Shoppers line up at Bobby’s Marketplace in May. On Monday Governor Gus Jaspert assented to a lengthy law that leaders say will protect consumers and businesses alike. (File photo: DANA KAMPA)

With only one confirmed case of Covid-19 still active in the Virgin Islands, residents are progressing toward a more familiar way of living in the territory.

From her stand near the roundabout in Road Town, produce vendor Ann Mary Blyden keeps a pulse on activity in Tortola. She recalled the rush of residents coming to buy fresh fruit and vegetables after being in lockdown for more than a month, and she said business is still booming.

She awoke before 4 a.m. daily as the curfew measures relaxed in order to prepare for the day’s activities.

It has been challenging to keep up with demand, Ms. Mary said, but one benefit of staying at home more than usual was getting to celebrate Mothers’ Day with her family.

Taxi driver Irwine Smith said he’s been able to keep busy as people resume daily activities, travelling in town and making longer drives. However, it doesn’t compare to what the end of the busy season would typically entail, and Mr. Smith said he believes the effects of diminished tourism will likely ripple throughout the community.

Business owners in the Virgin Islands, including produce vendor Ann Mary Blyden, are adapting to new measures intended to gradually reopen activity within the territory, though the future of tourism and the economic fallout are unclear. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Considering plans for an economic stimulus, Mr. Smith questioned what resources would be available to those who are employed but still feeling the squeeze.

Restaurants similarly navigate the uncertainty of what the summer months will bring. The owner of one downtown cafe said the business has explored new territory as the lockdown relaxed by offering food delivery services and creating a new breakfast menu. He said only time will tell how sustainable restaurants’ new business models will prove.

On Tuesday, Premier Andrew Fahie expressed doubt that global tourism would be up and running by the end of hurricane season, and said the territory should be cautious in its phased reopening to avoid the cost of another hard lockdown.

Community clinics

In another step toward internal reopening, residents can now access primary care services such as prescription pickups at several BVI Health Services Authority community clinics in the territory.

The clinics that have reopened include the Road Town Health Centre as well as the Theresa Smith Blyden, Rosalind Penn, Iris Penn Smith, Jost Van Dyke, Nurse Iris O’Neal, North Sound and Romalia Smith clinics.

Services on offer include wound care, child health, immunisation, family planning, chronic diseases, home visits, tele-medicine, antenatal and postnatal care, and prescription drop-off and pick-up services, Director of Primary Health Care Dr. Natasha Frett said in a press release.

“This was something we put in place during the lockdown, and it has been working well,” Dr. Frett said of the clinics’ digital services offered to chronic care patients. “We were able to keep in touch with our patients and directly engage them in the management of their disease.”

She added that the clinics will continue offering virtual medical services.

People seeking in-person care should call ahead to make an appointment, wear a mask, sanitise their hands and comply with each facility’s social distancing instructions.

“The clinic schedules have been reviewed and revised to ensure that all community needs are met in a safe manner in this the ‘new regular,’” Dr. Frett said.

Burial services

Government also announced changes to how to access burial services amid the pandemic.

People can work with the Ministry of Health and Social Development to secure services in one of two ways.

Funeral homes, with the client’s permission, can handle matters directly. Or clients can email a request for an Application for Burial Form to ministryofhealth@gov.vg and should receive a response within two days.

Clients can receive the needed forms electronically or at the ministry, though they must call ahead at 468-2272.

Eighth case

As of the Beacon’s deadline yesterday afternoon, only one active case remained in the territory. Deputy Premier Carvin Malone announced last Thursday evening that the Caribbean Public Health Agency had confirmed an eighth case of Covid-19.

“Case number eight had been kept under quarantine as a close contact of a previously announced case, and has exhibited only mild symptoms of the disease,” said Mr. Malone, who is also the minister of health and social development. “I am pleased to report that the primary case has now been declared fully recovered.”

CARPHA processed 22 new samples last week, and one came back positive, he said. The findings were consistent with local lab results.

The most recent batch of tests brings the total number of VI residents tested to 157. Of the seven other people diagnosed with Covid-19, six have recovered and one died.

Mr. Malone reminded residents to remain vigilant in working to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Recommended measures include frequent hand washing, remaining six feet apart from others, and wearing a face mask around other people.

“As you go about your daily activities of life and put arrangements in place to welcome relatives home during our phased reopening of the territory’s border, this is not the time to become complacent,” he said.

Government will announce details for making arrangements to bring relatives home shortly, officials have said.

Anyone experiencing symptoms such as fever and difficulty breathing can contact the medical hotline at 852-7650.


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