British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Jun 19, 2021

Reopening the borders of the VI- A different perspective

Reopening the borders of the VI- A different perspective

The current administration under Premier, the Honourable Andrew A. Fahie , has done a phenomenal job of containing COVID-19 to achieving a zero-infection rate in the Virgin Islands (VI). This proves that the aggressive containment strategy employed by the current administration is indeed calculated, and the only thing necessary at this point is to continue enforcing this functional system to maintain the current results.

Now that coronavirus is contained in the VI, economic resurrection stands before us. This can be very easy as it can be seriously difficult. While reasonable requirements must be in place, it is common-sense to simplify developmental processes making them user-friendly and accessible to EVERYONE within the territory, which will automatically boost development.

It must be cost effective for visitors to travel to the territory for a vacation, not worrying about the excessive per person costs for quarantine and monitoring plus all else, when most all of us have been affected by layoffs, job-cuts and even unemployment.

The fact is, where processing becomes prohibitive and expensive, development is restricted. Where development is restricted, the economy will eventually collapse, and where the economy is in shambles, taxation becomes the next best option for government to secure revenue. The crux of the matter is this: Where there is little taxation, there is always a good quality of life for everyone, but where there is heavy taxation, there is poverty!

Reopening the borders

Reopening the borders of the VI is a highly anticipated event, and while some may be negative about this, there is hope that the economic gridlock created by unwarranted COVID-19 lockdowns will disappear, and the indiscriminate hardship currently experienced by many will be averted.

It is clear that we have been operating out of fear since the coronavirus pandemic began; however, we are now at the place where we must redeem ourselves by embarking a new economic strategy while protecting ourselves and our families. I am sure the VI now has enough experience to move forward regardless of COVID-19, given the well-established capacity to keep the infection rate at zero.

If the current strategies have working flawlessly to keep us all safe, we simply need to stick to our guns while we expand the capacity to manage more COVID-19 cases if we seriously intend to reopen the territory. Let’s face it… there will be imported COVID-19 infections regardless of how expert we are at keeping our local numbers low! The world is infected! Therefore, there is no need to be alarmed! Simply bulletproof the current functional system, and the same results will be maintained.

The concerns

The border reopening plan and COVID-19 protocols as presented by Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1) have already cancelled many vacation bookings due to revealed increased measures, leaving the hotel industry in continued limbo.

The Premier said all arriving passengers would be required to have obtained prior approval to enter the territory and would have agreed to abide by certain terms and conditions before boarding their flight.

These terms and conditions include periods of quarantine at approved accommodation, PCR testing (one before and three while in the territory), medical travel insurance that includes COVID-19 coverage, subscription to a contact tracing system through their mobile phone, and in some cases using a wearable device, and bearing the costs associated with these measures. Additionally, the eight-day quarantine and testing plan leaves room for infections in that asymptomatic infections may not show signs before fourteen days… or so we are told.

The point is, while ‘safety first’ is common sense and must be enforced and maintained, government should aim at establishing entry procedures which are more user-friendly and cost effective to the visitor given that there is a local system already in place which is operating excellently. From what we are seeing, while safety should be enforced, entry should be strategically less cumbersome.

Secondly, the proposed eight-day plan carries concerns in that the incubation period for COVID-19, which is the time between exposure to the virus (becoming infected) and symptom onset, is on average five to six days. However, this can be up to fourteen days. During this period, also known as the “pre-symptomatic” period, some infected persons can be contagious.

This is what we were told. Therefore, allowing visitors to move about under any condition before the expiration of a fourteen-day quarantine period could be risky. This place the eight-day plan in a questionable light.

It is therefore safe to conclude that the proposed protocols are not only stress inducing but could also be financially burdensome to the visitor. While we all agree that we must take the necessary steps to maintain a zero-infection rate, visitors will shy away from a vacation if the procedures are stressful and the cost is high. Let us therefore create a stress-free process for our visitors as all they need is to go through the regular quarantine and testing period, then released into the territory to relax and unwind after a harassing, uncertain experience.

Please note: Testing can be reduced to two PCR tests in that three cost four hundred and five dollars per person, a tracking brace costs one hundred and fifty dollars per person, totaling five hundred and fifty-five dollars plus quarantine costs per person where private isolation spaces are not available. This can be burdensome and should be examined.

We cannot follow everything everyone else does, neither can we blame hotels for making reservations before protocols are announced. Businesses trust government to make the best economic decisions, and where this is not the case, business becomes meaningless. We must therefore learn from the mistakes of others while pursuing that which works for us!

Many visitors like locals and immigrants have had job cutbacks, salary reductions, and many may even be currently unemployed and simply need a little getaway to pull themselves together. Therefore, while we must ensure that bullet proof protocols are in place to protect our nation, let’s not be penny wise and pound foolish.

Let’s ease the burden on visitors by making visits user-friendly, affordable and stress-free in the best interest of the local tourist industry. Please note that every tourist is searching for a good deal! Where the deals are great and requirements reasonable, and where the local COVID-19 protection system remains functional and the infection rate low, visitors will always keep coming back all year round regardless of COVID. Our local businesses will again begin to thrive while we all cautiously live and work with COVID-19.

Please see Premier Andrew A. Fahie’s presentation at this link.


Related Articles

British Virgin Islands