On December 7, 2020, via an update on the re-opening of VI’s Borders, Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) said that while the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport has a good COVID-19 re-opening strategy, the same at the seaports is not satisfactory when plans were put into action.
As such, he said a delayed re-opened will give authorities more time to strengthen the systems to the levels of the airport.
Government had also said it was working on alternative travel arrangements for tourists booked to enter the Virgin Islands via ferry.
The Virgin Islands continues to receive international visitors via the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island.
However, according to Hon Penn, the postponement which was announced less than 12 hours prior to the reopening has now reflected poorly on VI – as a destination and as a brand.
“What we are observing right now represents [a] failure to present a workable plan that finds the right equilibrium to protect the lives of our citizens and the many Virgin Islands businesses and employees that depend so heavily on Tourism, businesses that are virtually on life support right now. The livelihood of these persons are at stake and they can ill-afford these false starts,” Penn noted.
The Premier had said, however, that while he knows it is tough to defer the re-opening and apologised for the move, he said he cannot risk re-opening the borders knowing that systems are not 100% right, which he says can put the people of the territory at risk.
Many countries relying on tourism has had to shut down after reopening, due to COVID-19 spikes. Puerto Rico, for example, on Thursday, December 3, 2020, announced stricter measures to fight COVID-19, including a lockdown on Sundays and the closure of all marinas as the US territory grapples with an increase in cases and deaths.
“COVID-19 doesn’t call for you to be 99% right, COVID calls for you to be 100% correct and in the areas where the percentages are lower than in the 90%, in school 85% would still be a good grade, but that is not enough for COVID-19,” Premier Fahie had reasoned.
The Road Town Ferry Terminal will begin receiving international travellers from January 21, 2021.
Hon Penn underscored; however, that while he acknowledged a lot of the groundwork has been put in by the Government, along with the many hard-working Public Officers, he said many areas are still in need of work.
Hon Fahie has also maintained that the VI's COVID-19 strategies remain fluid and subject to re-adjustments. He also said that certain areas of the VI’s marine sectors will re-open as the administration works out kinks; however, those areas will be open subject to approval.
The Premier had also made it clear that borders are still open outside of the deferred opening of the marine sector, and that the territory is opened to visitors via the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.
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