With curfews lifted, ports reopened to visitors, travel restrictions eased and an ongoing vaccine campaign, the BVI is officially reopening for business.
Ms. Petrona Davies, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Development, indicated that the recent developments are part of Phase Three of the enhanced BVI Pandemic Plan.
Ms. Davies and Dr. Irad Potter, Chief Medical Officer, provided a thorough COVID-19 update and outlined key features of the pandemic plan to industry stakeholders during a BVI Finance Forum on May 28. The plan “provides a supportive framework for an integrated and coordinated response to deal with outbreaks of infectious disease”.
BVI’s Current COVID-19 Situation
The BVI’s Framework for Adjusting Emergency Public Health Measures is currently at Level 1 (One). This level indicates that cases are well within medical and isolation capabilities; effective measures are in place to prevent and control admission; emphasis on case and cluster detection, investigation, tracking and tracing of contacts; and daily activities and services remain open with safety measures in place to limit risk of spread. To date, the BVI has a total of 289 confirmed cases, and one death. There are currently six (6) active cases.
Ms. Davies reported to stakeholders that the BVI’s public health capacity has been enhanced, through the engagement of Cuban healthcare professionals, active surveillance and the dedication of a special care unit to isolate and treat COVID-19 patients. The unit has 16 beds and six intensive care units.
While vaccines are not Government mandated, Dr. Potter said they provide an added layer of protection, stating,“There have been many tools employed to help control the virus...the vaccine is another tool.”
The chief medical officer said the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is approved by the World Health Organization, along with other international health regulatory bodies.
Currently, a total of 11,696 AstraZeneca vaccines have been administered to the adult population, with 49-percent of the adult population having received the first dose. The Territory’s vaccination target is 70-percent of the adult population.
Businesspersons and other stakeholders were advised by Dr. Potter that there is no federal mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations for travellers to the US mainland.
Appeal to Employers
Ms. Davies made a special appeal to employers to consider adopting a new leave policy for personnel affected by COVID-19. She suggested the creation of a new category of leave, outside of the personal or sickness leave.
Dr. Potter told stakeholders to encourage front line employees to vaccinate and recommended that unvaccinated high-risk employees be moved from the front line to lower transmission risks, but asserted, “As long as COVID-19 is in the world, we all remain at risk.”
COVID-19 Travel Protocols
All visitors entering the Territory must register via the BVI Gateway portal (https://bvigateway.bviaa.com/), and begin their application no later than 48 hours before travel. Applications must be completed at least 24 hours before travel date and time. All applicants in pending status, who have not completed their necessary requirements, including a negative PCR test, 24 hours prior to travelling, will be denied. Only nasopharyngeal RT-PCR tests are accepted for passengers five years of age and over.
Upon arrival, travellers undergo mandatory health screening, and are subject to quarantine with geofencing devices, along with follow up testing, based on vaccine status. Visitors who are fully vaccinated are asked to undergo a 24-hour quarantine and require a negative PCR test to enter the general population; unvaccinated visitors undergo a 7-day quarantine and also require negative PCR test to enter the general population.
Credible Information Sources
Ms. Davies warned that there has been much misinformation circulating, and encouraged stakeholders to take advantage of the ministry team who can present and share accurate information with employers.
To that end, Dr. Potter referenced the following: www.paho.org, www.cdc.org and www.who.int, which he cited as the official sources for COVID-19 updates.
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