STATEMENT BY CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER
DR. RONALD GEORGES
September 25th, 2021
Good Day residents of the Virgin Islands.
Today the Ministry of Health is informing you of a large cluster of cases associated with a local construction company on Virgin Gorda.
Regrettably, the large number of persons in barracks style accommodation lends itself to easier transmission in this instance. To date 29 persons have been detected to have COVID-19/coronavirus PCR results within the infectious range associated with one of the locations.
The Ministry of Health continues to work closely with the company. Additionally, the Social Distancing Task Force, the Environmental Health Division, and the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force are also working together to ensure that all workers of the company are quarantined for the appropriate time and tested at the appropriate time to limit any further spread that may occur from this large cluster.
We are aware that many social and sporting gatherings are planned to take place over the course of this weekend. We are asking persons to be extra vigilant and adhere to measures at this time.
Anyone who has had contact with this group or any persons who develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 should immediately isolate and arrange for a PCR test by filling out the online symptom tracker at https://redcap.link/BVICOVIDSMR.
If any person is having moderate or severe symptoms, or any other clinical concerns, please call the medical hotline at 852 7650.
Over the last three months the Virgin Islands experienced its largest surge of cases of Coronavirus which began near the end of June and lasted until the beginning of August 2021.
On the 19th of June 2021, 298 cases had been recorded in the Virgin Islands with 4 active cases. On the 6th of August positive cases rose to 2532 an increase of 2,234 cases of Coronavirus. Active cases peaked at 1638 active cases in the middle of July and had reduced to 142 by August 6. Over this period hospital admissions totaled some 108 persons and 37 persons unfortunately died. Currently, we have 61 active cases in the Virgin Islands with 46 of these being on Virgin Gorda with 29 cases being associated with the cluster of concern.
During this period while curfews and business restrictions were implemented there were no complete lock downs. Since then, restrictions have been progressively relaxed with shortening of the duration of curfew hours and the opening of businesses and schools while the Government plans for the re-entry of cruise tourism and further relaxation of entry requirements to facilitate necessary economic activity within the Virgin Islands.
Over the period, since the subsidence of the last surge, the Ministry of Health has continued to detect isolated cases and small clusters of cases indicating that Coronavirus is still circulating and being transmitted in the Virgin Islands.
These clusters have occurred in schools, daycares, private and Government offices, large and small companies and require continued vigilance.
We have also identified the Mu variant and the Delta variant amongst samples sent to CARPHA for testing.
We continue to send samples for testing on a weekly basis and monitor and report to the public on the results of the genetic typing of samples.
Vaccination rates have improved to where approximately 50 percent of the population is currently fully vaccinated. While this may blunt the impact of hospitalisation and death from future outbreaks it still has much room for improvement.
The potential for further outbreaks is a very real possibility for the Virgin Islands given:
- the relaxation of measures to allow economic activity,
- general fatigue with adherence to public health measures
- low vaccination rates
All residents should therefore continue to remain vigilant by ensuring that they:
- adhere to all public health measures,
- comply with any quarantine orders and instructions of public health officers,
- report any suspected instances of quarantine breaches to Public Health at 468 2274 or the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force at 311
- avail themselves of opportunities for vaccination
The Ministry of Health will continue to:
- Monitor areas with potential for high levels of transmission in the Virgin Islands including schools, night spots, recreational events, and facilities where adherence to measures is difficult or known to slip.
- Monitor the general situation and required responses to limit the impact of the pandemic on the Virgin Islands.
- Ensure routine testing of persons is carried out and information collected including frontline workers, persons at risk, and persons entering the Virgin Islands.
- Provide information, education, and promotion about the pandemic and its control.
- Ensure adequate enforcement of measures by working closely with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and other agencies.
It is important for the public to adopt this layered approach to protection and prevention of future outbreaks.
No one measure is sufficient to protect the Virgin Islands and as we further relax measures to facilitate economic activity it is important that the remaining layers of protection are further strengthened to limit the impact of any potential outbreak.
We are all aware that the COVID-19 control measures in the Virgin Islands include:
- Adherence to Public Health Measures such as social distancing, proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and mask wearing are effective measure to limit person-to-person spread of COVID-19.
- Entry screening and quarantine will slow but not prevent entry of the Coronavirus into the Virgin Islands. This is particularly as we further relax measures to allow for economic activity in the Virgin Islands.
- Regular routine testing particularly of high-risk persons will help to identify suspected or asymptomatic cases early and provide for their isolation to reduce asymptomatic spread of coronavirus within the Virgin Islands. Asymptomatic spread may only reveal itself when larger numbers of persons or particularly vulnerable persons are impacted.
- Quarantine and Isolation are particularly important to slow entry of positive coronavirus persons into the Virgin Islands. Both will limit and slow the spread of Coronavirus within the Virgin Islands respectively. It is therefore important for persons to adhere to the measures and to stop attempting to defeat the measures and efforts of the Ministry. The Government has put in place very severe fines and penalties which will be implemented when required.
- Vaccination has been proven to be safe and effective as a layer of protection to those who choose to avail themselves of the voluntary opportunities to be vaccinated free of charge in the Virgin Islands. Vaccination is encouraged in the Virgin Islands not mandated and it is important to understand that vaccination should not be thought of as a stand-alone measure but a very important layer of internal protection if infected to complement the other measures which seek to limit exposure to the virus.
Vaccination also limits the potential for spread of disease within the population and the severity of disease.It is therefore an important measure to not only reduce person-to-person spread but to limit the impact of the disease on persons but also protect scarce and precious healthcare resources which would otherwise be consumed by treating persons with severe Coronavirus and limiting access of other persons to care.
The Ministry of Health is interested in hearing from you about your knowledge, attitudes and practices related to COVID-19 vaccinations. So whether you are for or against, take the opportunity to fill out the survey at https://redcap.link/BVIKAP so we can hear your views.
- Education, Information, and Promotion to keep the public informed and aware of the status of the pandemic as it relates to the Virgin Islands and be aware of the measures and strategies being implemented and their role.
I therefore would like to take the opportunity to commend the public for the role it has played so far in limiting the impact of COVID-19 on the Virgin Islands.
I ask for their continued participation and support in continuing to limit the impact of the virus as the Government moves to a phase of more relaxed measures to support greater economic activity as we continue to live with Coronavirus here in the Virgin Islands.
Let us all remain safe.