With the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season arriving amid a viral pandemic, a recommendation has come for fewer persons to be accepted into each of the respective emergency shelters to help stave off any potential spread of COVID-19.
“If the shelter can hold 40 people, you send 35 people, for example. So that they can maintain their social distance. You cannot just send everybody at a shelter and expect social distancing to take place,” Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael reasoned.
He said this would, therefore, require authorities to find out the holding capacity of each of the local shelters.
Michael told BVI News on Monday that more than 20 shelters will be inspected this week to ensure protocols such as the installation of handwashing stations and social distancing mechanisms are in place.
He said the respective shelter management teams would also be required to carry out disinfection initiatives.
DDM moving away from ‘congregate shelters’ this year
Because of COVID-10, the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) is also taking a different approach this year.
Information & Education Manager for the DDM, Chrystall Kanyuck-Abel said: “As opposed to what they call congregate shelters, which are everyone goes into a church hall and is in one location, what they have done is to try to find places where people would be able to stay in their family units so that they would be able to maintain social distancing that way.”
“So it is not a matter of more shelters per se, but more strategic locations, places that would be more conducive to social distancing; that’s the approach,” she added.
Kanyuck-Abel was not yet able to specify how many shelters have been identified so far but said the information will be made public soon.
‘Stay in heightened state of preparedness’, residents told
Meanwhile, Premier Andrew Fahie has urged residents and businesses to “remain in a heightened state of preparedness for the upcoming season”.
He said the team at the Public Works Department has already begun to carry out ghut-clearing exercises and potential shelters around the territory, including on the sister islands are being sought.
“Let us all continue to gather our supplies and review our home and work plans. Make sure to take into account how we can maintain our social distance protocols and how we will maintain a sanitised environment to keep ourselves and everyone safe. This is very important,” he stated.
The season runs from June 1 to November 30.
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