Statement from the Minister of Health and Social Development with COVID Update – March 3, 2022

STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE CARVIN MALONE

MINISTER OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

UPDATE COVID-CABINET DECISIONS

March 3, 2022

A pleasant good afternoon to all. I greet everyone here in the Virgin Islands, in the region and around the world. It’s safe to say that the people and economy of the Virgin Islands have endured a series of challenges over the past few years. Recovery from the 2017 floods, recovery from two hurricanes in 2017, $400 million loan guarantee renegotiations, 24 months of the COVID-19 global pandemic, 14 months of the COI Board of Inquiry exercise and now a War is raging between Russia and Ukraine which are likely to challenge the economies of the world. Of this, we know, God is capable.

I am pleased, on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands, to report to you the decisions and some of the considerations that were taken by Cabinet at the meeting today, Wednesday, March 2, 2002.

  • Cabinet has decided that current crowd limits of 100 people will be scrapped and will be limited to one person per nine square feet.
  • Cabinet has decided that organizers of events of more than 300 people should notify the Environmental Health Division of the date, time and location of such events.
  • The Cabinet has decided that the quarantine requirements for unvaccinated people entering the territory will be reduced from seven days to five days. These changes will be effective upon posting and will expire on 31st March 2022.

In the meantime, there would still be requirements for masks, there would still be requirements for sanitizing, hand washing, good hygiene, 3ft social distancing, and all the common sense approaches that have ensured the security of this territory for the past two years.

The laboratory at Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital since the start of this pandemic has analyzed over 100,000 samples. In this we have had a positive number of 6091, recoveries to date 6006, we have had unfortunate deaths of 62 people who have been found to be COVID positive during this time.

The number of active cases now stands at 23. We have gone from 1,300 to 23 active cases. One person is currently hospitalized. We had all the necessary AstraZeneca supplies and Pfizer supplies from the UK. We also had an experience where the US Virgin Islands allowed our citizens to come and be vaccinated in St. John. We thank the United Kingdom and the Government of the US Virgin Islands for their kind donations.

We now have to date 17,459 people who are deemed fully vaccinated, a rate of 58.2%. We also have the reminders that were recently made available and we have 3,652 people who have taken advantage of this opportunity. This only represents a percentage of 12.2%. We are concerned that the vaccination rate for boosters has not been as robust as it could be or even should be. We have also arranged for 500 doses of pediatric vaccines which are now here in UK territorial supplements. These vaccines are available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Catholic Community Center. They are also available at the Nurse Iris O’Neal Clinic. They are available on registration or by appointment in all the clinics of the Territory. It is important to note that these have a shelf life until March 31, 2022. It is therefore essential that we take advantage of the vaccines that are made available to us. We have Pfizer available for pediatric doses, we have Pfizer available for first and second doses, and we have Pfizer available for booster doses. We need to encourage our vulnerable people, to keep getting vaccinated, people with chronic illnesses, our elderly, my senior gems, those 5-11 year olds can now take advantage of pediatric doses. We must continue to encourage this.

We also invite primary schools with pupils aged 5 to 11 to schedule a visit from our team. They will come to the schools. Get as many students as the parents allow to get vaccinated and they will come to you so you don’t have to go to one of the centers. We are also looking at ways to accommodate groups of people on the sister islands.

It is essential that we continue to rebuild our economies. Hotels are starting to fill up, yacht charters are starting to fill up. We have the cruise industry in motion. We have had a resurgence in terms of certain economic aspects. It can be maintained if we keep doing what we need to do. We’re clearly not out of the woods yet, but we’re close to the edge.

Ladies and gentlemen, we must be resilient to what we envision. We have festivals coming up, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola and we have a number of activities that people have planned. We want to make sure these are done in a safe and sustainable way. So we’ll do whatever we need to do to make it work.

The CDC currently has us at level four, we want to move this to level one. To do this, we must maintain a low level of active cases. We know that we have different variants or a combination of variants. We will therefore remain vigilant in everything we do.

We will come back to you depending on the circumstances. We would like to wish everyone a pleasant Easter season, a pleasant Passover, a pleasant time in which we will continue to make the Virgin Islands and the economy resilient.

We are on our way home and we want to thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do to keep the Virgin Islands safe. Thank you very much for tuning and listening and we will respond to you whenever the need arises.

Thank you

Joel C. Hicks