COVID-19 Prompts US Virgin Islands to Close Borders

U.S. Virgin Islands is the latest tourism-reliant Caribbean nation to join global efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 by closing its air and sea borders to visitors. The popular land and cruise vacation destination will bar visitors for 30 days beginning March 25, said Albert Bryan, the territory’s governor.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, including the main islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix have 17 confirmed positive cases and “more expected from pending tests,” said Bryan said. The decision to close the territory’s ports rests with the federal government, he adds.

However “The Administration’s move to prohibit visitor arrivals will help minimize the potential impact of the novel coronavirus on vulnerable members of the Virgin Islands community,” Bryan said in a statement.

Beginning Wednesday hotels, resorts, guest houses, bed-and-breakfasts, home-sharing accommodations and charter vessels may not accept new reservations. The government is advising travelers who have recently checked into hotels and resorts to return home, but they may remain in the territory if they choose.

Bryan also ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, including bars and restaurants (excluding take-out service). Residents are also directed to stay at home. Emergency management personnel, overnighting flight crews and officials responding to the COVID-19 crisis are exempt from the restrictions.

Travelers who booked vacations visiting the territory through April 25 should contact respective travel partners regarding cancellation policies, said Joseph Boschulte, the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism commissioner.

“We are working closely with the U.S.V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association to encourage travelers to postpone – not cancel – their visit,” he said. Although “[COVID-19] mitigation strategies [are] of paramount importance at this time,” discussions continue with airline and cruise industry partners “as the Territory prepares for its post-pandemic recovery,” Boschulte added.

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