STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
DURING THE EIGHTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON THURSDAY 13TH MAY 2021
AT THE SAVE THE SEED
ROAD TOWN, TORTOLA
COVID-19 UPDATE & TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS
I extend greetings to all in the BVI, the Caribbean region and the world.
Mr. Speaker, the last update on the COVID-19 Situation was issued on 5th May 2021.
As of today, 13th May 2021, 32,057 tests were conducted on individuals swabbed throughout the Territory and evaluated at the Dr. D Orlando Smith Hospital.
Mr. Speaker, an additional 29 persons were deemed positive since the last report period and brings the total confirmed positive cases to 248.
While 209 persons have recovered, there currently exists 38 active cases, a net increase of 13 since the last report period and one untimely death.
Of the 38 cases:
- 22 were detected at entry screening,
- 8 were detected at day #4 screening,
- 4 were detected at screening for travel requirements,
- 1 was at the screening of a crew member and
- 3 were classified as local cases with-in the community.
Mr. Speaker, while all 38 cases are deemed asymptomatic, we can report that:
- 10 of the cases are being quarantined on vessels,
- 1 on Anegada
- 25 on Tortola and
- 2 on Virgin Gorda
Mr. Speaker, robust and coordinated track & trace exercises are being conducted as a result of the 3 local and 4 travel cases in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus throughout the community.
Clearly Mr. Speaker, as stated over and over again, WE ARE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS”. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate, and we are deeply saddened by its rising death toll as health systems and economies far and near buckle under the strain of second and third waves of infection.
While we continue our phased reopen of the BVI to international travelers, we must be mindful and cognizant of the realities in the region and around the world.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot be paralysed by fear – but – at the same time, we must take note of what the realities and real possibilities are when COVID-19 is able to get past the stop gaps – especially where the risks from these gaps can be minimized by preventative actions and cautions.
As previously reported, the 34,000 doses of vaccines donated to the British Virgin Islands by the United Kingdom and Dominica will allow for a total of 17,000 persons to receive two doses of vaccines each. To date 11,036 persons have received their first doses while 3,765 have received their second doses:
- On Tortola 9,255 first doses and 3,082 second doses were administered,
- On Virgin Gorda 1,583 first doses and 609 second doses were administered,
- On Jost Van Dyke 98 first doses and 50 second doses were administered,
- On Anegada 100 first doses and 24 second doses were administered,
Mr. Speaker, I was deliberate in my presentation to provide details of each reporting islands within the Territory. Mr. Speaker, all residents and stakeholders MUST be serious about the unrestricted reopening of the Territory while protecting lives and livelihoods. A select few of our citizens are becoming grossly uncivil and repugnant in their attempt to convince others NOT to voluntarily take any vaccines offered in the Territory.
Mr. Speaker, without apology, it is this Government’s intention to intensify the education process aimed at encouraging the remaining 5,964 persons to voluntarily be vaccinated at any of the public and private centers throughout the Territory by the 31st of May 2021. Following this date, an assessment would be made in relation to the remaining doses, of which I hope there would be NONE. For the next 18 days all hands and voices would be required to assist in our ambitious goal. Our approach will continue to anger some anti-vaxxers and overnight radio show medical experts BUT it is our duty to be steadfast in purpose, in this regard. We are NOT out of the woods! Again, to be absolutely clear, the Virgin Islands Government will not be requiring mandatory vaccinations of its residents. The choice is yours to freely make. Public and private enterprises MUST be reasonable expected to introduce and implement protocol measures to protect owners, staff and patrons to their businesses. Nation by nation, island by island, home by home, the reality of the effects of the COVID-19 virus is a matter of record. For those with ears to hear, let them hear and for those with eyes to see, let them see.
Mr. Speaker, it is worth repeating that the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) and Public Health teams continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds and propose strategies to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our Territory. At a meeting held on Wednesday the 5th of May, Cabinet considered a report from the HEOC, mainly addressing recent changes to the entry requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
I am pleased to provide an update on decisions taken by the Cabinet regarding non-domestic travel requirements in view of the ongoing COVID-19 response.
As previously announced, effective May 15, 2021, travelers who have been fully vaccinated with the final dose administered at least 14 days before travel will be immediately released from quarantine once their arrival test is negative. Revision of the entry portal is a work-in-progress and as such interim measures MUST be taken to avoid delaying this much anticipated initiative. It is highly likely that travelers will encounter some processing issues BUT MUST be prepared to be patient and understanding. Safety is a major priority.
Mr. Speaker, the public health teams and HEOC has advised that the May 15th initiative would not apply to persons travelling from or through Brazil or India. Cabinet, as a result has decided to amend the list of restricted countries under the Immigration and Passport (Prohibition of Entry) Order, 2021 to apply only to Brazil and India. Persons travelling from these two countries, must be granted permission to enter the Virgin Islands, but will be required to quarantine for a period of fourteen (14) days on arrival.
Fully vaccinated travelers from all other countries will require:
- BVI Gateway Traveler Authorization Certificate at a cost of $105.00 (reduced from $175.00);
- Proof of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test taken 3-5 days before arrival;
- Proof of vaccination status;
- RT-PCR COVID-19 testing upon arrival; and
- Quarantine until the return of a negative test result.
Where fully vaccinated persons are travelling with one or more unvaccinated child:
- Children aged 5-17 will be tested on arrival;
- Children will be released from quarantine together with their parents/guardians once the test results for the entire group are negative, but must remain within their family bubble at restaurants and other venues within the Territory; and finally
- Unvaccinated children will be required to return to a testing center and be subjected to a further test on day four.
Further to that, Mr. Speaker, Cabinet decided that a fully vaccinated traveler may be approved for home quarantine in a residence where all the adult occupants are fully vaccinated, once the traveler, or travelling party, is provided with a separate bedroom.
We turn now to the concessions that have been made for fully vaccinated persons who have been present in the Virgin Islands for more than 14 consecutive days and wish to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, or Puerto Rico for a period not longer than 24 hours. As previously announced, with effect from the 15th of May 2021, ‘outgoing day trippers’ to these neighboring jurisdictions will be exempted from quarantine and the COVID-19 test upon re-entering the BVI; but would be required to take a PCR test seven (7) days after returning to the Territory. This measure is also applicable to children between ages 5-17 who are traveling with their parents.
At its meeting held on the 5th of May 2021, Cabinet further decided that:
- a person seeking to be certified as a ‘day tripper’ should apply for re-entry through the Gateway prior to departure from the Virgin Islands;
- the Gateway fee would be reduced to $70.00 to cover the cost of testing at day 7;
- ‘Day trippers’ would be allowed to travel with children under five (5) years old and children 5 to 17 as otherwise provided.
- refusal by a returning ‘day tripper’ to undergo Day 7 testing would attract a fixed penalty of five thousand dollars ($5,000) or a court penalty of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) on summary conviction.
Mr. Speaker, after carefully considering both the wish to re-open the Territory to tourism and the need to mitigate the risks arising from increased travel, particularly arising from new COVID-19 variants, Cabinet, on advice from our Public Health teams and of HEOC, decided that the quarantine period for unvaccinated travelers will be extended from four (4) days to seven (7) days.
Where people are traveling in mixed groups with some individuals unvaccinated, the entire party will be treated as unvaccinated and will also be required to quarantine for seven (7) days upon arrival. This measure is subject to review to allow exemption to fully vaccinated individuals.
In the case of persons who are only partially vaccinated, meaning that they have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine, or whose final vaccine dose was administered less than two weeks before arriving in the Territory, a 4-day quarantine period would be required, with PCR testing administered on arrival and at day 4.
Finally, Cabinet has requested that the HEOC present recommendations for rapid or PCR testing for frontline workers and Public Officers. These measures will be communicated shortly.
Mr. Speaker, we will continue to sound the alarm that vaccination is our best defense against the relentless COVID-19 pandemic. New, more aggressive strains continue to emerge, as the virus mutates and spreads rapidly from one region of the world to another, increasing the risk of severe sickness and death. VIGILANCE now, more that ever is required. Wash your hands! Wear your mask! Cover your cough and sanitize all surfaces. The GRACE and MERCY of GOD, have brought us this far. Each of us MUST now do our part!
NURSES WEEK 2021 was celebrated under the theme, A VOICE TO LEAD, AVISION FOR GREATER HEALTHCARE!
We join in celebrating the 65TH ANNIVERSARY OF RED CROSS in the BVI!
We join in honouring and celebrating our GOLDEN GEMS as we celebrate SENIOR CITIZENS MONTH! and
We join in recognizing and participating in activities during MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH!
So many reasons to celebrate! So many reasons to VACCINATE!
GOD BLESS this territory and the people of the BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS.