The Falklands Government, FIG, and the British Forces South Atlantic Islands, BFSAI, given the current pandemic situation in the Islands, announced on Friday the lifting of travel restrictions between Stanley and Mount Pleasant Complex.
On Friday also FIG eased restrictions for high risk vulnerable individuals, hospitality businesses, cinema and play parks. Follows the official joint release:
Executive Council has today (Friday 19th June) approved the lifting of travel restrictions between MPC and Stanley, in recognition of the present COVID-19 situation in the Falkland Islands.
Restrictions relating to MPC personnel or those having visited MPC will also be lifted in respect of FIGAS and Workboat Services.
This decision is based on the assessment that there is no evidence that COVID-19 is currently present in the Islands, and that it is now appropriate to remove the restrictions.
As of Friday 19 June, for both FIG and BFSAI, there have been 981 tests; this includes surveillance swabbing undertaken over the past two weeks, during which there were no positive results for COVID-19. It is now over 50 days since a positive case.
This positive-free testing period was also a precondition for the further easing of restrictions by FIG from today for high-risk vulnerable individuals, hospitality businesses, cinema, and play parks. BFSAI have their own arrangements in place for MPC.
High-risk individuals should feel confident to finally be able to enjoy meeting friends and family without concern. If anyone feels anxious, overwhelmed or apprehensive about the easing of the restrictions, please contact the KEMH for help, guidance and support.
The Chief Medical Officer has advised that the current risk of COVID-19 is considered to be almost nil and legal advice from the Attorney General confirms there is no longer any justification for limiting travel.
Executive Council has noted that the Government will continue to provide relevant guidance about social distancing and good public health practices, as these remain important precautions should a case of COVID-19 occur. To be clear, in addition to social distancing the suite of measures aimed to help control any potential spread of the virus includes strict hand and cough/sneeze hygiene, staying home and contacting the KEMH if you feel unwell with flu like symptoms, and ongoing surveillance swabbing.
It is also noted that FIG and BFSAI have the ability to reintroduce restrictions swiftly if required.
BFSAI welcomes the release of movement restrictions this weekend. BFSAI will be maintaining a number of measures inside the base, primarily to maintain operational output, but also to help transition to the new normal.
In keeping with this message, BFSAI is keen to allow some space for the residents this weekend; as such, effort will be made to minimize military visitors to Stanley.
Of course, those friends and family on the Islands separated as a result of travel measures will be able to reunite. Furthermore, BFSAI Contract Management will be informed that their staff can resume commuting, as necessary.
Going forward, there is a great deal of further discussion needed within BFSAI to smooth the path to normalcy and BFSAI will capture these matters next week. Quarantine and surveillance swabbing will continue as planned.
Warning of winter conditions in MPC road
The Royal Falkland Islands Police remind people who may not have used the MPC road for some time to take special care in the winter conditions. Transport and taxi operators should remain mindful of FIG guidance around COVID-19 precautions.
Both BFSAI and FIG wish to recognize the support from individuals and businesses in both communities who accepted the restrictions as being for the good of the wider community, despite the inconvenience and difficulties caused. These and other measures have undoubtedly assisted the Islands in reaching today’s position.
Executive Council has also noted that entry into the Islands at both the air and sea border remains the greatest risk and robust quarantine arrangements of both FIG and BFSAI are therefore key protective factors.
Also, testing backed up by effective contact tracing is essential to controlling any virus spread. Surveillance swabbing will continue in both communities.
With today’s relaxation of restrictions by FIG on high-risk vulnerable individuals, hospitality businesses, the cinema, and the use of play parks, the Government and Members of the Legislative Assembly thank all those members of the public and business community for their co-operation, patience and goodwill during the past three months.
The KEMH is now in a position to undertake the first round of SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing, looking for antibodies to this virus which causes COVID-19 disease.
Members of the public who would like to have an antibody test taken can contact the KEMH between 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday through to Friday, this coming week only, and leave their name and contact telephone number with the receptionist.
A member of the clinical team will then contact the patient to discuss the reasons for requesting the antibody test and the suitability of undertaking the test.
If a test is considered appropriate, you will be given a date and time for an appointment for the blood sample to be taken.
West and Islands transfer of suspected COVID-19 patients
FIG have been working with Workboat Services Ltd to formulate a plan for transferring potentially infected COVID-19 patients from West Falkland and the Islands to the KEMH in Stanley.
WBS has confirmed that in life-critical situations it is possible for a patient to be transferred on the deck of the Concordia Bay.
In the case of West Falkland, the procedure would be that a patient who was unwell with COVID-19 symptoms would be assessed by a medical practitioner (likely attending via FIGAS) and if transfer was deemed appropriate, the patient would then need to travel to the ferry head on West Falkland.
There they would be transferred into an ambulance and travel across Falkland Sound in the vehicle, with a member of the medical staff.
Work is ongoing to explore options for transportation in similar circumstances from the Islands to Stanley via Concordia Bay.
This would involve an 'isolation pod' on the deck, with a medical team. The transport pod option is currently being developed, with a view to agreeing a solution in the near future. In both situations, good weather is essential for the crossings.
FIGAS cannot be used to move potential COVID-19 patients.