Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, who’s the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories (OTs) has urged residents of the OTs, including the BVI to vaccinate.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon addressed COVID
and the post-pandemic future for the OTs, stating that the supply of vaccines
cannot be taken for granted and each batch has a limited shelf life.
"I implore everyone who can, to take the vaccine
, not only for themselves, but to protect their friends and family, and do their part to ensure we can re-open borders and restart our economies. Whilst the first wave of COVID
-19 was a shock, we have seen the spread of more infectious variants in the UK, Gibraltar and Bermuda, which were much harder to contain and led to more deaths," Lord Ahmad stated.
As international tourism restarts and travellers look for destinations that have managed to control community transmission, Lord Ahmad noted that the supply of vaccines
from the UK gives the Overseas Territories a unique advantage to market themselves as safe places to holiday as we learn to live with COVID
"We need only look to Gibraltar, which had more than 1,200 active cases when the vaccination campaign began and has managed to reduce this down to zero, or St Helena which managed to vaccinate more than 90% of its adult population within four weeks," Lord Ahmad stated.
He added, "Now is not the time to wait and see, the vaccines
are safe and effective, by getting vaccinated you will be helping your community. The pandemic illustrated how fragile global supply chains are and gave us reason to think about the resilience of our communities."
Lord Ahmad expressed the view that it has been a particularly hard year for many in the British Virgin Islands, just as it has been in the United Kingdom where the virus saw a dramatic economic slowdown and sadly many deaths.
"I am proud of the fact that despite the situation we faced in the UK, we were able to support the Overseas Territories, and in the case of BVI, this included supplying lifesaving COVID
," Lord Ahmad shared.
He pointed out that since the outbreak of the virus, experts from the UK’s public health organisation have provided remote support to BVI via regular teleconferences to discuss disease management techniques and medical equipment. The UK provided testing kits, which more than doubled BVI’stesting capacity.
As of August 2020, the UK had supplied BVI with nearly 400,000 items of equipment, including testing machines, goggles, facemasks, and ventilators.
"In total, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has delivered over three million items of medical equipment to the Overseas Territories since March last year. We have recently been organising the delivery of the vaccines
to all of the inhabited Overseas Territories. Whilst the UK provided material support, I have been impressed by the way in which people across the Territories rallied together to keep their communities safe, and how the public servants and other key workers strived tirelessly to keep essential services running in these exceptional circumstances," Lord Ahmad stated.
He noted that the pandemic has called into question all of the freedoms and certainties which 'we took for granted', but it has also forced 'us to innovate and change our ways' of working.
"We all hope that life will return to normal very soon, but we should expect that some aspects of life will have changed permanently as we move forward. Whilst this has been a shock to many of us, this is actually an opportunity for BVI, especially as the world embraces remote working, placing the Overseas Territories with an opportunity to attract new talent and inward investment," Lord Ahmad stated.
As economies restart, Lord Ahamad stated that we need to think carefully about what we can all do to protect the environment and halt global warming, which is disproportionately impacting island communities around the world.