BVI News

Gov’t was forced to allow entry of locals coming from COVID-19 flagged countries

After initially closing BVI borders, government was effectively forced to allow entry to locals who were travelling from countries affected by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

Premier Andrew Fahie said gave that indication last Friday while outlining reasons for his government’s COVID-19 Control & Suppression (Miscellaneous Provision) Act, which forces persons into a mandatory two-week quarantine if travelling from these countries.

Speaking in the House of Assembly, Fahie said: “The only reason we came here with the bill is there were those when the borders were closed started to argue legal points that the country cannot shut out its nationals. It became a legal discussion and a legal argument, so what happened is [that] some of our own people pushed back at the government legally that they have to be able to come home.”

“So we said to them, ‘alright, although we closed our borders, only nationals can come home, but you have to agree to be quarantined’,” he added.

Premier said some residents complied while others continued to spout legal arguments, stating that there was no law that makes it mandatory for them to be quarantined.

He said there were ‘some’ unnamed members of the House of Assembly who supported the action of the persons in question.

“If I had my way, they wouldn’t have reached back at all! I ain’t afraid to tell them,” Premier Fahie said.

He, however, told the House of Assembly that none of these individuals was among those who had tested positive for the disease when they returned to the BVI.

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  1. See says:

    But can test positive 2 weeks later. SMFH

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  2. The ones says:

    That refuse to go directly into quarantine after they land in the BVI should have been taken into custody. They are the dangerous ones. I think the school year has ended. I will be looking into home schooling my daughter because the virus might still be around through the summer months. This is only going to get worse. If people would follow the rules, the faster the virus will go away.

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    • voiceofthevoiceless says:

      There was no law at the time allowing the authorities to do that. Again its being reactive rather than pro-active. The law is now in place but guess what? The borders are closed to all incoming passengers inclusive of BVI Nationals and BVI permanent residents.

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  3. voiceofthevoiceless says:

    In Chapter 2 section 18 of the bill of rights enshrined in the BVI Constitution 2007 a person’s right to freedom of movement is protected. 18 (1) states as follows;”A person shall not be deprived of his or her freedom of movement that is to say, the right to move freely throughout the Virgin Islands, the right to reside in any part of the Virgin Islands, the right of a person who belongs to the Virgin Islands or on whom residence has been conferred by law to enter and leave the Virgin Islands, and immunity from expulsion from the Virgin Islands.

    There is clearly a legal right for a VI Belonger or permanent resident to come home.

    There are exceptions in 18 a-where it provides that restrictions can be imposed to prevent freedom of movement within the Virgin Islands and leaving the Virgin Islands in the interests of public health and public safety. However the list of persons does not include VI Islanders or permanent residents returning to the VI.

    The Cayman Islands is a beacon of light for the Caribbean in their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic:

    “On March 11, when the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 outbreak had reached the level of a pandemic and public health experts urged governments to take immediate aggressive action, Cayman had no need to be reactive.

    The government had already implemented COVID-19 regulations about a week and a half prior to the announcement, despite not having yet
    identified a single case of the virus within its borders”

    The Government of the BVI on the other hand did not act until the WHO declared this a pandemic and throughout have been very reactive rather than proactive. The legal quarantine act for example is a reactionary move that should have been legislated a month ago. If this had been done everyone coming home would have been legally not just morally obligated to adhere to self-quarantine. We know the culture of our people with the ‘I born here’ mentality so should have done that first. Closing the borders to Nationals and Permanent residents and announcing it 5 hours before is not only unreasonable but a contravention of the right to freedom of movement.

    Now we are understanding that the ports will remain closed to all incoming persons for another two weeks after the 6th April.

    I support most of what they have done despite it being reactive but this I cannot support. You cannot lock out your own people!

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    • KB says:

      I read the same Forbes article and Cayman was indeed proactive, however, do you see the number of confirmed cases now in the Cayman Islands? Had they not implemented certain measures and laws, the numbers would have been way higher. The BVI was somewhat proactive on this but I think they should have acted a little earlier than they did. Nevertheless I still think we are doing way better than other countries in the region. Give credit where credit is due.

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      • @kb says:

        Cayman #’s are higher because they are actually testing people whether they are sympathetic or not. Their government has traced and is tracing anyone associated with their covid patients & isolating then. Trust me….their # may be higher on paper but after the whole country shops at Rite Way for 3 days I’d bet you BVI has far more actual cases. Stay home, wash your hands. Be safe.

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    • Captain says:

      You can lock up those people and test.

    • alternative way says:

      Close the airport and ports to all except cargo. No one can get in then who isn’t employed by the shipping or courier companies. If people won’t act responsibly then harsh measures needed. If there is no transport here then they can’t get here.

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    • voiceofthevoiceless says:

      Cayman Islands population is over 60,000 twice that of the BVI and last year alone the Cayman Islands saw 4.63 million visitors while BVI 1.125 million in 2016 that is the latest I found. Chalk and cheese if you ask me. This alone tells you how many persons we are talking about that must be monitored. 28 positive cases is the result of proactive measures that have led to the slow down in the transmission of the virus.

    • BVIslander says:

      As a BVIslander who is not into party politics, I must say that I am ashamed of the ignorant attitude of some of the people from here and some of those that reside. All of our health and well being are in question and instead of working with the Government to contain it we choose now to fight against them. I pray the Lord be merciful onto us as a people and we never feel the potential effects of our ignorance because it will be detrimental.

  4. Stainlessbloke says:

    I am still locked out of my country. Most other countries are providing repatriation home. Of course it is done under strict compliance. It’s looks like I’m alright Jack!

  5. Cleaning the planet says:

    World elimination year.

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  6. expat says:

    So why the hell them didnt stay in dey own country in the first place. Stupid people. Now them wa fi mek ppl sick.

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  7. Hmm says:

    Even though this has caused anxiety in a number of our citizens we should still be glad our people were able to return home. It means the law still works. This is good because if it had failed it would mean we are living in a totalitarian dictatorship. Our people are our own, forcing them to stay out would have made them stateless. How is that acceptable in any manner?

    A lot of people are willing to comply with the new measures their governments are putting in place because of fear but it is up to us, the citizens, to make sure our governments know that this is only temporary and we expect our lives to return to normalcy. We like our rights, we still have them and we expect them to be protected. We won’t tolerate them being trampled upon.

    Instead of finding ways to write laws to negate our rights, the government should be thinking of ways to protect them while protecting the health of the people in the Virgin Islands. Why not set up a temporary quarantine area for citizens who are returning home? Make it mandatory to wait out quarantine on that area. Food should be provided to minimize the need to roam. Internet and telephone services as well so citizens can contact their family and use remote services to continue their work and studies. Gate the area and put guards to ensure the people in quarantine stay in that area until their time is up. Once quarantine is up and there is no evidence of infection, let the people go on about their business.

    Had this been the procedure, the whole island probably wouldn’t have needed lockdown because the suspected cases would have been separated from the healthy population. Our citizens abroad wouldn’t be feeling stressed because they would know they can still come home and businesses could have been still up and running.

    We still need to learn to be more proactive. We were one of the last places to be infected. We had a month more than our Caribbean neighbours and we are still handling it poorly, in my opinion.

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  8. Student still abroad says:

    Shame on the people who decided to travel and enter the territory and are not abiding by the measures of safely. I could have traveled back home but didn’t want to take any risks of infecting our nation. I could have came home and honored the measures but even though I have no signs of the virus I know I could be a carrier and even if I self quarantined there would be a risk for my family and my fellow BVIslanders. For now I stay put away from family and away from my BVI until it will be no risk to you all. Oneness

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    • Hmm says:

      Some people abroad don’t have the funds or the ability to stay abroad. I do agree that staying put is smart but not everyone has that ability. In that case, Virgin Islanders should be allowed to return home. Being a non-citizen in a country can be very hard, who knows what kind of knock-about our people are facing abroad? Countries are prioritizing our own so why shouldn’t we do the same? If we turn away our own then we shouldn’t expect them to later stay with us when we need them. Or is all that talk about national pride just sentimental BS?

      I don’t think people are getting it in their head that their virus is here to stay. It is now a part of our lexicon. It is ubiquitous and there will always be a risk of contracting it, even after herd immunity is achieved and vaccines are made.

      This isn’t something that will blow over next month and be a fun story to tell the grand kids. This is life now. This isn’t Eden. The Virgin Islands isn’t on a separate planet far away from Earth. The question to be asked and answered is not “How can we avoid coronavirus?” but rather, “What are we going to do to minimize the impact, not just of the virus but of everyday life and the economy.”

      People abroad have family here. Some are probably breadwinners and they need to be back with their family. It is irresponsible to not question leadership and the actions done in the name to protect us. A society is not free or deserving of freedom if they so willingly sign over their rights and advocate for their fellow citizens to not have them.

      We should want our people home and we should demand more of the government. What are we going to do? Close ports until a vaccine is invented? People are already complaining about landlords, people have already lost their jobs. The longer we remain stagnant, the greater the devastation when we all recover from our fear and shock.

      Life HAS to return to normalcy. NOW is the time to THINK AND ACT RATIONALLY.

      After Irma, I was one who criticized the former government for opening the country so soon. With time, I can appreciate the action of that government though I didn’t agree with them. I like this government. I’m supportive of the premier but I’m not supportive of coddling.

      I don’t believe a lock down is the only way to achieve what the government is trying to achieve.

      I think we genuinely need to question what is the cost of tis so-call safety.

      Take a look at what is going on in the world. Everything is is free-fall and the smartest move is to not hit rockbottom.

      The truth is we had time to think of better ideas and we squandered it. We shouldn’t be complacent and allow our leaders to offer mediocre solutions to a major problem. This lockdown is a bandage on a leaking damn. No one should be comfortable with it.

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      • Great Post says:

        outlining all the problems without suggesting one solution…its early days first prevent and contain.vaccine and fast testing will come allowing management but now is NOT the time to let this thing get grip.
        “I don’t believe a lock down is the only way to achieve what the government is trying to achieve.”

        What do you believe?

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        • Hmm says:

          The solution I suggested is in my first response. Allow nationals in with the condition that the enter a mandatory quarantine not in their place of residence but on a separate compound with guards. This compound should be responsible for providing food, internet and other basic utilities in order to encourage people to agree to quarantine and stay in it. Once the quarantine time is up and nationals have been tested negative for the coronavirus then let them reintegrate into the healthy population.

          I believe nationals should be allowed in because they will eventually be allowed in anyways. There is no evidence that they won’t be carrying the virus then or that they will have been infected and recovered by then. All this does is waste time and money and will probably increase the likelihood of a wave of infection as the longer our boarders are closed to them the more nationals will flood in once they are finally allowed back in. This will probably trigger the rise in the infection curve and deaths that the government is trying to prevent with this lockdown. It will stress our emergency systems and resources and actually create a the 4% mortality rate scenario that we are trying to avoid now.

          I also believe nationals should be allowed in because they have a right to do so. The only condition to have this right to to be a Virgin Islander. This right is not conditional to the events of the world nor should it be. Nationals belong to this territory. This is their territory. Not letting them in will turn them into refugees and that is disgraceful and unethical.

          If our nationals get sick abroad because we have abandoned them they might actually have less of a chance of receiving adequate care and surviving. This would be dependent upon where in the world our nationals are right now. Depending on where they are right now they might not be able to be treated due to overloaded health care systems all over the world, that may be prioritizing citizens over non-citizens. Some of our nationals might be stuck in transit countries and might currently be in limbo where their movement and access to resources may be limited and the wrong move can falsely cause them to be marked as illegal immigrants.

          The decision to lock them out may be causing them more harm than whatever good we think we are getting. To me, this is where national pride is proven. How can we ever again in the future ask any of our citizens to develop themselves and bring their skills back home if in this moment we tell then that when the going gets tough we won’t have their backs? Being a Virgin Islander means nothing and we will turn on our own?

          We don’t deserve to ask loyalty or dedication of anyone if we can’t give it back.

          I say this because I sense as though the premier was trying to turn the people against one another with his words. As if we should be outraged that people want to return home. As if we should cheer for the violation of the rights of our fellow nationals.

          I believe the lockdown as it is is somewhat ineffective because it’s a little too late. This virus has been infecting humans since last November, possibly last October. How many Chinese people from Wuhan have been here since? The world only started paying attention to this late January, early February. Even then we did not take it seriously. For months we’ve had thousands of people moving through our boarders, unscreened. I’m willing to bet there is a good chance the virus is already in the local population and has been in the local population for some time now.

          Once our government did start taking this seriously, people still moved through the territory unfettered. Some of the people in quarantine have been violating quarantine while others who should have been quarantined were never instructed to quarantine in the first place and have been mingling with the local population.

          I see the news. I read the reports. Things are scary now. I get the fear. I get why people think the lockdown is a good thing but I argue that it isn’t.

          For one thing, it’s completely reactionary and its only a temporary solution at best.

          European countries, particularly the UK, are banking on herd immunity. Herd immunity for those of you who might not know is when a certain percentage of the population becomes immuned to a disease thus decreasing the chances of the disease spreading through the population as immuned members of the population are less likely to be carriers of the disease in question. Herd immunity is typically achieved in two ways, vaccination or natural inoculation. Herd immunity for diseases such as measles or mumps is usually achieved through vaccination where as herd immunity for diseases such as the common cold is usually achieved through natural inoculation. There aren’t any vaccines for most colds as there are hundreds of cold viruses and they tend to mutate quickly. In addition to that, cold viruses tend not to be fatal or severe for most people with healthy immune systems.

          What makes this coronavirus so dangerous is the fact that it’s new. There is no herd immunity and there are no vaccines to prevent being infected. The soonest estimation for a vaccine for this virus is 12-18 months before approval for human trial. And that is if it is rushed. This means that natural inoculation is currently out best chance of fighting the virus. It is estimated that between 1% and 10% of the European population has already been infected with places like Iceland reporting a higher percentage of asymotomatic infection. (This is because they are testing more of their population so their sample sizes are bigger, therefore their estimates are probably closer to being an accurate representation of the population.) Asymptomatic infections are not fatal.

          We can chose to lockdown and wait for everyone on the island with the virus to be recovered and go back to being “virus-free” but we are heavily reliant on tourism. As I mentioned before this isn’t something that will be gone by June. This isn’t going to be a storytime memory. What’s going to happen in November when tourist season opens back up and all the tourist and asymptomatic carriers of the virus come from their countries with some degree of herd immunity to our country with relatively no herd immunity?

          This is an on going battle and will be for the next year, possibly two. What’s our plan for that time? Clearly we can’t keep our boarders closed and order people to sit home for that long and not just because of the economic and legal implications of such measures.

          I’m a Virgin Islander and I can flat out tell you that we are terrible when it comes to obeying any law. We have a culture of lawlessness. We can’t get people to park in the right places and obey the traffic laws. We can’t get bars to obey the noise curfew and stop making noises when it’s time to stop. And we can’t even get people to stay at home and only go out on the day alloted to them. We can’t get people to follow the law. We can’t get businesses to follow the law and the cops enforce the law subjectively and even willingly turn a blind eye sometimes.

          The longer we keep up this lockdown, the more likely the people will break the law because this isn’t a natural state of being. The premier just extended the lockdown and there seems like there is nothing to stop him from doing it again. There needs to be a limit to this else this will be draconian. We shouldn’t surrender reason to fear and let the government trample on our rights. We are obligated to keep the government in check and government is obligated not to become a nanny state.

          In addition to the suggestion I proposed at the beginning of this post, I suggest we create a voluntary quarantine for high risk members of society. This means that members who are most at risk for experiencing a fatal reaction to the virus (+65, diabetics, etc) voluntarily stay home. This wouldn’t be indefiniten or random and would best be paired with high volume testing.

          High volume testing would give us a better idea of how much the virus is spreading and how quickly and with that information we can better advise at risk citizens to stay home, leaving the people with healthier immune systems to carry on with their business and keep the economy going.

          And before people start jumping on me about money, I’d like to remind you that money doesn’t grow on trees. It has to come from somewhere. Our landlords and bosses don’t have infinite money nor do the government. People have to go back to work. In some ways I think of this as sort of recovering from a brain injury. Sometimes patients recovering from brain injuries and brain surgeries are made to sit up and even walk despite being in obvious pain. To the untrained onlooker and even to the patient it may seem cruel and wicked but it is often necessary to ensure the brain stays on the right path to recovery. Letting patients with brain injuries lie down and sleep may seem like a kind thing to do but the longer a patient remains immobile the worse the recovery from the injury is most likely to be. The higher the chances that the patient may develop an impairment of some kind. So they trade off is a lot of pain and exhaustion now for a healthier mind and body in the future or comfort now for a difficult and incomplete recovery.

          Right now the VI is the patient with the brain injury. We can rest now and struggle later or struggle now and come ahead later. I advocate for the latter.

          We can also initiate a mask, goggle and glove wearing program, encouraging citizens to wear masks and gloves when they are out in public to minimize the rate of infection. Admittedly, gloves might be hard to come by as they are in demand everywhere and I haven’t found a good alternative to making a homemade version for goggles or gloves yet but there are several tutorials on youtube on how to make a reusable, washable masks out of t-shirts. These masks can be sterilized in the oven. The correct temperatures to do this are on the internet as well.

          People all over the world are coming up with innovative ways to fight back. There is information out there we can use. Hungary has instructed their scouts to make masks and passed a law making it mandatory to wear a mask in public.

          Note, the research suggests that masks may not be 100% effective at stopping an infection, particularly if the mask gets wet. However, there is research that suggest that being inoculated with a lower dose could possibly lead to a milder form if infection. Masks lower the dose of inoculation.

          We can still continue practicing social distancing. We can also encourage more businesses to install hand washing stations around the capital and other high trafficked areas.

          And once we get through this, perhaps we can have more serious discussions on lowering our rates of obesity and chronic illnesses. Currently, a large segment of our population are suffering from these conditions which are classified as underlying conditions that increase risks of a fatal reaction to the coronavirus.

          In my opinion, this virus is a wake up call telling us we have to take our health more seriously. There is a high chance that more new diseases will contue to emerge and having a preventable chronic disease will only make it harder to combat whatever will come our way in the future. It’s in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands and the government of the Virgin Islands to have a fit and healthy society or risk collapse from threats like this.

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  9. CV-19 negative — Suggestion to Hon. Andrew Fahie says:

    I suggest that these individuals should be tested prior to their scheduled flight. That would be a wise thing to do.

    If the nationals are planning to come home, they should be tested first, wait for the results, book their flights after receiving the results, and provide the test results to airport officials from both the port of embarque and desembarque not oficina that their free from Covid 19 and has the right to come home.

    If the test came out positive. Them they have no right to come home.

    It would be a nice if you mention this to the United Nations so that they can enact this protocol to all airports across the world.

    Mark me if I’m wrong, but I feel this is the only way we can be safe and prevent more cases. And this goes for the rest of the world.

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    • voiceofthevoiceless says:

      So are you saying that the BVI should turn their back on their own people because they have a virus? A virus that can be contained by self quarantine?

      That is amazing? I wonder if that person were to become a career professional if we would turn our back on them too? What about a break a world record? Turn our back on them too?

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  10. My HOME says:

    If there are measures that can be taken like quarantine then yes no one should be locked out of their country and those individuals should be force to quarantine Period!!!

    And in most cases, if not all you should be allowed home. what happens if the country you are currently in decides that you must leave.

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  11. Diaspora says:

    Did government get legal advice, ie, AG….etc before closing the borders to locals? Locals may indeed have a right to come home but government has the right and obligation to protect the public (public health and safety). The greatest responsibility is to protect life. If government had a valid concern that a returning locals posed a public risk, quarantining them for at least 14 days was in the public interest.

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    • voiceofthevoiceless says:

      Quarantine would be the way to go but to deny them entry a no no.

      Some of these persons may have obligations here, family interest here, jobs here, businesses here.

  12. Yoyo says:

    A suicidal move

  13. Captain says:

    A super huge thanks to the locals that did not follow quarantine. Thanks a lot!

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  14. voiceofthevoiceless says:

    If they stayed here they would be as ignorant as you are proving yourself to be with this comment.

  15. Smh says:

    There’s that familiar sense of entitlement. It’s sad really. When you put your selfishness before the health and well being of your country. Shame on them.

  16. Wise up says:

    Why let them in and infect everyone and u know they would not stay home come on putting an entire population at risk. OUT STAY OUT.

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  17. Tell me. says:

    So what about the people they would come in contact with during their return to the country, weather via boat or plane. If they were infected it would mean that they would put many life at risk.

  18. Virgin Islander says:

    I am VI to the bone and have precious relatives living abroad. I fully support the closing of the borders to everyone, including virgin islanders and belongers. Public Health is more important. Our resources cannot sustain a massive outbreak.

  19. Wow!! says:

    That’s very selfish of them. Why don’t they stay where they are and quarantine? Why risk the lives of others? Tortola is very small if this virus gets out of hand that’s it. I would have love to come home too, but I chose not to it wouldn’t be right or fair to take that risk.

  20. Resident says:

    quarantine needs to be done on a remote island away from the main islands, have a facility built to house and feed them,until they have been cleared to return home disease free.

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