The travel sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in June, the U.S. Virgin Islands, among other Caribbean islands, announced plans to re-open for the summer season. This week, the U.S. Virgin Islands announced it will be closing the island again to leisure travel for at least one month, starting on Aug. 19 amid a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the territory. The mandate prohibits hotels, Airbnb accommodations, and other short-term rentals from accepting any new reservations for 30 days.
“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,” said Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. in a press conference, according to Travel Daily News.
“The recent infiltration of the virus into our residential institutions that house vulnerable members of our population creates an alarming level of risk. 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.”
Business travelers will still be allowed to make reservations for travel in addition to emergency personnel, government workers, and flight crew members. Local restaurants will also only be able to open for takeout, delivery, or drive-through for the remainder of August.
“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,” Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte tells the Caribbean Journal on the subject stating that is was a “difficult but necessary decision” to make.