Premier and Finance Minister Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1) said the amendments were made following feedback from the industry stakeholders and health officials.
“In considering all the facts, all the information, and the advice received, Cabinet met on Wednesday 1st September 2021 and agreed to a revised policy for amending the arrival testing requirement for cruise tourism. In arriving at the revised policy, your government has consulted with stakeholders, and we have considered the practical aspects as well as customer experience which is critical for successful operation of our tourism industry,” he declared during a live press conference on Friday, September 3, 2021.
He said the Cabinet decided on September 1, 2021, as follows: (a.) to amend statutory instrument no.67 of 2021 COVID-19 Control and Suppression Entry of Persons no.3 amendment 12th June 2021, to remove the requirement for rapid testing for fully vaccinated cruise ship passengers and crew visiting the territory for less than 24 hours, subject to enhanced COVID-19 protocols including passengers bubbles and enhanced COVID-19 monitoring and enforcement.
He also said that there would be a task force headed by the Director of Tourism to develop, implement and enforce a cruise ship bubble operation plan and to report its contents to Cabinet in one week.
Hon Fahie said another area approved by Cabinet was for passengers to operate within and outside bubbles.
He said cruise passengers and crew members, who are fully vaccinated and have produced a negative rapid test within 24 hours of arrival in the Virgin Islands, would not be subject to the bubble protocol and would be allowed to move freely within the territory.
“Cabinet also agreed that cruise ship passengers wishing not to be part of the bubble and be allowed to move freely within the territory would be subject to an approved rapid test with results available within five minutes,” he said.
As a matter of precaution, Premier Fahie said Cabinet decided that all cruise ships, prior to entering the VI and being cleared to berth at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park (CBRTPP) or any other designated anchorage at one of the sister islands must report any passengers onboard the ship who are ill, especially with COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive prior to arrival.
He said the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA), the BVI Tourist Board (BVITB), the Taxi and Livery Commission, Environmental Health Division, along with other government agencies, will be tasked to ensure that all government protocols are adhered to by all disembarking passengers, taxi operators, all business operators especially those at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park.
He noted that the BVITB, in collaboration with the BVIPA, must develop and implement a vigorous public relations campaign to heighten the vigilance of the public and to keep them informed.
The territory’s leader said another Cabinet decision was in the area of bi-weekly testing for frontline workers.
These workers include all taxi operators and businesses, and government agencies that interact with the passengers and crews of the ships who participated in the bubble or free flow.
He said the government will pay for the rapid tests for an initial three-month period.
Hon Fahie said Cabinet also agreed that the Ministry of Health and Social Development instruct the Attorney General Chambers to draft the amendment to statutory instrument no.67 of 2021 COVID-19 Control and Suppression entry of persons no. 3 amendment.