Level 1, the lowest level, indicates that “all travellers should wear a mask, avoid crowds, stay at least 6 feet from people who are not travelling with you, wash your hands often or use hand sanitiser, and watch your health for signs of illness,” according to the CDC on Monday, March 15, 2021.
The VI, Montserrat, Saba and St Eustatius are the only Caribbean islands with zero active COVID-19 cases.
The other Caribbean countries at Level 1 are Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Saba, Saint Kitts and Nevis and St Eustatius.
Thanks to proactive and decisive COVID-19 containment and suppression measures by the Andrew A. Fahie-led Government, the [British] Virgin Islands is not only free of active cases of COVID-19 but is now enjoying a Level 1 rating for travel by the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) is among twenty-one (21) Caribbean countries and territories considered to be in the highest risk group by the CDC, which continues to advise against non-essential travel to more than 200 other locations around the globe.
Level 4 COVID-19 advisory indicates that travellers should avoid all travel to the following Caribbean countries and territories: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands, and US Virgin Islands.
The Bahamas and Montserrat are the two only Caribbean Islands listed at Level 3 which indicates that travellers should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations.
Level 2 countries are Bermuda, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago and, according to the CDC, travellers at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic the Virgin Islands Government led by Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) took necessary measures to protect the people of the Virgin Islands from the virus.
Measures included border closure, travel bans, restriction of mass gatherings, social distancing measures, mandatory mask-wearing, curfews, and 24-hour lockdown once the virus entered the territory.
Early on a coronavirus and stability task force was also established to make recommendations and advice on the economic sustainability of the territory over a six-month period. The objective was to address the possible economic challenges people may encounter as a result of the measures.
A $62.9M COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Plan was then rolled in May 2020 by Government to assist businesses and residents affected by the pandemic.
The VI had to find its own money to finance its stimulus package after the UK, when approached by the VI for a grant to assist persons made employed or placed on reduced working hours due to the pandemic, told the VI to use its own funds.
A major accomplishment for the Government was being able to outfit the Dr D. Orlando Smith Hospital Laboratory with the capacity to do COVID-19 testing, eliminating the need to depend solely on tests results from Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad and Tobago.
Once the VI was able to effectively manage the spread of the virus, it began easing travel restrictions and in December 2020, it began receiving international travellers via Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.
There were calls in some quarters for the VI to also rush to reopen its seaports but the VI Government decided against that since the USVI and Puerto Rico were still struggling to effectively manage their COVID-19 situation.
Added to that, the Government needed more time to prepare the ports to receive international travellers in a safe and efficient way.
April 15, 2021, is the latest date given for the reopening of the seaports for international operations.
Currently, the Virgin Islands has embarked on a COVID-19 vaccination programme, with AstraZeneca vaccines received from the UK and 2000 doses from COVAX through an initiative of the VI Government.
According to the latest update from Government on March 11, 2021, the VI recorded 154 active cases of COVID-19, 153 recoveries and 1 death.
More than 26,230 samples have been tested at the Dr D. Orlando Smith Hospital Laboratory.
Meanwhile, the CDC has advised that “all air passengers travelling to the United States, including US citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States.”
“Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation travelling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and bus or rail stations,” the CDC added.