You may ask why? With the recently announced travel restriction on travellers passing through or coming from both countries, where a full two-week quarantine and accompanying COVID-19 tests should be fine, right? Wrong.
Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone explained during his recent televised broadcast on Friday, May 7, that particularly for India, the sky-high mortality rates for the virus could affect vaccine production.
"The news headlines coming out of India remains grim. Reuters is reporting that, according to data from India's Ministry of Health, a record 412,262 new cases and 3,980 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, taking total infections past 21 million and the overall death toll to 230,168. Infections have overwhelmed the healthcare system, with hospitals running out of beds and medical oxygen. In crematoriums in Delhi, the floor and shelves were overflowing with earthen pots, plastic packets and steel containers filled with the ashes of people who have died from COVID-19."
He added, "Why is this important! India is the world's largest producer of vaccines, but it will take their two producers at least two months to boost production to the volume required. The United States is worried about the situation in India, and so should the BVI. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned that the health crisis in India could drag down the U.S. economy because India is an important country in global trade."
The Minister then turned his attention to Brazil.
"Let us look at the situation in Brazil; CNN has reported on May 4, 2021 – last Tuesday, that COVID-19 has accounted for one-third of all deaths so far for 2021. According to data from Brazil's National Civil Registry, 615,329 deaths were reported in the country between January 1 and April 30. Of those, 208,370 were related to COVID-19, according to Brazil's health ministry -- 33.9% of the nation's total. COVID-19 is surging with a vengeance in Brazil in recent months – fueled in part by a disregard for social distancing precautions and the emergence of extra-contagious new variants - and has claimed more lives in the past four months than in all of 2020."
He reported as per the data coming from that country, more than 78,000 people in Brazil were killed by the virus last month alone.
"Ministry of Health figures show Brazil recorded 73,295 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 2,811 deaths from COVID-19. PAHO has reported, "In Brazil, mortality rates have doubled among those younger than 39, quadrupled among those in their 40's and tripled for those in their 50's between December 2020 and March 2021." Brazilians desperately want vaccines, but they have problems accessing supplies. Italy's Ministry of Health today reported 258 coronavirus-related deaths, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 11,807 from 10,585."
The Minister said the abovementioned reports are not intended to scare anyone.
"It is to keep it real. It is our duty to report and keep you informed," he said.
He also pointed to the grim figures emerging from other countries within the region, such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
"All this is saying is that the BVI cannot throw caution to the wind. Let us each read and understand what is happening in territories near and far. Those with ears and understanding, let us hear and understand. The Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) and Public Health teams continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds and propose strategies to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our Territory."
He said while the stories are heart-tugging, the BVI must continue in its phased reopening approach to international travellers while remaining aware of the global realities and how they can affect the territory.
"We cannot be paralysed by fear – but - at the same time, we must take note of what the realities and real possibilities are when COVID-19 is able to get past the stop gaps – especially where the risks from these gaps can be minimised by preventative actions and cautions."
At home in the BVI, locals are still hesitating to take their COVID-19 jabs, that is quickly approaching their expiratory date.
The minister said the 34,000 doses of vaccines donated to the British Virgin Islands by the United Kingdom and Dominica will allow for a total of 17,000 persons to receive two doses of vaccines each, and to date 10,462 persons have received their first doses while 2,034 persons have received their second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered in the Territory.
Nonetheless, he said, "Without apology, it is this Government's intention to intensify the education process aimed at encouraging the remaining 6,538 persons to voluntarily be vaccinated at any of the centres by May 31 2021."
He continued, "Following this date, an assessment would be made in relation to the remaining doses, of which I hope there would be none. For the next 25 days, all hands and voices would be required to assist in our ambitious goal. While this may anger some anti-vaxxers, it is our duty to be steadfast in purpose, in this regard."