Premier and Minister of Finance of the Virgin Islands Honourable Andrew A. Fahie discussed Phase II of the Government’s re-entry strategy for work permit holders and others seeking to conduct business in the Territory amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, during a webinar titled “A Conversation with the Premier”, hosted by BVI Finance.
Premier Fahie affirmed, “We live and breathe the safety of the people of the Virgin Islands...all our precautionary measures for protecting our people from the public health threat of COVID-19 are soundly grounded in the law of the land and your government is being cautious in dealing with this very fluid situation, because another round of lockdown can cripple our economy to the point that we may not be able to bounce back.”
The conversation highlighted the recent announcement of the lifting of the curfew along with the list of persons who will be allowed to re-enter the Territory from September 1, 2020. Those persons include work permit holders or work permit exemption holders; persons who are permitted to reside but not seek employment and individuals with Land Holding Licenses; Students of locally based Medical Schools and H. Lavity Stoutt Community College students; exceptional approval for persons employed by the Government of the Virgin Islands and its Statutory Bodies, Agencies and Boards; and teachers (public and private); dependents (spouses and children) of Belongers, Permanent Residents, work permit holders, work permit exemption holders; and persons desirous of conducting business in the Territory. All qualified persons will be subject to a Government-mandated quarantine.
Premier Fahie said that effective October 1, some quarantined individuals will be required to contribute towards the cost of the 24-hour security and meals, with fees being $2500 and $3500 for those quarantined in government or private facilities. Virgin Islanders, Belongers, Permanent Residents and Naturalised Citizens are exempt from those fees.
Regarding the Government’s decision for those persons who will qualify for re-entry in Phase II, Premier Fahie said, “It is a very tightrope walk that we’re doing in balancing the health of the Territory with that of the economics of the Territory..it had nothing to do with whether the person was a Belonger, non-Belonger or work permit holder…the priority is the safety and health of everyone, and to be fair to the different businesses and partners in [the various] industries.”
Premier Fahie also said that while his Government did not want to keep families apart, it was priority to ensure the health protocols put in place were tighter and that they “narrowed down” any loopholes.
When asked about his Government’s intention to implement a programme similar to Barbados and Bermuda with respect to allowing businesspersons to live and do business in those jurisdictions for up to a year, Premier Fahie said that he is already having discussions about the opportunity, especially as the winter approaches. He also said some Belongers who live overseas have also expressed their desire to return to BVI for a specific time period as they currently work from home in the countries they reside presently.
Regarding Phase III of Government’s re-entry strategy, which will allow for tourists and other travellers to visit BVI, Premier Fahie said that the borders may open in November, once rapid testing goes well. He noted however, that “the more and more you open up, you increase your risks”.
Premier Fahie was joined by Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, Honourable Vincent Wheatley who fielded questions about the work permit process. To that end, Honourable Wheatley said that there will be a grace period for work permit renewals and highlighted that work permit applications for persons who are currently outside of the Territory should not be impacted considering the employers are responsible for submitting the applications.
He added, “We don’t wish to do anything to give extra challenges to businesses so we will do our best to accommodate the best we can.” Minister Wheatley also said his ministry will launch an online platform that will have more information for work permit holders and others seeking re-entry.
Regarding questions and comments on the diversity of the workforce and having a balance of locals and expatriate employees, the labour minister said the Government intends to put policies in place to increase the number of locals we have working in all sectors.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley also participated in the webinar which was moderated by BVI Finance CEO Elise Donovan.
To view the detailed list of persons qualified for re-entry to the Virgin Islands, go to bvi.gov.vg or follow this direct link: https://bvi.gov.vg/media-centre/statement-premier-fahie-covid-19-update-phase-ii
You can also view the release on the Special Category To Submit Applications Before Entry To The BVI, here: https://bvi.gov.vg/media-centre/special-category-submit-applications-entry-bvi