STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
COVID-19 UPDATE-CABINET DECISIONS
September 20, 2021
I extend greetings to everyone in the Virgin Islands, the Region and the World. In presenting this report, again, I would like to extend prayers and words of condolences to all families who have lost loved ones during this trying period, whether by COVID or other causes.
It is critical, wise and important for each of us to recognise and appreciate the challenges that the island nations of Jamaica, Bahamas, Bermuda, Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, St, Vincent, St. Kitts and others are now coming to grip with. They are not out of the woods, and we here in the British Virgins Islands are not out of the woods. Here in the BVI, we cannot and must not take the GOODNESS of Jesus for granted!
The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ronald Georges have reported that of the 80,880 COVID samples analysed at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital, 2,676 were declared as positive. While 2,592 cases have recovered; 37 deaths have occurred and there currently exist 47 active cases. Twelve of the 47 cases were discovered on entry testing during days 0; 7 and 14. The most troubling aspect of the report is that 35 of the 47 cases were found within the community. Clearly, my people, we are not out of the woods.
Since our report of September 8th, 37 cases have been reported as recovered BUT sadly there exist 34 new cases. It is these new cases that are of concern to our public health professionals. COVID-19 cases have now been reported in our schools, health care facilities, government departments, statutory bodies and private companies. Each time new cases are discovered our public health team must decide on mitigating measures to lessen the likelihood of the virus being transmitted throughout the organisation and the wider community.
The reality is that we are in the ERA of COVID and we must balance LIVES and LIVELIHOODS. The challenge that we now face is – what is the most effective and proven method of reducing the number of persons being hospitalised or dying as a result of the COVID-19 virus? This is the challenge! Currently, there is only one proven procedure: VACCINATION!
As the BVI continues to carefully reopen its ports of entries in West End, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda and as we welcome the return of cruise ships with enhanced protocols and bubbles; as we reopen schools and all businesses, we MUST remain VIGILANT! Our Territory MUST NOT be forced into extended curfews or lockdowns. We MUST remain VIGILANT!
The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands in its meeting held on 15th September 2021 made a number of decisions which I would now highlight and seek to give the rationale factored into some of these decisions.
The coordinating members of the Health Emergency Operating Center (HEOC) were pleased to present the 38th Situation Report which was presented informally to Cabinet on August 6th 2021 they also presented the 39th COVID-19 Situation Report of which the Cabinet was grateful to receive and accept.
There is an increasing trend where persons who have been detained or in conflict with the law have refused to be tested, which potentially exposes and places considerable risk to our law enforcement officers. While there are legal restrictions that prohibit the enforcement of testing of all persons in conflict with the law irrespective to them being officially charged for an offence; Cabinet decided that prior to being lawfully detained, a person shall be required to take a COVID-19 rapid test, unless the Attorney General advises otherwise. In other words, a person who has been arrested and being held at the police station, if subsequently charged, would be subjected to a rapid antigen test prior to being transported to H.M. Prison.
During the summer months, a number of unvaccinated or at times partially vaccinated minors have arrived in the Territory. Issues have arisen when the guardians who have come to collect them, then refuse to be quarantined with these minors or refuse to pay for quarantine devices for the minors.
In an attempt to address this situation, Cabinet decided that where an unaccompanied minor who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated arrives at a port of entry, they along with a parent or guardian must be subject to quarantine and exit testing at the same time as the unaccompanied minor. Again, where there are issues of non-cooperation and non-compliance, we must let the law dictate and guide expectations.
Cabinet decided that the Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) (Number 4) (Amendment) (Number 7) Order, 2021 be extended from the 16th of September 2021 to the 30th of September 2021.
In addition, Cabinet accepted the HEOC’s recommendation for the Imposition of a Curfew Order (No. 13) Order, 2021 be extended for a further 2 weeks commencing on the 19th of September 2021 and ending on the 1st of October 2021 and that the National Security council be advised that the Order be amended that the Curfew apply between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
Further, at the request of a number of interested persons, Cabinet decided that following representation by night club owners and following further consultation with officials of the Environmental Health Division, it was mutually agreed on the reopening of nightclubs under the following conditions:
- that all staff working at night clubs be fully vaccinated;
- that all patrons attending the night clubs are fully vaccinated and provided proof thereof; and
- that all night clubs be re-inspected and approved by the Environmental Health Division and that the vaccination status of staff be validated by the Public Health Unit, prior to reopening.
The Chief Environmental Health Officer has been advised to conduct a number of training sessions and further to meet with club owners to bilaterally agree on the most efficient process to be undertaken in an effort to comply with the Order.
Arrangements are being made to secure the listing of employees together with their vaccination status from each of the establishments named. In relation to patrons of the establishments, the operators are tasked with verifying the vaccination status of each patron.
The imposition of fixed penalty amount is a matter under consideration for persons and businesses in breach of this Order. These would be addressed at the next convened sitting of Cabinet. Owners and patrons are advised to comply with the mutually agreed conditions as these measures are being implemented to lessen the occurrences of hospitalisation and deaths, if the virus is contracted by staff or patrons.
Each of us have a duty to our elders; we have a duty to our medical professionals; and we have a duty to our children who cannot, at this time, be vaccinated. Our elders have a right to live and thrive in the era of COVID. Our children have a right to attend schools and function without being stricken by the COVID-19 virus. Those of us who are eligible to take the vaccine must uphold the rights of others. This is why I reiterate without apologies, an invitation is extended to all eligible persons to seek to be vaccinated and to be vaccinated now! All eligible persons must seek to uphold the rights of our elders, our vulnerable and our children.
To date the vaccination rate stands at 49.2% representing 14,764 persons being registered as fully vaccinated. Another 2,629 persons await their 2nd doses which, once completed, the number of persons fully vaccinated will be 57.9% representing 17,393 persons. While these figures are headed in the right direction the fact remains that we are seeking to attain a fully vaccinated goal of 75% of our population which will represent 22,500 persons. We are NOT there yet!
The United Kingdom government continues to honour its pledge to supply the total number of AstraZeneca vaccine doses required for all eligible persons residing in the British Virgin Islands. As an update, your Government is seeking to purchase the super sub-zero cold storage facility that would be required for the storage of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Further, the British Government has also pledged to supply all amounts of both vaccines required for eligible persons, including school aged children from 12 to 17.
Ladies and gentlemen we also had an intervention by the United States Virgin Islands Government who have allowed our school aged children to travel to St. John and be vaccinated. We are working closely with the agencies in the Unites States Virgin Islands so that we can continue this program until our facilities are completed here in the Virgin Islands
With this assurance our goal of reaching the goal of 22,500 persons fully vaccinated is now attainable and must be pursued. Our goal of having as many eligible persons vaccinated from age 12 and onwards can now be attained. Our goal of securing lives and livelihoods from the ravages of hospitalisation and death can now be attained. We are not out of the woods but there is a bright light that is now shining through.
Before I end, I want appeal to persons to adhere to their quarantine orders. Quarantine is the way we stop the viral spread of the disease. It is very important to this Territory that persons abide by the restrictions placed through their quarantine orders.
The Public Health Unit, Environmental Health and the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force are working together to crack down on breaches to quarantine orders and enforcement of COVID-19 public health measures. We have not only increased enforcement to breaches in quarantine orders, we have also increased enforcement of other public health measures. So remember to abide by your quarantine order, adhere to public health measures and sanitise, wear your masks and social distance when necessary.
In an update, we had an occurrence at Road Town Clinic and as a preventative measure we have closed the clinic until further notice. The Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital is not closed. The other facilities are not closed. But it goes to show the importance of all of our healthcare workers to be fully immunized, be fully vaccinated. It is for your safety, the safety of your clients, patrons, and staff members that we admonish you to go ahead and get yourselves vaccinated.
The United States of America have just made announcements which all of you will soon hear in terms of who can enter into the United States of America even as of November 1.
Measures have been taken in Antigua, measures have been taken in Trinidad, all over the globe measures have been taken. We have a supply of vaccines that will expire at the end of September. It does not make sense for us to have vaccines expiring when other parts of the world cannot get access to the very same vaccine that we have. We will continue to do whatever is required to have a supply of Pfizer, Moderna AstraZeneca or any other approved vaccines here and available to us.
We have to balance our lives; we have to balance our livelihoods. Let us keep our country safe. Let us adhere to making sure that our elders are protected, our vulnerable are protected and children are protected. Remember, we can only get through this if we do it together. Each of us doing our part to think safety and behave safely. Stay safe and may God continue to bless our beautiful Virgin Islands. Thank you for listening.