British Virgin Islands bans cruise ships, closes Tortola cruise port
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On March 14th, citing the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, the Government of the Virgin Islands announced the immediate closure of the Tortola cruise port, allowing no cruise ships to call on the territory for a 30 day period in an effort to protect the Territory from potential contamination. At present there are no confirmed cases in the islands.
Also, the number of international ports of entry into the British Virgin Islands (BVI) have been limited to facilitate the effective screening of passengers. The three ports that remain open are Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, Road Town and West End Ferry Terminals, and one cargo port of entry – Port Purcell. The entry of passengers and crew members who have traveled to, from or through COVID- 19 affected countries as specified in a list of countries of special interest within a period of 14 days or less, will not be allowed. Additionally, the entry of passengers and crew members who have traveled to, from or through COVID-19 affected countries classified as a high-risk country within a period of 14 days or less immediately preceding their arrival in the territory, will be subject to advanced screening procedures and may be quarantined for a period of up to 14 days based on the outcome of the risk assessment.
Locally, any mass gatherings or festivals that were scheduled to take place in the BVI during the next month will be postponed until further notice. This includes the 2020 BVI Spring Regatta, scheduled for March 30 – April 5, and the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival scheduled for April 11-13.
“After extensive consideration, the British Virgin Islands made the prudent decision to put stringent measures in place to temporarily enhance the protocols for entry into the Territory until April 13,” said Honourable Andrew A. Fahie, Premier, Minister of Finance & Minister responsible for Tourism. “It is imperative that we prioritize our limited resources to safeguard our residents and our guests. Tourism is our mainstay and it is important that we take measures to ensure our long-term sustainability.”
Premier Fahie continued, “Our tourism industry has faced many crises before, from natural disasters to epidemics, and we have always come out strong on the other side. After much anticipation, we are at the start of a big celebratory year as many of our beloved resort products are finally reopening following extensive rebuilding. We also expect this summer to be busy in the BVI with rerouting of cruises and airline service in and out of the Caribbean.”
The public is reminded to take all necessary precautions against contracting the coronavirus. The risk can be reduced by implementing personal protective measures, such as frequent hand washing, covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory illnesses.