On 25th March 2020 the BVI government made the announcement that the whole of the territory was going on a 24 hour lockdown due to the Corona-virus outbreak for one week starting from 27th March to April 2nd. All supermarkets, pharmacies, doctors surgeries and banks were closed completely for the duration and we were not allowed to leave our homes. There were two known cases of the virus which had been imported onto the island so they weren’t taking their chances of the virus spreading further. We were told the people who had the virus had been quarantined immediately so there shouldn’t be too much concern of the virus spreading, however precautionary measures were to be put in place. Instructions were given to the communities such as the medical hotlines should you feel symptoms of the virus coming on, medical numbers for emergencies and waste and household management etc.
We decided as a family that the best place to be on lockdown would be on one of our companies catamarans. The boat felt so much more spacious than our apartment, we could spend more time outdoors and we would be able to swim around the boat. We packed up a few personal items and provisions from home and moved down to the dock. We asked if a friend would mind taking care of Ben for the week, which he was happy to do for us and the two of them moved into a friends house on one of the neighboring islands.
For the first week our days went by quickly. We cooked, played games, had sundowners at 5pm, swam and were busy keeping the kids entertained. We would get daily updates from the BVI government via Facebook as to what was going on and I must say it felt a little war like waiting for regular broadcasts through the Blitz.
On March 30th news came that there was a third imported case of the virus, but the person was again put straight in quarantine and as of yet there was no known evidence of local transmission.
March 31st we were told due to the third case of Covid-19 on the island the 24 hour curfew was to be extended at the end of the week for a further two weeks. Measures were put in place so we could shop and stock up on provisions for another 14 days. We were told we had 3 days to shop and this would be done alphabetically by surname. Police would be monitoring the roads and checking ID’s prior to entering the food stores.
Even though it wasn’t our name day Gavin managed to take a drive down to our local store as I was desperately running out of baby formula and I was worried it would all have been bought by the time our day came around. News of people’s shopping experiences from the first day were spreading over social media and images of people queuing down the streets for up to 5 or 6 hours as limited persons were allowed in the stores at any one time looked horrendous. I can honestly say I wasn’t looking forward to our outing at all.
Our day had finally come and Gavin and I got the girls ready for a little outing as they were also fed up of being stuck in one place and we hit the streets. The first local store we came across had a line of about 6 people. Gavin put on his mask and went to join the queue. It hadn’t moved in about 20 minutes so we decided to push on and see how we got on elsewhere. We made a few pit stops along the way, running in and out of various places that seemed quieter than most, put on our masks and remembered to wash our hands thoroughly with hand sanitiser before getting back into the car. We had a drive across the island just to get away from the boat and to see what the situation was looking like at the main store in town. People were again queuing for miles down the street at every store possible in the blazing heat, it was insane. Thankfully we only really needed a few essentials as we had grabbed a few bags of pasta, rice and lentils etc on our last shopping trip and we thought we would be able to make it another 2 weeks on what we already had. We also didn’t want to risk catching the virus in one of the larger stores. We swung via the house to check everything was OK there and grabbed a few more personal items, such as toys for the kids. It seemed some kind person knew we weren’t in the house and decided to take our gas bottle from outside our front door. It had only been a week and items were already getting taken/borrowed without permission…
We weren’t out long before we were tired of driving around aimlessly just to get away from the boat so we decided to head back to base.
Into the second week and we started to bake, make up scavenger hunts for the kids around the boat, got the paddling pool out, made a swing for Lena as she was desperate to get to the park, had Skype calls with family and friends and fished to keep our food stocks supplied. Gav’s dad became the watchman and informed us of any movement in the bay, watching who the marine police were checking up on and kept a look out for any new arrivals or departures.
We got ourselves into a daily routine, waking up between 6-7am, had breakfast, did some morning exercise, got creative with the kids whether it be baking or playing with paints and colouring in. We would have lunch and an afternoon nap. Once we woke we would have an afternoon swim, endless games of cards, a sundowner and enjoy dinner in the evenings.
Midway through the first week we had our first medical emergency. Gav’s dad has a pre-existing health issue and was in need of medication urgently. We made contact with the hospital pharmacy and a few doctors who needed to understand his condition and who would be willing to write out a prescription for him. We finally found a doctor wanting to help and we had medication delivered direct to the boat later that afternoon. The service was incredible and we were thankful he could get the drugs he needed.
We decided to write up a food plan for the 14 days so we didn’t overuse or waste any items as we starting to run out of a few essentials. A couple of the guys on the boats in the marina managed to get flights home and told us we could have their food supplies which were leftover and we were so happy to score some lobster and other frozen goods from them. Gavin also managed to barter 10 cartons of milk for a bottle of vodka to keep everyone happy with their coffee addiction in the mornings.
Days were getting long and nights were even longer. It was starting to feel like groundhog day. I was personally starting to crack a little and had the odd day or two in a real slump and couldn’t wait for this lockdown to be over.
Into the second week we had another medical matter. I had made delicious beef burgers with the softest buns for dinner one evening. That night Gav’s mum took a bite into the burger and her front tooth came out with it. We all had a good laugh at granny’s expense, and it definitely lightened the mood around the camp. We then had to find a dentist who would be willing to help out so she could have her veneer put back in place. A dentist responded and gave Debbie a pass to go and visit her the following day for treatment. Whilst his parents had a pass they managed to top our fresh water supply of drinking water up at the roadside water machines which we were so grateful for.
You could see a few of the cruisers in the bay were starting to get a little claustrophobic and running out of supplies. We had a few visitors come to our boat looking for basic essentials, but I think they really just came by for a chat as they were lonely by themselves.
Midway through the second week the government had announced a strategy for a soft curfew which would be beginning on 20th April. It was getting so exciting that we could finally be released, if only to go to the shops and buy some new supplies or go for a walk down the street.
We were counting down the days, when news broke via social media that there was a possible new case of Covid-19 on the island. This now meant there must have been island spread as boarders had been closed to visitors for almost a month now. Everybody waited in anticipation for the next government announcement. When it finally came we were told the news. There was indeed a further Covid-19 case on the island and the unsuspected victim had unfortunately passed away from the virus. There were several more tests carried out on the people who the recent victim was living with and we awaited further results. Further to this announcement was the news that our 24hr lockdown would be extended for a further 7 days. This time nobody would be allowed out to shop. The only way residents were able to get food was to order online or if families had no money, they needed to wait for the government handout to be delivered to their home.
We placed a food order on Sunday 19th April with one of the major food stores. Thankfully we were not completely out of food, but provisions were definitely running low, especially for the kids. As the week passed with no arrival of the order in sight, I was getting a little worried about running out of formula for the baby. We heard one of the local stores had just had a new delivery of stock and we should take a risk and head down there to stock up. Gavin took a drive to the local store and managed to get us some fresh veggies and extra supplies for the baby. When he returned to the boat it was like Christmas. We were all so excited for our goodies. He told us he should have gone earlier as it seems the locals in the area had already raided the store.
Rumour had it another new case had been recorded on the island over the last week. We eagerly awaited our next government announcement to see what news they had for us. On Friday 24th April we were told there was another case confirmed on the island, but plans were to go ahead with the soft curfew beginning on Monday 27th April. Supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and other essentials stores would be able to open, exercise was allowed, but beaches were still closed and masks must be worn at all times. The new curfew hours would be from 1pm to 6am, meaning we were allowed out of our homes for 7hrs each day. This would continue for the next 14 days
On Saturday 25th our original food order finally arrived, almost a week late. The stores had been so overwhelmed with 200 orders per day piling into their systems and volunteers had also been using the supermarkets stock to fill 1500 government packages for the needy each day. It was so nice to see the cupboards well stocked and we were happy we didn’t need to make a trip to the stores again anytime soon.
Our final day of the 24hr lockdown came. As we awoke there was a much happier aura in the air. The feeling of even the smallest amount of freedom was incredible and was much needed to gain some sanity back. We were notified that supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurants (for takeout only) had been re-opened pending an initial inspection from the government.
However, new guidelines had been put in place should you leave your property. You must wear a mask if there is more than one person traveling in a vehicle, you must wear a mask if you enter a supermarket. You must sanitize your hands before entering the store and only a maximum number of people allowed in any of the above establishments at one time. You must wait outside and queue, keeping a 6 foot distance from the person next to you and no social gatherings exceeding 20 persons.
Each morning Gavin and I woke to go for a short run/swim or to do some exercise on the dock to burn up some energy for the day. We managed to catch up with a few friends and took a trip or two into town. The novelty of the lighter curfew for me was soon lost as town runs were miserable adhering to these new rules. Wearing masks in the blazing heat and standing in queues in the scorching sun was not my idea of fun. So, low and behold we decided to spend most of our days still cooped up on the boat.
Curfews lifted week by week and we were gradually allowed out later and later. However the hospitality industry is still on hold due to visitors not being allowed to enter the territory until September. So for now we are still out of work and waiting to see what the future holds for us.
The government of the British Virgin Islands in my opinion did an extremely good job at keeping their territory safe thus far and it has been wonderful to see how the residents abided by the law and managed to stay indoors for a whole month. Even though the curfew has been lifted, I just hope the virus manages to stay under control and life can get back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible.