The British Virgin Islands continues to experience a rapidly increasing number of COVID infections since the latest outbreak started two weeks ago.
Within a week, the number of active cases has increased from 480 to 1,147. Two people have died and four are in intensive care.
Of the 5,692 tests carried out between 3 and 9 July, 17% were positive, suggesting a much larger number of active unverified cases in the community.
The territory’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ronald Georges, said in a statement on 12 July that “the BVI has seen exponential growth in active cases with a trend of increasing number of daily reports of new cases”.
Although that trend has stabilised, he expects large numbers of new cases for several more days.
“I must appeal to everyone’s understanding that the BVI is now in an advanced state of community transmission and therefore all persons are presently at risk of contracting COVID-19,” he said.
The BVI government has instituted a night-time curfew, closed certain establishments like bars and gyms, and imposed social-distancing restrictions on other businesses.
Given the extent of the outbreak, contact tracing has become irrelevant, the chief medical officer said, adding that everyone must take urgent and immediate steps to limit their exposure to stop the spread of the virus.
While testing is important, Georges said, it is less important than social distancing and getting vaccinated.
Of the 18 hospitalisations for COVID since 4 July, 17 of those patients were unvaccinated.
The BVI’s national epidemiologist, Harmony Massiah, at a press briefing last week, projected that if current trends persisted, the BVI could see as many as 5,500 cases in the next two weeks.
She said most positive cases affected younger people, with many falling ill and displaying more severe symptoms than in previous outbreaks.
Massiah also pointed to a troubling trend that many people who are sick were unwilling to seek medical treatment.
The epidemiologist said the territory’s low vaccination rate at this stage meant the BVI was unlikely to reach herd immunity.
Premier Andrew Fahie last week urged everyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to get tested and take the necessary precautions so that they do not pass it on to children, the elderly and the vulnerable in their homes and communities.
He said his government was “extremely concerned about the increasing rate of infections” in the Virgin Islands.
“COVID-19 is not playing around with us and we must not play around with COVID-19,” Fahie said.