Information Officer II
Dept. of Information & Public Relations
Telephone: 468- 2740
The British Virgin Islands COVID-19 Human and Economic Impact Assessment Report (HEAT Report) that presents the overall impact of the coronavirus on the Territory has been launched.
Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie and United Nations Assistant Secretary General Dr. Felipe Luis Lopez-Calva launched the report during a virtual high-level event on November 2.
Premier Fahie said the report paints a picture of the virus’ impact on the Territory, taking into account its initial spread to the islands and the wider Caribbean region.
He gave an overview of the impact of COVID-19 on the British Virgin Islands stating that, “through targeted action, infections have been kept to a minimum and outbreaks were quickly contained.”
The Premier said the HEAT report has helped to guide the Government of the Virgin Islands’ COVID-19 response and remains a reference point as it fine-tunes its policy prescriptions to drive the recovery from the global pandemic.
Premier Fahie said the social impact of the virus has been most strenuous on women and children who have become more vulnerable.
“Mothers who bear the disproportionate burden of raising children, have had to manage working at home alongside supervision of children involved in virtual learning,” he said adding, “Children have had to adjust to a learning environment outside of the classroom away from their peers, and also in sometimes unhealthy and unsafe conditions. Children with special needs have not had the consistent support required over the past months.”
Honourable Fahie stated that the economic impact of COVID-19 on the British Virgin Islands is felt most strongly in the tourism sector, which accounts for roughly a third of GDP.
He said, “This has resulted in a considerable slowdown in business activity in the tourism industry itself and related industries, which in turn has induced a dramatic spike in unemployment and social dislocations. The HEAT Report projects a GDP decline of 13% to 17% in 2020, given the current prevailing conditions in the tourism sector.”
Premier Fahie said the technical assistance and financial support the Government has received from the United Nations has served the Territory well.
He said, “UNDP’s SURGE support programme assisted the Ministry of Finance and Premier’s Office in doing critical policy work, including modeling the economic and social impact of COVID-19 and other potential external shocks; developing a business confidence survey and a framework for assessing national fiscal financing options; and designing a results framework to measure and track extraordinary financial, economic and social support measures adopted by Government in response to COVID-19.”
The Premier added, “The UNDP’s generous grant of $40,000 has also assisted our restaurant businesses classified as Micro, Small and Medium-sised Enterprises (MSMEs) in moving toward digitisation and diversification of their services and operations. Ten food operators received grants of $4,000 each that is helping them to become more resilient by retooling and transforming their businesses.”
Meanwhile, UN Assistant Secretary-General Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva commended Premier Fahie for his Government’s early and decisive action that contained the spread of the virus and has helped to cushion its negative effects on the vulnerable and businesses. He also thanked UNDP, UN Women and UNICEF for their collaboration with the BVI Government on the production of the report.
The official launch of the HEAT report was moderated by Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office Dr. Carolyn O’Neal-Morton, while its presentation was given by the Premier’s Office’s Development Cooperation Specialist Ms. Patlian Johnson.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Sports, Agriculture and Fisheries Dr. Honourable Natalio Wheatley, Minister of Health and Social Development Honourable Carvin Malone, Director of the International Affairs Secretariat Ms. Najan Christopher, Assistant Secretary for External Affairs Ms. Dwynel Davis and Special Envoy of the Premier Mr. Benito Wheatley witnessed the launch of the report.