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Friday, April 19, 2024
HomeNewsLocal governmentUSVI Puts Brakes on Leisure Travel to Battle COVID-19 Spike

USVI Puts Brakes on Leisure Travel to Battle COVID-19 Spike

Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte defends his department's budget before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday. (Photo from USVI Legislature)
Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte (Photo from USVI Legislature)

In an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the U.S. Virgin Islands is closing its doors once again to leisure visitors for a period of at least one month.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced Thursday that the territory will revert to the “Stay at Home” (Orange alert) phase of its COVID-19 response, for the next two weeks, at which time it will be reevaluated.

According to the territory’s chief executive, on Monday, Aug. 17, all non-essential businesses and churches are ordered to cease operations, and the public, including non-essential public sector workers, is ordered to stay at home.

Effective immediately, hotels, villas, Airbnb accommodations, guest houses, temporary vacation housing, charter vessels and similar businesses have been ordered not to accept or book any new reservations for 30 days. As of Wednesday, Aug. 19, accommodation providers are barred from admitting or checking-in any guests for 30 days unless the order is lifted sooner.

Reservations may only be accepted for business travelers, flight crews, emergency personnel and government workers, with written authorization from the relevant government agency they are visiting.

Virgin Islanders in the territory and abroad are encouraged to travel only for urgent matters to help limit the contagion into and out of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Beginning Monday, Aug. 17, and lasting until Aug. 31 unless lifted earlier, all restaurants in the territory can offer only take-out, delivery or drive-thru service. All bars, nightclubs and cabarets are to remain closed as long as the territory remains in a state of emergency.

“When we announced our COVID-19 alert system in May, I indicated at that time that we would retreat … to a more cautious state of alert if conditions warranted. Unfortunately, we have arrived at that point this week,” the governor said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

“The recent infiltration of the virus into our residential institutions that house vulnerable members of our population creates an alarming level of risk,” Bryan said. “This adds to the stress of the ongoing pandemic response that seemingly has no end in sight and is wearing out our health care and public safety infrastructure.”

St. Thomas residents who recently tested positive at a seniors’ residential facility have been reported to be asymptomatic or displaying only mild symptoms.

As of Thursday, there were 682 positive cases, 197 of which were active and 476 recovered. Nine deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

There has been a miraculous recovery of note – a visiting patient, who was sick and stranded at sea while working aboard a cargo ship. The Filipino sailor, who spent five weeks in a medically induced coma, underwent 12 weeks of treatment at the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital’s COVID-19 unit before being repatriated to his native Philippines COVID-free.

“We appreciate the concerns of our tourism partners and stakeholders, however, with the recent spike in cases we are seeing, especially in the St. Thomas-St. John District, we must reset, take stock, safeguard human life and prepare for restarting our tourism economy at a later date,” said Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, as he spoke about the difficult but necessary decision.

Visitors or residents who have tourism-related inquiries are asked to email info@usviupdate.com or call the department’s toll-free number at (800) 372-USVI (8784).

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