperation of everyone working together, we will get through this.
Overcoming COVID-19 requires us to remain vigilant. So, we must continue to follow the protocols and the advice which are informed by the medical experts, such as our epidemiologists, and by the scientific research.
We must remain vigilant and limit ourselves to going out into public spaces only when it is necessary to do so. We must continue to wear our masks, sanitise hands and surfaces frequently and maintain the social distancing. These simple measures will go a long way in helping to keep ourselves, our loved ones, our coworkers, our families and the wider public safe from the virus.
These are the most basic and fundamental tools that we have in this battle with COVID-19. They may seem simple but they are very effective as each measure is a layer of protection.
Our other tool that is available to us is the vaccine. We continue to remind everyone about this factor.
And we continue to remain understanding of the situation of some persons who, for medical reasons or for religious reasons, are either unwilling or unable to take the vaccine. We continue to recognise and respect the right of individual choice. The choice to vaccinate in the BVI remains voluntary.
As I emphasised a few weeks ago, persons who have taken the vaccine or who intend to take the vaccine must respect the choice of those who have opted not to become vaccinated. At the same time those who are against vaccination must also respect the rights of those who have chosen to become vaccinated.
For those who remain skeptical about whether they should vaccinate or not, I urge you to speak to your doctor. Your doctor is the best person to give you sound medical advice. Your doctor will know your medical history and whether you have any health risks that you need to consider.
While on one hand there are some medical conditions and factors that would advise against some persons taking the vaccine, on the other hand there are medical conditions and factors that make some persons highly susceptible to getting severely ill and even dying if they do not vaccinate.
And this is why I emphasise that the best research you can do is to consult your doctor. What applies to someone else may not apply to you. Your doctor will be able to give you the advice that is relevant to YOU.
The internet can be a good resource for information, but by now we should know that not everything we see and read on the internet is accurate.
We must also consider that epidemiology and medicine are complex subject areas, and unless you are trained in medicine, trying to interpret the research and medical literature you find online can be dangerous to your health and to your loved ones.
Do not play doctor. Instead, speak to a qualified doctor.
Many of our highly respected medical doctors have been speaking on the media and sharing their knowledge and advice on social media. I thank them for doing this service, and I urge you to listen to them.
Take your advice from the qualified – not from the unqualified.
It is your life and the lives of those in your households that you are gambling with when you follow defective advice.
I also urge you to look at the hard evidence on the ground – the evidence in front of our eyes.
The hard data is showing that the vast majority of persons who caught COVID-19 in the BVI were not vaccinated.
The hard data shows that the vast majority of persons who did not contract COVID-19 were the persons who were vaccinated.
The hard data shows that the persons who were vaccinated recovered faster and better than those who were not vaccinated.
And the hard data shows that of the persons who contracted COVID-19, persons who took the vaccine were less likely to end up in the ICU or worse.
So, again – please speak with your doctor and please follow the advice of your doctor.
For those persons who wish to take the vaccine, ‘Operation Protect Each Other’ – our vaccination drive-thru, continues tomorrow, 24th July, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Festival Grounds, Wickham’s Cay II, Tortola, and that the Village Rose Parking Lot in Virgin Gorda from 9:00 a.m. to:00 5 p.m., for persons who want their first dose or second dose.
Persons can walk in or drive up in your vehicles. Car-pooling is welcomed. All you have to walk with is some form of photo identification. The vaccine shots are free.
The Ministry of Health will continue to advise of other vaccination locations across all our islands as we continue going forward.
‘Operation Protect Each Other’ has helped significantly to increase the number of vaccinated persons in our population.
I am pleased that in the first two days of the Operation approximately 800 persons took the vaccine. Of course the exercise also continued at the Cappoons Bay field yesterday, 22nd July; and at Long Swamp and Virgin Gorda earlier today. And vaccination has been taking place at other centres throughout the Territory.
The response to Operation Protect Each Other has been very positive.
Based on the figures provided by the Ministry of Health, in the short period between 15th July and 22nd July, 2021, some 2,498 persons received vaccine shots. I repeat, some 2,498 persons received vaccine shots. Through ‘Operation Protect Each Other’, 1,922 persons received vaccine shots during those eight days. And these numbers continue to grow, because we still have to add the figures from today’s vaccination exercises, this is remarkable.
BVI, we are getting it done. We are getting closer to our target.
To GOD alone be all the glory. We have recognised that just over eight days ago we needed an additional at least, at a minimum another nine thousand plus persons to be vaccinated. And through this drive within the last eight days we have seen now that we are pushing to have just about under eight thousand more persons to be vaccinated. We are getting closer to our target.
However, this is no time for us to become complacent.
We are continuing to take the drive-thru vaccination to the various communities.
As such, we look forward to seeing more persons coming out and getting protected against COVID-19 through vaccination.
I want to take this opportunity to thank those persons who have already come forward to become vaccinated, especially in the past few days. You are helping the BVI to strengthen our defence against COVID-19 and all its variants. You are helping the BVI to become safe again.
I also must say thanks to our health teams and persons from the various service organisations and our volunteers who have stepped forward to lend their hand in this effort.
Your help is truly making a difference. You are true heros in this.
The BVI continues to welcome the partnership from our neighbours in the US Virgin Islands and Governor Albert Bryan Jr, with whom we share a close and special bond. We appreciate this support.
We also welcome back to the Virgin Islands Professor Ian Cummings from Public Health England who is making his expertise available to the Minister for Health.
The data is showing that as more persons become vaccinated and as we utilise the other measures such as curfews and other restrictions together with the hygiene practices, the infection rate in the BVI is slowing. This is a good sign.
However, this does not mean that we can lower our vigilance.
Before the start of this last spike, which began around the end of June, the BVI was on our way to fully reopening our tourism industry and getting the economy into overdrive.
Our charter boats and accommodation properties were getting a surge in bookings – even though this is traditionally the slow season.
Our restaurants and bars were beginning to come back to life after 15 months of being either shut-down or limited to pick-up-only orders. Cruise ships were returning. Taxi drivers and tour operators were back on their way to having income. Persons were going back into their jobs.
And then the COVID-19 spike came and set us back in our mission but it has not stopped us.
We will come out of this, for which we have already paid a heavy price. But we do not want, after things begin to progress once again, to find ourselves having a repeat of this painful situation.
So, we must respectfully urge our friends, our family members and our co-workers, to speak to their doctors and to go and get vaccinated once the doctor has given them the all-clear.
My people of the Virgin Islands, in life whenever the season changes we have to change. When God changes the season we have to take our cue from HIM and we have to change.
The BVI cannot stay the same way as we were while everything around us is changing. The BVI has to evolve and we have to position our Territory for future success – and this means learning to live and work in a world with COVID-19.
While we do not want to unduly scare anyone, there are a number of COVID-19 variants emerging in different parts of the world, and collectively we must work to shield our Territory from these variants getting into our population. Our best line of defence against COVID-19 in general is the vaccines.
This is why we are strongly recommending that you vaccinate, and why we continue to encourage you to keep on wearing your masks, maintaining the social distance and washing hands, along with all the other approved health protocols.
Tonight, the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronald Georges, will provide information on the type of COVID-19 variant that has to date been officially detected in the BVI and which poses a threat to the BVI population and our economy.
But again, I must re-emphasise that no matter what variant we are dealing with in the BVI, or what variants are out there in other countries, we in the BVI have to clear our path and give ourselves the best opportunity to fight the virus and any of its variants. And the best way to do this is by being vaccinated.
Your Government will continue to do all that we can to protect our people and to safeguard our economy. But we can only succeed in this battle and we can only save lives by everyone working together.
Your Government is sparing no effort in ensuring that all the resources needed by our health teams to fight and contain COVID-19 are made available.
We will continue to petition God for the safety of our people in the Virgin Islands and for further strengthening of our economy as we continue our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.
God is with us.
In BVILOVE I say, may God continue to bless and protect these Virgin Islands and its people.
I thank you.