STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
DURING THE 13TH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Cuban Health Care Professionals to Arrive In The Virgin Islands
21 July, 2020
Mr Speaker, like many our countries in the world the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, has severely impacted the economy of the British Virgin Islands.
We are all deeply concerned to see the impact of this pandemic on the United States of America, Latin America United Kingdom, Europe, as a matter of fact the entire world.
Among the smallest in size the British Virgin Islands have been fortunate and blessed to have been able to weather this pandemic to date in a manner that has caused minimal loss of human life in the Territory.
It is therefore important for us to remain vigilant and continue to practice all the measures which reduce and stop the spread of this potentially deadly virus.
This means hand washing, Social Distancing, and the wearing of a face masks.
Remember, COVID-19 is not playing around with us and we should not play around COVID-19.
Through early decisions to close the borders and institution of early and timely lock downs and curfews we have been able to stop the spread of this disease among the members of our population.
As we have chosen to regard human life above the economy, we continue to move forward cautiously, balancing safety with the opening the economy because for us in the BVI each life matters.
As we continue to move forward in a phased approach with the restricted border re-opening, I am today pleased to announce that a team of Medical Professionals from the Republic of Cuba will be arriving in the Territory on Thursday, 23 July, 2020.
This has been long in coming and after their 14-days in quarantine, and after their successful COVID-19 testing, they will join our local medical team to strengthen our resolve in the fight against the coronavirus.
Your Government believes in the old adage that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. It is better to be proactive than reactive.
We requested the assistance in an effort to augment the capacity of the team of Health Care professionals currently at the BVI Health Services Authority, to ensure that the Territory is able to deal with any situation which may occur as we continue the cautious phased re-opening of our borders.
This team of 22 Medical Professionals and Nurses include internist doctors, emergency response doctors, intensive care specialist and nurses and those trained in infectious diseases.
We are indeed thankful to the Republic of Cuba for responding to the request of the Government of the Virgin Islands by providing this Team of Medical Professionals at this time.
We anticipate that this effort will assist the Territory in opening up with a greater sense of confidence in the fact that adequate specialised treatment capacity will now be available in the Territory.
The Virgin Islands has a long history of sending persons with serious medical conditions overseas for treatment. However in the COVID-19 Era, we must re-think the added risk to BVI patients as they travel abroad for treatment, to places where the spread of the disease is on the rise.
Though we would have hoped that the Medical Team from Cuba would have arrived sooner, I think that the timing was God’s as this will assist the Territory in re-engaging with the wider world in a way that is more sustainable.
Mr Speaker let me say again, once they arrive on Thursday, members of the Medical Team of Professionals from Cuba will be quarantined for 14 days as is the protocol for persons entering the Territory.
Through the assistance of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States OECS and the United Kingdom Government, and our Director of International Affairs Secretariat in my office Ms. Najan Christopher and her team, and other public service professionals, we have been able to secure a Team of Medical Professionals to support the Territory at this time.
Cuba has a long history of supporting countries in times of disaster and in dealing with infectious diseases.
In 2014, concerns over the spread of Ebola threatened the world; the Territory in collaboration with the OECS was able to send personnel from the Ministry of Health to Cuba for training.
At least one nurse from the Dr. D. Orlando Smith hospital was able to travel to Cuba to receive training in a train-the-trainer opportunity as the Territory took pre-cautionary measures to ensure that we were prepared, should the disease reach our shores.
Today, Cuba has deployed Teams of Medical Doctors and Nurses to several countries in the Caribbean including Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Belize, Jamaica, and Suriname. They have also provided support to South Africa, Italy and many other Countries across the world.
The BVI is pleased that its request was honored by the Republic of Cuba in a spirit of humanitarianism and solidarity with the people of the Virgin Islands.
We know that Cuba continues to receive requests for assistance from countries daily, but the Virgin Islands is pleased to be the second Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom to receive a Medical Team. The Turks and Caicos Islands received a Team on 15 June, 2020.
This is indeed a historic moment for the Territory as it provides the opportunity for advanced medical training for BVI Health Services team also.
We have long been aware that Cuba is a center for excellence in treating various diseases, and has been a partner to many countries in the region in the area of healthcare.
OECS Nationals have benefited from ‘Operation Milagro’ – the programme which provides free eye treatments, including interventions to prevent blindness and restore vision, such as cataract, diabetic retinopathy and other types of reversible visual conditions.
Mr Speaker, I will ask the entire Community to join me in extending a warm BVI welcome to the members of the Cuban Medical Professionals as you encounter them in the Territory over the next three months.
Mr Speaker, this is an important milestone in the history of the Territory, not only in our healthcare, but in our capacity building, and to this we say to God be all the Glory!