By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
The BVI’s Immigration Department is preparing to take whatever border control measures that may be necessary to safeguard the territory from the deadly Coronavirus outbreak in China.
Acting Chief Immigration Officer Ian Penn told BVI News on Monday, January 27 that a number of government institutions are scheduled to meet to discuss the new virus which has so far infected more than 2,700 persons and resulted in 81 deaths globally.
“I’m in contact with the health authorities. We should be meeting tomorrow Tuesday, which will involve a number of stakeholders – Immigration, Customs, Port Authority, Health – where BVIHSA will give us a better understanding of the virus, for us to start our preparedness mode,” Penn stated.
“We can’t wait for something to happen and then we act after, so we try to be proactive and go through every precaution, stock up on everything that we will need to have and go through any situations by the book, should something come ashore,” he added.
The virus, which according to the World Health Organisation originated in Wuhan, China, is temporarily named the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Special Screenings from persons enter from China to be discussed
In 2018 under the previous NDP government, an Immigration exemption policy was approved to allow Chinese nationals to be able to enter the territory visa-free for up to six months at a time.
With the virus seemingly developing into a pandemic in China, BVI News queried whether special screenings will be established at the territory’s ports of entry for persons visiting from China.
Penn responded: “All that will be discussed in our meeting tomorrow with the BVIHSA because we want to make sure that we take all precautionary measures in relation to the virus because it is very deadly, and we must do our part to guard ourselves from this illness coming to our shores.”
What is 2019-nCoV?
According to the WHO the virus is a new strain of the coronavirus which results in a viral respiratory disease, and stems from the family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS).
According to reports from international news agencies, the United States has confirmed five cases of the virus to date, with more than 60 additional persons being tested in the U. for the disease.
Also reporting a confirmed case of the virus is Canada, which officials said a male in his fifties is the first victim, after recently flying from Wuhan, China to Guangzhou, China and then on to Toronto on January 23.