Good Morning All! The British Virgin Islands has had a busy week with updates. There have been some great, and maybe not so great, news developments from our neighboring islands.
First, the good news: The BVI reported ZERO cases of COVID-19 yesterday evening! The territory’s stats to date are 70 cases and one death.
In light of this news, the government has given the clear for bars and nightclubs to reopen and has shortened the curfew hours to midnight. Most recently, the imposed curfew was 8PM-5AM.
The new curfew runs 12AM-5AM for 14 days. Additionally, the government has loosened the restrictions on intra-island ferry traffic, allowing them to also operate until curfew time.
The BVI government, after a series of meetings with individual stakeholders in the community, launched a virtual open forum series this week aimed at preparing business owners for the re-opening and asking for their feedback.
The online meetings began on October 6 with owners of private islands, large hotels and resorts in the territory to discuss the plans for their VERY controlled re-opening to tourism on December 1. Last night they followed suit with owners of small hotels, guest houses and villas. The schedule for the rest of the week is as follows:
Premier and Minister responsible for Tourism, Honorable Andrew A. Fahie said of the meeting, “We were able to share our plans with them and welcomed their feedback. We presented a positive and engaging discussion that will be beneficial in enhancing our guest experience during the COVID era while ensuring that safety remains a priority. I look forward to more discussions with our other industry partners because we are in this together.”
So, about that re-opening. It doesn’t sound like any of us will be jumping on a boat to zip over to Jost on December 1. As we reported last month, the BVI has been extremely cautious in their handling of COVID-19 protocol. The territory has been FULLY closed to visitors since March and has only recently begun welcoming work permit holders and part-time residents back.
The December 1 re-opening to tourism will follow this cautionary model and will begin ONLY with the Beef Island airport. Seaports will remain closed until the first phase is successfully completed.
According to an article published by the BVI News on October 7, “Premier Fahie said the BVI’s seaports will remain closed until the government puts proper systems and protocols in place to accommodate visitors who travel by sea.”
Additionally, the testing protocol for flying to the BVI aims to tag visitors with not one, not two, but THREE COVID tests and a four-day quarantine.
This testing protocol is still subject to the approval of the Cabinet and no formal statements from the BVI government have been released as of yet. However, the Premier revealed the preliminary plans in the meeting with stakeholders on October 6 as a means of preparation for the businesses and also outlined it in a radio interview with ZBVI this week.
An article from 284 Media outlines the proposed testing protocol (Read the full article):
- Visitors are required to test 5 days prior to arrival and upload the results to an app BEFORE their flights can be booked.
- Upon arrival, visitors will be tested again.
- After this test, a mandatory four-day quarantine will be enforced.
- At the completion of the quarantine, another test will be administered to clear the guests to move about the territory.
How will they be enforcing the quarantine? Visitors will be required to wear wristbands that will “alert officials of their whereabouts while in the BVI.” Although the wristbands are a means of detecting a guest who is violating quarantine, they will be required to wear the wristbands until they leave the territory.
It remains undefined as to whether or not this quarantine can take place on a boat.
In the radio interview, Premier Fahie said that the territory in most often accessed by its seaports but it is important to re-open the airport first as it is a controlled point of entry.
“Certain lessons we learn from that. We’ll know how to deal with the seaports. Our seaports, as you know, are wide open. So we have to make sure the protocols we put in place for that are close to perfect because we have to ensure that we do not import cases,” Fahie said (As reported by BVI News).
I am sure that there will be plenty more announcements to follow this series of meetings and the announcement of the plans for proposed re-entry protocol. We will be reporting on all of this here, but for real-time announcements from the BVI in regards to travel requirements, visit BVI.gov.