The BVI has been given until tomorrow, September 2 to decide whether it will accept vaccinated cruise passengers without administering additional COVID-19 tests upon their arrival in the territory.
The current protocols require all fully vaccinated persons coming into the territory to take a rapid antigen test upon arrival at the territory’s ports of entry.
“Now, we have up until I think it’s Thursday to respond to the industry or we would lose the industry in terms of most of it for the rest of the season and perhaps next year. That is the long and short of it,” Premier Andrew Fahie disclosed in blunt terms during a Transportation-For-Hire Industry Meeting held with taxi drivers and other stakeholders last evening.
After being asked to reconsider the current regime, the Premier said he pleaded for extra time to consult with stakeholders before coming to a decision on the matter, hence the consultation session held last evening.
Commenting on the abrupt nature of the meeting and decision, the Premier said: “We didn’t get much time with it. In case you’re wondering, how come now they come, we didn’t get much time with it. We have to make a decision.”
The territory’s leader said the health sector has put forward solutions but the government thought it best to consult with stakeholders first before implementing any of those proposals.
The Premier further noted that doing nothing was not an option and urged the stakeholders to “come together for a common cause and balance lives and livelihoods”.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority, Oleanvine Maynard revealed that cruise lines felt the BVI’s entry testing regime was impractical.
According to officials in the cruise industry, precious hours will be wasted for hundreds or even thousands of passengers to be tested after only arriving for a day stop in the BVI.
Furthermore, they said the physical space and shelter to administer the tests are not available at the BVI’s cruise pier.
Maynard described the BVI’s situation as complex and added that having health and safety protocols in place is important, but said these must be workable.
Marketing Director at the BVI Port Authority, Natasha Chalwell said the BVI is one of the only Caribbean destinations with testing protocols that prohibit the free flow of passengers.
“So, as we look at safety protocols, we have to look at that customer experience. But essentially, what the cruise lines have said to us, because that protocol is just really not practical for time, for finances, for the guest experience. Unfortunately, they will just choose other ports or other destinations. And within our region, we’re not seeing many destinations or ports with that particular requirement. So, they will go next door,” Chalwell said.
Stakeholders held robust discussions on various options such as a bubble for visitors and periodic COVID-19 testing for industry stakeholders among other mitigating measures.