The Caribbean is slowly reopening its borders for tourism while taking a cautious approach to protect its citizens from COVID-19.
The Cayman Islands is one of several Caribbean countries not taking chances with reinfections which is why the government has postponed reopening its borders by a month.
Most of the Caribbean's economy is dependent on tourism and countries are looking to start the economic recovery by reopening for travellers. Cayman is desperate as well to revive its tourism economy, but not to the detriment of the health of its citizens.
The Cayman Islands government announced that having monitored the rate of infection in other countries, particularly in the United States where the pandemic is still widespread, Cabinet has taken the decision to extend border closure to Oct. 1 instead of Sept. 1. It will add financial pressure to some but the long-term benefits are worth it, the government feels.
The exception being that repatriation flights by Cayman Airways will continue to operate on an ad hoc basis and the air bridge between the UK and the Cayman Islands will also remain open, as this provides an important link.
With the start of the academic year in September, parents are keen to confirm travel plans to accompany students needing to travel overseas to continue their education. The Governor’s office has confirmed that a British Airways flight will leave Cayman for London, Gatwick on Aug. 28, mainly for students and their parents. The Governor’s office is also discussing with British Airways introducing a regular fortnightly service to Gatwick.
Cayman Airways is also providing a series of repatriation flights to Miami, Kingston, and Le Ceiba. Although there are no restrictions on outbound travel from the Cayman Islands, non-essential travel is strongly discouraged, as options to return are limited and travellers may have to remain overseas longer than anticipated.
The US may have the highest number of people suffering or killed by the coronavirus but it is warning its nationals from travelling to certain Caribbean Community countries because of the situation regarding the virus in those countries.
Washington has issued a travel warning for Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago because they are battling a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Nassau announced a total shutdown of the country last week, while the positive cases in Haiti have been increasing on a daily basis. Washington said Antigua and Barbuda has lifted stay-at-home orders, and resumed some transportation options, and businesses operations.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Antigua and Barbuda. Washington said: “With conditions improving in some countries while potentially deteriorating in others, the department has returned to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice — with levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions — in order to give travellers detailed and actionable information they need to make informed travel decisions.
“We continue to recommend US citizens exercise caution when travelling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”
Washington added that the travel advisory for The Bahamas is now Level 4 (do not travel) due to health and safety measures and COVID-related conditions. “US citizens are advised to exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime, the same as before the pandemic,” US Embassy Public Affairs Officer Daniel Durazo said.
The Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs said while it has taken note of the restrictions recently imposed by Washington “each foreign government has a duty and responsibility to protect its borders, citizens and residents".
It added: “The Bahamas, which is going through its second wave, has also put in place travel parameters for the protection of Bahamians, residents and tourists in the country, namely, by requiring all persons travelling to The Bahamas to have a COVID-19 Travel Visa and a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test to enter The Bahamas. Upon entry, all persons are required to undergo a mandatory 14-day period of quarantine.”
Bahamas has recorded 898 positive cases and 15 deaths from the virus.
The US has upgraded its travel advisory for Trinidad and Tobago to Level 3 due to COVID-19, listing the country as “high-risk”. The advisory, dated Aug. 6, warned Americans to reconsider travel to Trinidad and Tobago's borders are currently closed to international travel until further notice. It claims that T&T has high crime levels, threat of terrorism, potential for illness and kidnapping. General elections were also held there on Monday which added to the general malaise there.
At least the rest of the English speaking Caribbean is open of sorts although entry requirements vary. When Antigua and Barbuda officially reopened to international visitors on June 4, its entry requirements included a negative PCR covid test. The test needs to be taken no longer than 7 days from departure. Testing is done upon arrival to all incoming passengers. The test takes 15 minutes to administer and could take between 1-4 days for results. Travellers must limit movement while they await test results. Entry requirements vary but this is typical for travellers.
Jamaica officially began reopening its borders to all international tourists on June 15. All arriving passengers are required to have a Travel Authorisation prior to check-in for a flight to Jamaica. Upon arrival tourists undergo a health screening. Tourists with no symptoms and travelling from low-risk areas do not require a mandatory test at the airport. They are then freely allowed to travel to their hotel and enjoy their trip. No quarantine. Tourists with symptoms or travelling from a high-risk area or deemed high-risk are tested at the airport. They have to await the test results under quarantine at a hotel for up to 48 hours.