STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
URING THE NINTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Restricted Border Reopening- Welcome Home Virgin Islanders
Mr. Speaker, on June 2, our Territory successfully crossed another milestone in the journey of living and working with COVID-19 under the New Regular. We began the phased and controlled reopening of our borders, particularly at the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport.
Under this phase, only nationals, belongers, holders of permanent residence, and naturalised citizens of the Virgin Islands are being allowed entry into the Territory.
Ahead of the arrival, I was able to visit the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport to see a simulation conducted by the respective Government agencies and statutory agencies in preparation for the resumption of air traffic.
I was able to get a first-hand view of the processes at work. I must say that the performance of our teams was remarkable, and I wish to publicly commend all of them for their hard work and commitment at this time.
We are happy to be in this phase to welcome our people home.
Mr. Speaker, although at this time, we thank God that we do not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, I must say here that we are not out of the woods. We will all continue to do our part to keep each other safe.
May, I remind you that we have saved lives by putting proactive measures in place. We were able to abort the projection that we would have had more than 3,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Virgin Islands, if we had not moved swiftly.
Since the activation of Phase 1 of the Restricted Border Re-Opening Plan, attention has been focused on managing the risk of imported cases while simultaneously augmenting the health system and monitoring the workplace preventive measures that were implemented for the businesses that re-opened since the lifting of the 24 hour curfew.
Since June 2 we have been welcoming home our people who have been abroad. As of June 10, 681 registrations were submitted with 362 verified by Immigration and cleared for processing by Environmental Health. Please note that this is an ongoing process.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to emphasise that our returning nationals and residents must adhere to the health and safety requirements that are in place. This includes following the mandatory quarantine procedures.
A measure such as security has been implemented to ensure that persons adhere to the mandatory procedures.
We are hoping that a sense of responsibility will continue to prevail and that all persons will continue to comply so that we are not forced to consider other measures.
As a Territory, due to hard work and sacrifice by all of our people and our guests who were in the Territory, we have been able to put measures in place to keep us all safe.
Our professionals in the Health Emergency Operations Centre, Ministry of Health, and all the supporting agencies, Cabinet, House of Assembly, have worked long hours to lead us to where we are today.
Our people have given up a lot in this collaborative effort to minimise the spread of COVID-19 on our shores.
We have seen what COVID-19 can do to our economy and to jobs. So, we are not taking any chances. COVID-19 is not playing around with us, and we are not playing around with COVID-19.
Mr. Speaker, I want to encourage all of us not to let down our guard.
I am concerned that people are not social distancing standing six feet apart from each other. We are becoming complacent. We are not wearing our masks which should only cover our nose to our chin.
Each day we ignore these important steps as COVID-19 continues, we are putting our lives at risk.
I am asking all of us to do our part. Let us all continue to encourage each other.
We have our people returning home and they are cooperating and going into mandatory quarantine with security being providing on a 24-hour basis.
We are happy that this Territory can offer protection to its people.
Following successful completion of the quarantine period, and having tested negative for COVID-19, our people will enter into the community. Let us make sure that we exercise our wisdom and love as Virgin Islands people as brothers and sisters and ensuring there is no discrimination or prejudice. COVID-19 does not discriminate, and we shouldn’t either.
Mr. Speaker, to date there is no known cure or vaccine for COVID-19 as families around the world are being immensely affected by the death of a loved one. By working together – as a Government and a people – with God at the centre and head of it all, we will continue to hold our own. We have managed to keep the infection and fatality rates down to very low numbers when compared to most other countries.
So, let us continue to work in oneness of purpose. Let us stay informed and remain laser-focused.
Each of us has a role to play to help our economy and to keep us safe.
Mr. Speaker, can I tell you that every time that you wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds you are contributing to keeping us safe and helping our economy?
Can I tell you that every time you remain 6 feet apart, you are contributing to keeping us safe and helping our economy?
And, Mr. Speaker, can I tell you that every time you wear a mask covering your nose and mouth, you are contributing to keeping us safe and helping our economy?
We are in this together, and together we will defeat COVID-19.
By working with your Government, together we continue to reawaken and strengthen our economy as we work protecting our Virgin Islands for future generations to come.
I am confident that you will stay the course.
Mr. Speaker, I give you my assurance as Leader of this Territory that your Government in the midst of the challenges and adversity will stay true to the God of our forefathers; true to our purpose as Virgin Islanders; while remaining steadfast in purpose and diligent in actions.
I thank you.