Curfew Lifted, But Health Minister Wary Of Increase COVID-19 Risks
The Government has lifted the curfew imposed on the Territory as part of new measures aimed at returning to normalcy, but Health Minister, Hon. Carvin Malone has warned of increased risks posed by COVID-19.
"I am pleased to report that after careful consideration by Cabinet, the curfew has now been fully lifted and our agencies are progressing towards implementing the second phase of the Restricted Border Re-opening Plan," Hon. Malone stated last evening during a live update.
The Territory has faced varying forms of curfew restrictions since march, including full lockdown. In the past few weeks, the Government has faced increasing calls for the curfew to be lifted given the low number of cases of COVID-19 in the Territory.
According to the Health Minister, over 1,757 persons have been tested at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital laboratory. He stated that the case count in the BVI remains relatively low. To date, a total of nine cases have been recorded, eight of whom are now recovered and one person has died.
"With each new step towards restoring normalcy to our daily lives comes increased risks of detection and a spike in infections. I’m aware that there exist the ever present fear of returning to lockdowns and other movement restrictions to curb transmission. We have seen this reversal play out in countries great and small, despite their best efforts to manage the spread of the virus and live and work with COVID-19," Hon. Malone warned.
He stated that for local authorities, managing these risks primarily involves ongoing efforts to build the capacity of the health system to prevent, detect, contain and manage the spread of the virus while carefully balancing social and economic considerations.
The Minister highlighted the presence of a contingent of Medical Professionals from Cuba and that the Ministry of Health and the BVI Health Services Authority have been working with the support of various partners to enhance Health Services Infrastructure and associated equipment.
He stated that work is underway at the Major Peebles Wing to improve primary health care delivery in an environment which meets the “New Regular” standards. Construction on the ground floor is progressing through a joint venture between Quality Construction and KM Construction. A timeline of 3-months is projected and works are on schedule with no delays expected.
"Works are also programmed to enhance the laboratory infrastructure and procure equipment to allow the laboratory to effectively deliver clinical and public health functions as well as meet physical and equipment accreditation requirements. Additional works will provide the appropriate infrastructure and equipment to serve as an effective out-patient clinic in the "New Regular" and to convert the facility to a stand-alone isolation unit for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases that would otherwise surpass the capacity of the existing Hospital," Hon. Malone explained.
He stated that bids were issued on 17 July 2020 for these two projects with submission by 14 August 2020; however, the submission deadline was extended to 24 August 2020 to allow for additional contractors to respond given the low number of responses. The timeline for the award of contracts is projected to be the second week of September 2020.
"While these investments in health infrastructure, personnel, equipment and supplies are vital components of our Strategy, the most crucial element is the behaviours and practices that each of us engage in to keep ourselves and others safe," the Minister shared.