STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HON. MARLON PENN
ADJUSTING PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES IN THE CURRENT CONTEXT OF COVID-19
13TH JUNE 2022
A pleasant good morning to everyone.
On Wednesday the 8th of June 2022, Cabinet was briefed by the Health Emergency Operations Centre on the current COVID-19 situation in the Virgin Islands. We were very encouraged by the continuing trend towards milder COVID-19 infections, fewer cases of severe disease, and reduced hospital admissions. All of these metrics suggest that we have transitioned away from an acute, or emergency phase of the pandemic. If these trends continue, this virus will eventually become endemic in the Territory.
Today I would like to update you on the adjustments being made to our Public Health measures to bring them more in line with the current situation.
Beginning on Wednesday the 15th of June 2022, persons traveling to the BVI, regardless of vaccination status, will no longer need to register for entry clearance on the BVI Gateway Travel Portal, and will not be required to show proof of travel insurance.
Day-trippers – meaning travellers who had been away from the Territory for less than 24 hours, or persons remaining in the Territory for less than 24 hours – will no longer need to present a COVID-19 test result upon arrival.
All other travellers over the age of 5, regardless of vaccination status, will have the following entry requirements:
• present a negative rapid antigen test, or rt-PCR test, taken up to 48 hours before entry.
• Alternatively, a person may present a document issued by a licensed medical professional certifying COVID-19 recovery within 90 days prior to arrival, in place of a negative test.
• If unable to present a test result, or a Recovery certificate, the person will be tested upon arrival in the Territory.
• A person who tests positive on arrival will be required to adhere to Ministry of Health protocols and instructions for COVID-19 positive persons.
These entry procedures will be kept under review to determine any changes to be made in the future.
It is important to bear in mind that all travellers entering the Territory will continue to be subject to COVID-19 screening, and anyone exhibiting signs of illness may be tested at the port of entry.
Cabinet also decided that, with effect from the 15th of June 2022, the wearing of face masks or face coverings, whether indoors or outdoors, will no longer be mandated by law, but will be allowed as a matter of choice in public spaces.
Even as this mask mandate is being lifted, any private establishment or service provider may institute its own policy on mask wearing. The same will apply to the Public Sector, and the Deputy Governor will develop a policy on the areas where mask wearing will still be required, such as in agencies providing health and social care, border protection services, and other front-facing departments where the risk of exposure is higher.
Everyone is also strongly encouraged to continue wearing well-fitted masks or face coverings:
i. If you are positive for COVID-19;
ii. If you have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person; or
iii. Whenever you are in a mass gathering; or in communal transportation.
The Ministry of Health will also be ending all mandatory isolation of cases, quarantine of contacts of cases, and contact tracing. Further guidance for persons who may be COVID-19 positive or potentially exposed to COVID-19 will be issued this week.
Cabinet also stood down the Health Emergency Operations Centre, while noting that the Acting Chief Medical Officer will maintain overall responsibility for COVID-19 monitoring, planning, and reporting. We owe a collective debt of gratitude to the hardworking members of the HEOC team, including our recently retired CMO, Dr. Irad Potter, and the many professionals working behind the scenes. Their expertise, dedication, and professionalism have served this Territory with distinction.
As we move from emergency mode to a more sustainable management of COVID-19, and enjoy fewer restrictions on daily life, we must remain vigilant and prepared. New variants can emerge and spread fast, and it may become necessary to reinstate certain measures that have been relaxed – the pandemic is not yet over.
It is important for people to make informed choices about how to protect themselves, and I encourage everyone to take special care to safeguard seniors, chronically ill, and other vulnerable persons. Vaccines have proven to be very effective in reducing infection rates and severe disease, and they continue to be administered at designated healthcare facilities – thanks to donations from the United Kingdom government. I am urging those persons who haven't gotten vaccinated, to do so.
In closing, I thank the entire community for your cooperation and sacrifices over the past two and a half difficult years. With the phased relaxation of Public Health measures and legal restrictions, various sectors of our economy and society will continue to rebound as we transition further into the recovery phase of this pandemic.
By banding together, we have overcome extraordinary challenges, and by God’s grace we will face the future with hope.