TORTOLA — British Virgin Islanders who have been waiting to return home after the territory’s borders were closed in March to help stop the spread of COVID-19 will finally be able to do so.
Officials on Thursday announced plans for a limited opening of BVI’s borders to accommodate returning nationals, permanent residents, work permit holders and naturalized citizens beginning on June 2.
Premier Andrew Fahie announced that an online registration will begin Sunday for travel via the Terrence Lettsome Airport only.
Officials say the gradual opening will continue to slow the spread of the virus, which to date has killed one individual.
The territory has recorded eight confirmed COVID-19 cases with six recoveries, and are tracking one active case currently in isolation, according to Deputy Premier Carvin Malone.
Malone, who is also the BVI’s Health minister, said that while implemented measures have largely contained the virus’ transmission in the territory, the border reopening process must be carefully handled to prevent an upsurge.
Given the “unrelenting nature of the pandemic, the border reopening process requires implementing a range of measures to detect, contain, mitigate and manage the disease,” he said.
“In simple terms, this means that every person coming into the territory will be subject to health screening on arrival, ongoing monitoring during a 14-day mandatory quarantine period and testing to confirm their COVID-19 status, albeit hopefully negative,” Malone said.
“Persons may be allowed to quarantine at home or in alternate private accommodations or may be placed in a government quarantine facility for the duration of the 14 days period.”
BVI Premier Andrew Fahie, also in an update Thursday to residents, said that restaurants will be allowed to reopen for dining purposes beginning Sunday.
Social distancing guidelines must be observed, he said, and the current curfew of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. will be extended for another 14 days.
Beach openings, which began earlier this month, will be from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and gatherings have been increased from 20 to 50 persons, within a 64 square foot area, Fahie said.
On Thursday, Malone said returning residents with suitable home quarantine accommodations will be given priority during the first phase of re-entry.
He added that quarantining in homes and other private facilities will only be permitted after the properties have been inspected and approved by the Environmental Health Division.
The BVI government will fund the related quarantine costs.
“The placement will be confirmed as part of the re-entry process. This form will be placed online come Monday,” he said of the registration process.
Individuals approved to quarantine in a non-governmental quarantine facility will be required to adhere to the established protocols:
• The person being quarantined must be housed separately from other family members, friends or associates and no visitors are allowed at any of the quarantine locations.
• Each bedroom being used must be properly ventilated with a window that can be opened to enable air flow in order to keep clean air flowing through the room.
• Once cleared at the end of 14 days, the person will be provided with a COVID-19 quarantine certificate and if necessary, a return to work form and discharged from quarantine.
Residents who wish to have their homes or other properties inspected for the purpose of accommodating someone expected to return home should call 284-494-3701 and provide details of the property.
“There’s no plan to throw the gates open on June 2,” Malone said. “It’s a planned re-entry for nationals, Belongers and residents first, so that we can ready ourselves.
“When people come home, we want to monitor their behavior so that we don’t retard the progress that we have made in the months that we have had to adhere to that were established.”