The disclosure was made on Monday during a statement to the Territory delivered by Hon. Carvin Malone, Minister for Health and Social Development who attended the CARICOM meeting via teleconference.
According to Minister Malone, the initial funds will be used towards the overall coordination, surveillance and risk assessment, rapid response, laboratory detection, ports of entry surveillance, public awareness and community engagement, case management, and infection control activities.
"This will also cover capital works such as the retrofitting of Immigration booths, establishment of quarantine stations at Ports-of-Entry and the refurbishment of a section of the Major Peebles Wing of the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital, commonly referred to as the ‘old hospital’, for the isolation and care of patients affected by the disease," Hon. Malone stated.
He added, "As the need arises, Government will make additional funding available to ensure a vigorous COVID-19 response to protect the health and well-being of the Territory’s residents and safeguard its economic interests."
The Health Minister assured that there is no confirmed case of the virus in the Territory. He disclosed that there has also been enhanced health surveillance, testing and quarantine of persons of interest.
Of specific interest, according to the Minister, are persons with respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing, together with a history of travel to or residence in a country with established community transmission of COVID-19, during the 14 days prior to symptoms onset; as well as persons with any acute respiratory illness.
The Minister shared that as of Monday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has increased its assessment of the risk of spread and impact of the disease to very high at the global level, while the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), based on a regional risk assessment, upgraded the risk of transmission in the Caribbean from low, to high.
To date, WHO has reported 87,137 cases of COVID-19 leading to 2,977 deaths within 60 countries, inclusive of two (2) island nations in the Caribbean.
The Minister encouraged the entire community to heed the calls being made by the Ministry of Health and Social Development as well as the regional and international Public Health agencies that there should be shift in mindset from preparedness, to readiness and rapid response.
"The Immigration Department will erect glass shields at airport immigration booths, widen the screening of passengers, and facilitate the sharing of Advanced Passenger Information from transit ports, in order to determine recent travel history of arriving passengers," the Minister stated.
He stated that The BVI Health Services Authority has acquired additional equipment and medical supplies and will shortly be ready to conduct COVID-19 testing at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital laboratory. The CARPHA laboratory in Trinidad will serve as a reference lab to confirm local test results.
he Health Services Authority has also introduced treatment protocols and identified isolation rooms for the safe care of sick patients, should the need arise.
"The Government will also stockpile adequate quantities of cleaning supplies, masks and personal protective equipment (PPE)," the Minister stated.
"Even as we continue to work together to prevent the importation of the novel coronavirus to the Territory, we must at the same time ensure that all health workers, households, schools, businesses, and other segments of our population are well prepared to keep themselves safe – If and When it does occur," Hon. Malone stated.
According to Hon. Malone, A health incident command post will be fully activated in the week ahead.
"The Ministry of Health and Social Development will be working under the ambit of the National Disaster Management Council to ensure a multi-sectoral coordinated approach, which is in keeping with our National Pandemic Influenza Plan," the Minister stated.
Further, the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) will be activated at LEVEL One. According to Hon. Malone, this is to ensure community-wide coordination and to provide guidance and support in developing and activating contingency plans.
"The National Emergency Operations Centre represents the highest level of command and control that is activated in a national emergency situation. As COVID-19 is a Public Health Emergency, the Ministry of Health and Social Development is the lead agency for planning, initiation, direction and central coordination at Level One activation of the NEOC," the Minister stated.
Hon. Malone is urging everyone to use basic hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing with soap and water; use of hand sanitizers; coughing into your elbow, or a tissue; frequent disinfection of surfaces; and avoiding close contact with anyone with cough and fever symptoms.
"If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical attention early, and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider," Hon. Malone stated.
He said the situation is still evolving, and Government will need to tailor it's response to reflect the realities on the ground from day-to-day and from week-to-week.
"We have overcome much greater challenges in the past, and I am confident that we have the capacity and psychological resilience to face this new challenge together, without resorting to undue fear, panic or stigmatization," the Minister stated.
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