STATEMENT BY CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER
DR. RONALD GEORGES
December 31st, 2021
Good Day residents of the Virgin Islands, a happy holiday season to all.
Today, on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Social Development, itis for us to inform you of the continued rise in cases in the current outbreak of COVID-19 in the Virgin Islands.
As of the 31st of December 2021, there are 423 reported active cases of COVID-19, with the majority 322 on Tortola.
Over the last seven days from the 24th of December 363 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported and new cases continue to be reported daily
As previously mentioned, all samples previously sent to CARPHA for typing were positive for the Delta variant and over the last two weeks more than 90 samples were sent for genetic typing to determine if the Omicron variant has been introduced into the Territory.
At this time, the Omicron variant has not yet been identified in the Territory
The Ministry of Health will very closely be monitoring hospitalisations, the reason for hospitalisation, and the severity of illness to gauge the progress of this outbreak.
If this outbreak is found to be related to Omicron we can expect a sharper and quicker increase in cases than in previous outbreaks. Evidence suggests that Omicron results in milder disease, fewer hospitalisation, less severe disease, and less death than Delta, but leads to many more infections.
We must be cognisant of the fact that the Virgin Islands has very high rates of obesity and chronic diseases and persons in this category have a much higher rate of severe disease, hospitalisation, and death and so any outbreak is cause for concern.
Vaccination and in particular booster doses offer very good protection against the severe impacts of COVID-19 including variants. We are urging all of you to therefore avail yourselves of opportunities to be vaccinated with either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer or receive your Booster dose.
If you have completed your primary two or one dose regime at least three months ago you should seek to have your Pfizer Booster dose. If you are severely immunocompromised from chemotherapy, high dose steroids or other reason you should have a third dose of Pfizer and three months later your Booster dose of Pfizer. AstraZeneca is available for those with demonstrated allergy to Pfizer.
We at the Ministry continue to be very concerned that some people continue to not heed the advice to restrict movement and gatherings.
We continue to see large gatherings and lack of adherence to measures. The public is strongly advised to avoid all large gatherings, and to strictly adhere to the public health protocols. We are asking all organisers to do the responsible thing and defer large gatherings at this time.
If you do have a gathering do ensure that there is strict mask wearing and adherence to public health measures at these events and that numbers of persons are limited.
Some organizers have taken the innovative approach to require or organise rapid testing prior to events.
This is a welcome approach and provides some assurance, but is not foolproof. There is no substitute for a well fitted mask, hand washing, social distancing, and avoidance of gatherings for the prevention of infection.
The Government continues to take the approach of not implementing any drastic measures which will negatively influence the economy and therefore the onus is on persons, all of us, to be responsible and heed the advice to keep you and all of us safe.
You can access PCR testing at the Dr. D Orlando Smith Hospital Tent by registering at https://althea.bvi.care and by calling the Medical Hotline at 852-7650 if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. In the coming week the Ministry and BVIHSA will be working to streamline the process of getting tested and more information will be available in due course.
Alternatively, private medical establishments also provide PCR testing, and rapid antigen type tests, and many persons have access to home self-test kits. The PCR test remains the Gold Standard for diagnosis.
The symptoms of COVID include, fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. If you or anyone you know have these symptoms you or they should immediately isolate and seek to be tested either by rapid test or PCR test.
Given the increased COVID activity in the Territory all residents are asked to continue to be vigilant and abide by the established public health measures and:
- Limit your exposure to persons outside of your household
- Avoid all large gatherings
- Adhere to the public health protocols
- Do wear your mask at all times when within 6 feet of persons
- Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizers
- Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from persons outside your household
- If you are sick isolate and get tested as soon as possible as described above
- If you are positive stay away from others for at least 10 full days and abide by the terms of your quarantine order
- If you have been exposed self-isolate and follow the testing advice above
- If your condition worsens do seek medical attention early.
- Get vaccinated with either your first or second dose and if three months has passed since your last dose and are eligible get your booster, please go and get it.
I would like to take the opportunity to commend the public for the role they have played so far in limiting the impact of Coronavirus on the Territory. I ask for their continued participation and support in continuing to limit the impact of the virus in the Territory and wish all a happy holiday season and New Year when it comes.
Dr. Ronald Georges
Chief Medical Officer Ag.