More Caribbean islands detail reopening plans

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Aruba, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia and St. Maarten are the latest destinations to begin phased reopenings of some businesses.

They join Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which began lifting some restrictions earlier this month.

Aruba announced a tentative reopening of the borders for inbound travel scheduled between June 15 and July 1, with a formal announcement of the official date in the coming weeks.

Aruba's Health and Happiness Gold Certification seal.
Aruba's Health and Happiness Gold Certification seal.

All tourism businesses must adhere to new protocols and receive approval from the Department of Inspection and Hygiene to be awarded with an Aruba Health & Happiness Code gold certification seal. The certification provides assurance that each business has taken measures to offer a safe environment for employees and guests. The seal will be displayed on businesses, taxis, accommodations, restaurants and bars, casinos, retail shops and tour sites. A list will be found on the Department of Public Health website.

Protocols followed by the Aruba Airport Authority include screenings, temperature checks, on-site medical professionals, social distance markers and mandatory PPE training for all staff.

The Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association's best practices guide for hotels covers enhanced cleaning procedures for luggage handling, elevators, housekeeping, food and beverage services, casinos and more.

Visitors can expect plexiglass barriers at front desks, digital keys and contactless check-in.

The protocols extend to national parks and tourist attractions. For the first time, Arikok National Park will ban ATVs starting June 1and offroad utility vehicles from Oct. 31.

The Bahamas is in Phase 2 of its national reopening plan. Several of the Family Islands have resumed commercial activity, including Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros.

"Our resorts, airports and seaports are finalizing the health and safety protocols necessary for us to provide for a reopening," said Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis on May 17.

"The government is well advanced in our planning for the beginning of the reopening of our tourism sector and to allow for travel in and out of the Bahamas," Minnis said.

"We are looking at a possible opening date for commercial travel on or before July 1, but this date is not final. It will be adjusted if there is a deterioration of the Covid-19 outbreak or if protocols and procedures are not in place to sufficiently warrant an opening."

Barbados is in Phase 3 of reopening, which allowed a number of businesses to reopen based on mandatory health and safety protocols, including face masks, increased sanitization of facilities and social distancing.

Beach access is permitted between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. remains in effect.

The airport is closed to international flights through June 30, although no timeline for its reopening after that date has been announced. The cruise port is closed until further notice.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced the creation of a $100 million Barbados Tourism Facility in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank to provide support to hotels in need of working capital for upgrades and expansions.

Construction projects have resumed at the former Sam Lord's Castle, the Crane hotel and the Apes Hill Golf Course.

Cuba is preparing to reopen its airports on July 1 if Covid cases remain under control, according to the online El Nuevo Herald. American confirmed that it will begin operating four daily flights from Miami to Havana on July 7.

The Dominican Republic is incorporating health protocols to begin receiving visitors, according to Francisco Javier Garcia, its tourism minister. The tourism ministry is working with the National Association of Hotels & Tourism to implement health guidelines.

No timeline for border reopenings has yet been announced, although the minister estimated during a media briefing that it could be within 45 days or two months.

The island remains under a curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Mass transit has resumed, but boarding is limited to 30% of capacity. Access to beaches, pools and recreational areas is still banned, and face masks are required in public. Some businesses have reopened, but restaurants are limited to takeout.

The first phase of the five-phase recovery plan began on May 20 with the second on June 3, the third on June 17, the fourth on July 1 and the last on Aug. 24.

Hotels, airports and restaurants are expected to reopen July 1, although there is no known date for government authorization of regular flights within the country or abroad.

St. Lucia announced its phased approach beginning June 4.

Minister of tourism Dominic Fedee said that phase one includes the opening of Hewanorra Airport to flights from the U.S. only. Visitors will be required to present certified proof of a negative Covid test within 48 hours of boarding their flight.

All visitors must wear face masks and practice social distancing while in St. Lucia, and travelers will be subject to screening and temperature checks by health authorities.

Close to 1,500 hotel rooms are being prepared to open in early June, pending completion of a Covid-19 certification process. Hotels must meet a dozen criteria for sanitization, social distancing and other protocols before they can reopen to guests.

Phase Two will begin on Aug. 1, and details will be revealed shortly. More information is found at www.stlucia.org/covid-19.

St. Maarten has no date yet for the resumption of international flights to the island.

Some businesses and services have reopened, including taxis, food vendors, primary schools and government services, although an islandwide curfew remains in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The third phase of the reopening plan takes effect June 1 and will include bars, dine-in restaurants, hair salons, religious services, souvenir shops and clothing stores, among others. All remaining businesses will reopen on June 15.

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