As the Territory toys with the idea of some form of border opening in September, it was reported that approximately 800 persons were left stranded in the BVI from March when the Territory’s border closed and have been trying to leave since then.
Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Hon. Vincent Wheatley made the disclosure during his appearance on the ‘Honestly Speaking’ Talk Show on 18 August.
Hon. Wheatley explained that there were many visitors left stranded in the Territory when the borders were closed almost five months ago. “There is a number of persons stuck on the island… The last number I have from about three weeks ago was over 800 persons,” he explained.
“Over 800 persons who were visiting from all over the world – you name it who are stuck in the BVI still. Well, there are planes going almost every day so the number is …is probably down now to a few hundred,” he added.
However, many of the stranded persons were able to leave: “From 31 March to 15 July the Minister mentioned that 467 persons left the Territory. The number included both visitors and unemployed work permit holders.”
Efforts Were Made To Get Visitors To Leave
Before the warning was made that the border was going to be closed, the BVI Tourist Board on 19 March informed the guests in the Territory. The Board assured the visitors that they were not being asked to bring their vacation to a halt. “Government has given approval for visitors to remain until their scheduled departure.” However, the Board suggested that the visitors make attempt to secure flights: “Given the rapidly changing state of international travel with the imminent closure to a number of regional and international gateways and flight cancellations, we are urging visitors to contact their airlines to make arrangements for departures as soon as possible. In particular, the US Embassy in Barbados has recently issued an email urging US citizens who are returning home to contact their airlines to make travel arrangements while flights are still available,” the Tourist Board announced.
Then less than a week later the Tourist Board informed visitors that they were receiving more news of gateway and border closures and flight cancellations; and urged the tourists to make airline contact.
The situation for tourists here became more peculiar when on 22 March at 11:59 pm the Territory’s borders officially closed to inbound passengers. As a result of this announcement, the BVI Tourist Board rose to the challenge of assisting visitors to exit.
At that time it was noted that all ticketed passengers in the Territory who heeded the call were able to depart on 24 and 25 March on Road Town Fast Ferry and Smith’s Ferry: those vessels made one trip each to St. Thomas for passengers seeking to depart the BVI.
The two companies alternated the trip with Road Town Fast Ferry making the trip one day and Smith’s Ferry the next. Those who wished to leave by air were able to do so via contact with the various airlines that travel from the BVI.