Governor John Rankin chaired Cabinet meetings on Sept. 15 and 29 at the Financial Services Commission conference room in Pasea. Additionally, acting Governor David Archer Jr. chaired a meeting on Sept. 21 while the governor was overseas on official business. All members were present at the meetings, except Premier Andrew Fahie and Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer, who were overseas on official business on Sept. 29. Cabinet took the following actions, according to summaries published in the Gazette on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, though some of the Covid-19 protocols have since changed.
On Sept. 15, Cabinet took the following actions.
1. Decided: a. on the appointments of Arona Forbes-Fahie as chairwoman and Janice Stoutt as a member of the BVI Honours Committee from Sept. 1, 2021 to Aug. 31, 2023;
b. that Julia Dawson, Dr. Harlan Vanterpool, Ulric Scatliffe and Icis Malone be re-appointed to serve as members of the BVI Honours Committee with effect from July 1, 2020 to June 3, 2022, and that Bennet Smith and Janice Blyden be re-appointed as members with effect from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2022.
2. Noted the Situation Reports number 38 and 39 presented by the Health Emergency Operations Centre’s Unified Command; and
a. decided that people who are to be lawfully detained be required to undergo a Covid-19 rapid test prior to being detained unless the attorney general advises otherwise;
b. decided that where an unaccompanied minor who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated arrives at a port of entry, they along with a parent or guardian must be subject to quarantine and exit testing at the same time;
c. endorsed the HEOC’s recommendation for the Public Health (Covid-19 Control and Suppression Measures) (No. 4) (Amendment) (No. 7) Order, 2021 to be extended to Sept. 30;
d. accepted that the HEOC’s recommendation for the Imposition of a Curfew Order (No. 13) Order, 2021 be extended for a further two-week period ending Oct. 1 and that the National Security Council be advised that the order be amended so that the curfew apply between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.;
e. following representation by nightclub owners and further consultation with the Environmental Health Division, agreed on the reopening of nightclubs under the following conditions: that all staff are fully vaccinated and that all patrons are fully vaccinated and provide proof thereof.
On Sept. 21, Cabinet took the following actions.
1. Reviewed and approved the 2019 Office of the House of Assembly’s annual report and decided that it be laid on the table in the HOA at the next convenient sitting.
2. Decided: a. to defer approving the Task Force’s Draft Cruise Ship Bubble Operational Plan that sets the territory’s guidelines by which vaccinated cruise passengers can disembark and participate in shore excursions in a safe and organised manner during the Covid-19 era;
b. that since all cruise passengers and crew are fully vaccinated, they would be exempted from having to apply to enter the territory using the BVI Gateway Portal;
c. that as per the implications of decision (b), all fully vaccinated travellers entering the Virgin Islands would also be exempted from applying to enter using the BVI Gateway Portal provided:
i. that their second Covid-19 vaccine was received no less than two weeks before entry to the territory;
ii. that the vaccine must be a World Health Organisation approved vaccine;
iii. that upon entry each vaccinated traveller must provide the results of a negative PCR test or antigen rapid test no older than five days and furnish the following: the results of a negative test; valid proof of vaccination (card or otherwise); and proof of medical insurance;
iv. they are subjected to an antigen rapid test upon arrival, and if the result of the test is negative, will not be subjected to quarantine protocols;
v. that each passenger carrier must verify that each vaccinated traveller, before embarkation, can provide the results of a negative PCR test or antigen rapid test no older than five days and furnish the following: the results of a negative test; valid proof of vaccination (card or otherwise); and proof of medical insurance;
d. that minors 17 and under travelling with vaccinated parents or guardians will also be exempted from applying to enter the VI using the BVI Gateway Portal provided that each minor provides the results of a negative PCR test or antigen rapid test no older than five days;
f. that for all passengers identified in decision items (c) and (d) all applicable fees upon entry to the territory still apply;
g. that the Premier’s Office instruct the attorney general to make recommendations on the appropriate legislation to ensure fines for carriers of vaccinated passengers and minors accompanied by fully vaccinated parents or guardians who violate the fully vaccinated portal exemption entry protocols, whereby carriers would be fined $10,000 for each passenger in violation of the entry protocols and separately the passenger who violates the entry protocols will be fined $5,000 or imprisonment not to exceed six months, where applicable;
h. that the following categories of people will still be required to use the BVI Gateway Portal: partially vaccinated; unvaccinated; unaccompanied minors who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated; and any other people not covered by the fully vaccinated portal exemption entry protocols;
i. to approve the amended Cruise Covid-19 Management Plan that sets out the protocols for the safe acceptance of passenger cruise calls during a pandemic, which replaces all normal operating procedures until the HEOC advises otherwise and the return to normal operating procedures is reestablished; and
j. that decision items (b), (c) and (d) will take effect on Oct. 1 and that the BVI Tourist Board, in collaboration with the BVI Ports Authority, communications director, the Environmental Health Division, and the Taxi and Livery Commission will develop a vigorous public relations campaign to keep the public informed.
3. Decided: a. that all businesses and individuals who enter into a contract with government are required to request a good standing certificate and be subject to an assessment by the Inland Revenue Department, and where it has been determined that taxes are outstanding, such sum owing, or a portion thereof agreed to by both parties, would be deducted in accordance with Chapter 206 of Income Tax, Clause 65A;
b. on a one-year grace period for businesses to produce certificates of good standing and certificates of earnings on application to the IRD and requirements for Social Security and National Health Insurance in relation to work permit applications and entry permit processes; and
c. that the IRD, Social Security Board and NHI present to the Cabinet within 30 days a joint implementation plan to enable the production of good standing certificates within an efficient and timely manner.
4. Decided: a. that exceptional approval be granted to waive the tender process for the continuous engagement of Benito Wheatley to provide consultancy diplomatic services to the Premier’s Office; and
b. to approve the renewal of Mr. Wheatley’s consultancy contract, as the special envoy to the government, for the period of two years, commencing on Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2022, due to the outstanding performance on an international stage in previous years;
c. that Mr. Wheatley be compensated at a rate of $10,833.33 per month;
d. that the Premier’s Office instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to vet the contract document before signing; and
e. that Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley be excused from the room from participating in the discussion of this paper after he declared a non-pecuniary (family) interest.
5. Decided: a. that the Road Traffic (Taxi and Livery Commission) Regulations, 1997, as amended, be incorporated into a bill to make provisions for the Taxi and Livery Commission to be a body corporate with the powers and characteristics as follows: the power to sue in the name of Taxi and Livery Commission as its corporate name; the liability to be sued in its corporate name; the power to enter into contracts in its corporate name; the right to have a common seal; the right to acquire and hold any real or personal property for the purpose for which the commission is constituted; the right to regulate its own procedures and business; and the right to employ such staff as are necessary;
b. that the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers, with proper and adequate drafting instructions, to prepare the bill to make provisions for the TLC to be a body corporate.
6. Reviewed and approved the 2019 and 2020 Water and Sewerage Department annual reports and decided that both be laid on the table of the HOA at the next convenient sitting.
On Sept. 29, the Cabinet took the following actions.
1. Reviewed and approved the revised cruise bubble operation plan titled “Cruise Protocol and Operation Plan,” which replaces all normal operating procedures until the HEOC advises otherwise and the return to normal operating procedures is re-established.
2. Decided that the tender process be waived and the government enter into an agreement with the Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic Ltd. in the amount not to exceed $147,760 for contracting services to special needs students retroactively from Jan. 1, 2021 to Aug. 31, 2022, due to the lack of technical expertise in this specialised area in the territory to handle such complexities and volume, and to allow for the Special Education Unit within the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture to become adequately staffed and equipped to handle such matters.
3. Decided that the tender process be waived for the provision of transportation services by Top Priority Security Services Ltd. of government revenue collected from various departments and transferred to the banks for the period Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021 in the sum of $286,845; and that a notice for tender be issued to procure the services for 2022.
4. Decided that the tender process be exceptionally waived and a contract be awarded for the engagement of project management services to manage the housing reconstruction projects being undertaken by the Housing Unit of the Ministry of Health and Social Development for a period of nine months; that Project Management and Construction Solutions be compensated at a rate of $6,666.66 per month; and that all costs associated with the issuance of this consultancy contract be charged to the National Bank of the VI.
5. Reviewed and accepted the 2019 annual reports for the Department of Culture, the Public Library Services Department, and the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports; and decided that all three reports be tabled in the HOA at the next convenient sitting.
6. Noted: a. the publication of a vacancy notice for the position of chairperson of the Social Security Board and the process of reviewing the expression of interest received in response to the vacancy notice;
b. the recommendation of the interview panel convened to consider applications for a new chairman of the SSB and the agreement of the leader of the opposition to the appointment of Glenroy Forbes in accordance with the schedule of the Social Security Ordinance, Section 4(1);
c. and approved the formal appointment of Mr. Forbes as a member representing employers and as chairman of the SSB board of directors effective Oct. 1, 2021 for a period of three years in the first instance in accordance with the schedule of the Social Security Ordinance, Section 4(2); and noted that all administrative costs related to the appointment of the chairman will be met by the BVI SSB.
7. Decided: a. that the Public Health (Covid-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Order, which expires on Sept. 30, 2021 be extended;
b. that fully vaccinated staff and patrons at nightclubs be required to provide identification; proof of vaccination; and a negative result of a rapid Covid-19 test no older than seven days; and
c. that adjustments be made to the entry protocols to allow all vessels with fully vaccinated captain, crew and passengers — including foreign-based charter boats — to travel to the territory and enter at the designated, fully vaccinated ports of entry (Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke; Sophers Hole, West End; and Spanish Town. Virgin Gorda).
8. Decided to advise the National Security Council that the current curfew be extended for a further 14 days from Oct. 4, and that the curfew hours of 1-5 a.m. be maintained.