According to the Governor’s Office, the exercise will allow the UK Task Group to practice their response to any damage that a hurricane could cause, which includes delivering humanitarian aid and disaster relief by landing people and essential supplies ashore in order to support the people of the [British] Virgin Islands.
Deputy to the Governor, Mr David D Archer, Jr said due to the pandemic, this year’s hurricane season presents an unprecedented challenge and preparation is more important than ever.
“This exercise will ensure that if the Territory requires extra help after a storm, the crew on board RFA Argus and HMS Medway can effectively respond in a way that protects public health and meets our greatest needs. As always, the safety and security of the people of the British Virgin Islands is top priority.”
Royal Navy Commander Kate Muir, Head of the UK Task Group, said, “We are well positioned and prepared to offer support to BVI in the aftermath of a hurricane, if it is needed. As with any activity, we become more effective each time we practice, which is why I am grateful to the Governor and the Premier to have this chance to exercise on Norman Island.”
The two ships will carry emergency aid from the UK’s Department for International Development. This includes food, water, sanitation products and medical supplies, along with equipment that can help clear and repair some of the damage.
The members of the task group were also required to undergo tests for COVID-19 and were supplied test kits by the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA).
Strict safety measures are in place for the exercise and the crew has been working closely with the Governor’s Office, the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of Health to ensure full compliance with the Territory’s COVID-19 measures.
During the exercise on Norman Island, the team will be located away from the Bight and areas likely to have visitors and will maintain a strict isolation on ship and follow social distancing and hygiene practices while on board. The team’s landing on Norman Island will have been isolated at sea for 12 days. On return to ship, they will conduct a clean down process called Op Dry Out to cleanse each individual, and they will then be monitored for any symptoms in the days following the exercise.
This exercise is expected to build on the preparatory work conducted earlier this year during the helicopter flyovers on April 17, 2020, where the team surveyed the islands’ topography and identified how to deliver relief to the most remote communities.
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