Statement by His Excellency the Governor,
Mr. Augustus J.U. Jaspert
on the Further Relaxing of COVID-19 Measures
3rd June, 2020
Good day all,
I hope that you all are well and enjoyed a pleasant Whit Monday earlier this week. I know these continue to be uncertain and unsettling times, but this week, I have felt encouraged by how far we have come in our COVID-19 response. Many more businesses have reopened with social distancing measures in place, the public have been able to enjoy our beautiful beaches and restaurants again over the long weekend, and of course, there are currently no confirmed active COVID-19 cases in BVI. Importantly, some of our citizens are now able to return to home under strict conditions. This is all good news, but we must not be complacent or think that there is no risk from the virus here. We must continue our efforts to ensure we keep ourselves safe from the virus.
I said in my statement on Sunday that your actions have saved lives. I would like to emphasise this point again and express my personal gratitude to all of you for complying with the strict measures we put in place. I know this was not easy but it’s only because of those strict measures and your support that we are able to stand strong in the position we are in today.
I’d also like to express my gratitude to all the public officers, agencies and volunteers who have helped us reach this position. Often it’s these individuals, working diligently behind the scenes who make the biggest difference. I’d like to thank all those working in the HEOC and to take this opportunity to draw special attention to the work being done by the Department of Disaster Management in incorporating the needs presented by COVID-19 into hurricane preparedness work.
Although we are just three days into Atlantic hurricane season, we’ve already seen the formation of three named storms this year. So please, do not be complacent and make sure you have reviewed your family and business’ plans to Be Ready. Though we are experienced in preparing for storms, this year we have the additional challenge of COVID-19. More than 90 expert representatives across the UK and Overseas Territory Governments came together online to discuss this last week and continue to share best practice and support. There are many resources to help you prepare on DDM’s social media pages and websites.
Earlier today, Cabinet met to discuss the existing measures outlined in the Curfew Order. We considered advice from the National Security Council and our HEOC professionals. We know that individuals’want to have more freedom to go out, including going out on the water, and that more businesses want to be allowed to open safely. This is needed for our wellbeing and our economy - but we must strike the right balance between allowing personal freedom and ensuring public safety. We cannot forget that we are not out of the woods yet – COVID-19 remains a very real threat to our community.
Following these discussions and Cabinet decisions I will sign an amended Curfew Order to further ease some the restrictions in place, but in a way that is safe and gradual. These measures will come in to place from tomorrow, Thursday, 4th June.
- The curfew hours are shortened to allow a longer evening. The curfew will now be in place from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. daily.
- All businesses may now open, but must adhere to health protocols, be subject to inspection by the Social Distancing and Monitoring Task Force and certification by the Environmental Health Division. This means those remaining businesses, such as bars, can open once they have received approval.
- The movement of vessels within the Territorial waters will be allowed, except in waters that are classified as an exclusion zone. This exclusion zone is necessary to ensure that our law enforcement and security agencies can effectively monitor and control our key marine borders to ensure that there is no unauthorised entry which could bring the risk of the virus in.
- Unrestricted marine traffic and activity will be allowed only between 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., notwithstanding further curfew restrictions. This restriction to daylight hours only on the water is again to help our law enforcement ensure that they can keep our borders safe from unauthorised entry.
- Unrestricted marine traffic and activity will be permitted East of 64.38300'W on the south side of Tortola and an area east of the dividing line between the western most tip of Jost Van Dyke and western most tip of Tortola. (This area will be further confined by navigational limits to the north, east and south.) A map will be published showing these markings.
- Traffic through the exclusion zone and outside of the navigational limits is restricted and requires pre-clearance from the Multi-Agency Operational Command prior to transit.
- Vessels fitted with Automatic Identification System technology will be required to use same while navigating within the territorial waters, especially in the exclusion zone to make them easily identifiable to law enforcement from a distance.
All other safe distancing and health restrictions remain in place. That means we must continue to keep a safe social distance, avoid mass gatherings and adhere to proper hygiene protocols. The beaches are open from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If we need to tighten up our measures again, then we are willing to do so. Public safety is our number one priority so please do everything you can to comply.
Ministers will set out further details on other areas Cabinet agreed to.
We are not alone – this is a global fight against COVID and we continue to be helped by our friends overseas. I’m thrilled to hear that BVI’s new gold-standard testing machine delivered by the United Kingdom Government is fully operational and enabling faster, easier testing in this Territory. More medical supplies from the UK are expected over this month and RFA Argus continues to sit in the region, on standby to provide any additional resilience should we need it. I know they have conducted numerous exercises across other OTs to practice delivering aid in a COVID-safe way. Thank you to the UK Government for their support.
I will conclude by again thanking the people of BVI. By staying safe and supporting each other in the way that you have done to date, I am confident we can get through anything as a community.
Thank you again, and may God continue to protect and bless this Territory.