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UPDATED: UK Adds 8, Canada-US Extend Border Closure

UPDATED: While news that the UK had added 8 destinations to its quarantine list was rattling the British and European travel trade, in Canada, the mid-morning announcement by Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair that the Canada-US border will remain closed for another 30 days did nothing to raise the industry’s spirits here.

The extension takes the Canada-US border closure to Sept. 21, with the minister indicating that the government will “continue to do what’s necessary to keep our communities safe.”

The Canada-US border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21 of this year.

As for the United Kingdom, the British and European travel industry was rocked, trying to process, the U.K.’s latest decision to add eight destinations to its quarantine list. And in the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands will be closing its borders to leisure travellers — locking things down once again — on Aug. 19.

Added to the U.K.’s quarantine list — as a result of spiking cases of COVID-19 in those destinations — were France, Malta, the Netherlands, Gibraltar, Monaco, the Faroe Islands, Aruba and the Turks & Caicos and it is a move that has data and analytics firm, GlobalData suggesting that the latest quarantine extension has the potential to end the British holiday season.

Ben Cordwell, travel & tourism analyst at GlobalData, observed that: “The latest government announcement has the potential to effectively end the British holiday season.”

GlobalData notes that 31.6 million tourists from the UK made their way to Spain and France in 2019, highlighting the importance of the British source market to the Spanish and French tourism industries.

And the UK’s announcement, during the peak season, will be disastrous for all of the countries on the list, as well as for businesses in Britain selling holidays to these destinations.

Said Cordwell: “According to GlobalData’s latest consumer survey results, 79% of UK respondents are still concerned about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It would be unsurprising if this latest announcement meant that many holidaymakers decided not to travel abroad at all.”

Cordwell also pointed out that: “The UK is also the fourth highest spending source market worldwide, meaning the quarantine extension will be devastating for airlines, travel agents and hoteliers alike. This latest announcement on top of what has already been an extremely tough year for the tourism industry, could see many companies struggling to survive the coming winter months.”

U.S. Virgin Islands put the brakes on

Meanwhile, the U.S. Virgin Islands is closing its borders to leisure travellers again in order to contain a new spike in COVID-19. The move is effective Aug. 19 and will last for at least a month.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said 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.

Earlier this week, the Territory’s chief executive indicated that all non-essential businesses and churches are being ordered to cease operations and the public, including non-essential public sector workers, are ordered to stay at home.

And, effective immediately, hotels, villas, Airbnb accommodations, guest houses, temporary vacation housing and charter vessels and similar businesses have been ordered not to accept or book any new reservations for 30 days.

As of Aug. 19, accommodations 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 travellers, 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 Aug. 17 and lasting until Aug. 31, unless lifted earlier, all restaurants in the Territory can offer only takeout, 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.

Governor Bryan said: “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 continued: “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.”

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 Aug 16, 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.

Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte said: “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,” as he spoke about the difficult but necessary decision.

For more, visitors or residents with tourism-related inquiries are can email info@usviupdate.com or call the department’s toll-free number at (800) 372-USVI (8784).

For more on the U.S. Virgin Islands, go to www.VisitUSVI.com .

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