by Linda Straker
- Plan is for Caricom Member states to open external borders for regional travel only in June 2020
- Governments, airlines, and hotels are now finalising details of this phased re-opening
- Protocols will be informed by a regional public health policy
Oliver Joseph, Grenada’s cabinet minister with ministerial responsibility for Caricom, said that the plan is for Caricom Member states to open external borders for regional travel only and not international air traffic for the first phase of reopening borders which are tentatively set to enforce in June 2020.
“What we are discussing is to first allow regional travel, that is travel within the islands such as travel between Grenada and Trinidad or between Trinidad and Barbados, we are not looking at having international carriers come to the island yet,” said Joseph who last week chaired the 50th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
During the virtual meeting, the COTED approved a strategy for the re-opening of economies in the Caribbean Community. The Council is made up of Trade Ministers and officials agreed to a framework centred on the development and adherence to defined metrics related to the Covid-19 virus, which will guide in the reopening process.
Grenada’s borders as well many regional ports of entry and exit were closed in March as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Like Grenada, the contagion was introduced to the country, by infected travellers from the United Kingdom and the United States in mid-March 2020. Grenada’s index case was a 50-year-old female who travelled from the United Kingdom.
Dr Mitchell, in a national address on Sunday night, said that reopening of borders was a topic of discussion at recent meetings of Caribbean leaders at both the OECS and Caricom levels and a regional approach is being considered.
He said, “We collectively agreed to start gradually relaxing the restrictions for travel, as the pandemic in the region has been largely contained. Governments, airlines, and hotels are now finalising the details of this phased re-opening. Assuming that the requisite protocols are in place, we expect to open our borders in the first week of June.”
Mitchell who also holds the portfolio of Minister for National Security assured Grenadians that the health and safety of citizens remain a primary concern. “Borders were closed to prevent the spread of the virus and to save lives, and for now, we must maintain that status quo…I assure you, fellow Grenadians, we will not move unless we are satisfied that adequate health and safety guidelines are in place.”
At the 10th Special Emergency Meeting of Caricom Heads of Government last week, a sub-committee was established to engage stakeholders in the tourism industry to agree on appropriate protocols that will ensure the safety of workers and visitors alike, once borders are re-opened.
“These protocols will be informed by a regional public health policy which the heads have agreed is necessary to guide the criteria for reopening. The health policy is being drafted and will be submitted to Caricom Heads of Government for final approval,” said a news release from the Government Information Service (GIS).