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COVID-19 Prompts US Virgin Islands to Close Borders

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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.

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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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WTTC Unveils Safe Travels Protocols for Airlines, Tour Operators and More

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The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled a new round of safety measures aimed at airlines, airports, tour operators and meeting and event organizers in an effort to propel the post-COVID-19 recovery.

WTTC previously released its Safe Travels protocols for the hospitality sector as well as outdoor retail businesses.

Developed following close consultation with WTTC members such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Emirates Group and Etihad, among others, guidance for the aviation industry includes enhanced cleaning procedures, personal protective equipment (PPE) and retraining for staff, signage to limit interaction and queuing at touchpoints and the implementation of more contactless processes.

WTTC is also recommending that airlines limit movement within the cabin as much as possible by boarding passengers from the back of the plane to the front and from the window seats out to the aisle seats.

“COVID-19 is a gamechanger for the travel and tourism sector, requiring us to enhance our approach to health and safety to protect our travelers and workforce,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO at IATA, in a statement. “Aviation is the business of freedom and it is vital to enable its restart on a safe basis. IATA is delighted to lend its framework and collaborate with WTTC on the Aviation Protocols as part of its Safe Travels initiative. This is an excellent example of the industry solidarity and cooperation that will be so vital to ensuring a strong recovery for travel and tourism.”

Meanwhile, tour operators are being asked to enhance disinfection and deep cleaning practices for coaches and other vehicles as well as to roll out pre-allocated seating plans with no rotation and explore staggered timing for access to venues, hotels and restaurants, among other measures.

Convention centers and meetings and event organizers are encouraged to implement physical distancing, reduce venue capacity limits, consider pre-arrival risk assessment questionnaires for participants and create isolation units outside the venue where possible for anyone showing COVID-19 symptoms.

“For the first time ever, the global private sector has rallied around our Safe Travels protocols which will create the consistency needed to allow a re-invigorated Travel & Tourism sector re-open for business,” stated WTTC President & CEO, Gloria Guevara. “Among the most important of these measures are those which will enable the aviation sector to take-off. Aviation’s return is critical to help repower the global economic recovery.”

“WTTC aviation protocols were created in close collaboration with ACI and IATA. We thank them and their leaders Angela Gittens and Alexandre de Juniac for their guidance, as it is vital we restore consumer confidence to get people traveling and flying safely,” she added. “The expertise from large and small tour operators contributed to define the new experience via tour operators and visiting event venues again, and were defined in the coordination of experts from this segment, through these robust global measures which have been embraced by businesses around the world.”

Visit WTTC.org to view a complete breakdown of the latest Safe Travels global protocols.

This post was published by our news partner: TravelPulse.com | Article Source

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