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British Overseas Territories: Coronavirus

Question for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

UIN 83907, tabled on 1 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what support the Government provided to British Overseas Territories to help them tackle the effects of the covid-19 pandemic.

Answered on

9 September 2020

The safety and security of those in the British Overseas Territories (OTs) is a UK Government priority. The UK Government has been working with the OTs to support their healthcare systems throughout the pandemic. To date, we have funded, procured and delivered medical supplies to all inhabited OTs (except Pitcairn, which has had no confirmed cases of COVID-19), delivered testing systems to six territories and boosted testing capabilities in three other OTs. The Government has supported OTs' efforts to source and recruit additional medical personnel, and healthcare professionals from Public Health England continue to provide technical advice and guidance. We have also been working closely with the OTs to assess their exposure and resilience to the economic shock caused by the pandemic and are considering requests from territory governments for additional economic support and funding on a case-by-case basis. We are looking to the territories firstly to make full use of their own financial resources in order to address the needs of their citizens. Economic support from the UK Government will be to complement comprehensive local responses, be subject to need, and require good governance.

We have been working with OT Governments to understand the impact of the pandemic on security and have provided in-Territory support in the form of Security Assistance Teams to a small number of OTs. We stand ready to provide additional tailored support as needed and if requested. The UK brought forward the deployment of RFA Argus to provide resilience to some of our most vulnerable OTs in the Caribbean. Since the start of the pandemic, we have worked with territories to arrange flights to the Caribbean and the South Atlantic, flying residents of the OTs home from the UK as well as repatriating British Citizens and other nationalities from the Bahamas, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Cayman Islands and St Helena. We have also repatriated people from Ascension and the Falkland Islands using regular RAF flights. As well as providing access routes in and out for the people of the OTs, we are working to mitigate the problems around transport access caused by the pandemic to minimise shortages in food, fuel and medical supplies. The OTs are facing an unprecedented challenge, and in addition to the urgent assistance already delivered, we will support the territories as they deal with the medium and longer-term economic, public health and other impacts of the pandemic.