British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Sep 18, 2021

COI continuing despite massive COVID spike impacting gov’t

COI continuing despite massive COVID spike impacting gov’t

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) will be continuing with its proceedings notwithstanding the major surge in COVID-19 cases locally and the strain this has caused on the government resources.
The territory’s current active cases are now said to be more than 800 persons and have resulted in a number of businesses and government offices closing and operating at a reduced capacity.

This is point about impacted government offices was raised today (Thursday, June 8) by attorney-at-law Sarah-Jane Knock who appeared before the COI on behalf of Attorney General Dawn Smith who’s representing the government.

She said these extenuating circumstances under which some government offices are now being made to operate will result in the potential disruption of outstanding documents the government are required to send to the COI.

“We’re working with an understaffed public service here and they’re working as hard as they can,” Knock told the Commission.

As it relates to the continuance of COI proceedings amid the COVID-19 surge, COI Secretary Steven Chandler said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the COI has strengthened its COVID-19 measures at the International Arbitration Centre (IAC) in Road Town where the oral hearings are happening.

“Witnesses are still able, if they wish, to give their evidence in person at the IAC but can now choose to give their evidence remotely via video link. Additionally, in order to keep to a minimum the number of people in the IAC and in the hearing room at any one time, witnesses’ legal representatives can now only attend remotely via video link. They will not be able to attend in person even if a witness (whom they represent) decides to give evidence in person. The IAC is also currently limiting general access to its premises to key cardholders only,” Chandler stated.

He added: “Even before this latest rise in COVID-19 cases, all visitors to the IAC have been required to follow strict COVID-19 measures including wearing a mask/face covering, hand sanitising on arrival, and registering at the IAC reception. Once seated in the waiting room and hearing room, witnesses and other participants are able to remove their mask/face covering if they are comfortable doing so. Social distancing is encouraged in the hearing room, and across the IAC, at all times. The IAC, including the hearing room, is cleaned thoroughly at the end of each sitting day. Additional sanitising as appropriate is carried out between different witness sessions. These measures will continue.”
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