In recent weeks, there has been much debate about the border reopening that got under way last week, but now everyone must work together to achieve success as tourism returns.
The process will not be easy. Even now, much remains unknown about the pandemic, including the timeline for a vaccine and the possible outcomes of surges in the United States and other countries.
There also are many variables the Virgin Islands must consider when working to ensure that visitors have the best possible experience without endangering others.
In the coming days and weeks, then, everyone must heed the rules. For tourists and other arrivals, this means strictly following the quarantine procedures and other guidelines set by the government.
For tourism businesses around the territory, it means working tirelessly to help ensure compliance — a difficult responsibility that might mean being firm with paying customers and reporting any who step out of line.
Other residents also need to redouble efforts to follow the rules by wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and taking other preventive steps. For some, these behaviours have become second nature in recent months, but too many others have refused to change their ways.
Given the increased likelihood of a new case entering the territory now, such carelessness must end.
The government, meanwhile, must greatly improve its efforts to communicate with the public and visitors alike.
In recent weeks, leaders have repeatedly dropped the ball in this regard, needlessly exacerbating acrimony and public frustration with an already difficult situation.
But we have high hopes that the recent appointment of a Reopening Steering Committee and an Economic Advisory Council will herald a new direction. We would like to see members of both agencies providing frequent public updates and fielding questions when needed.
At the same time, Premier Andrew Fahie, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone, and public health officials should begin holding weekly press conferences. Meeting with the media regularly will help ensure that tourism stakeholders and visitors alike get answers to all their questions — even the ones leaders didn’t think to consider.
Leaders must be especially transparent about any hitches or changes in the reopening process. Many questions will arise as the system is tested by more and more arrivals. A period of adjustment is to be expected, and tweaks doubtlessly will be necessary — if not a major overhaul.
Without regular updates and transparent press conferences, even minor glitches could spiral quickly into mass confusion that risks alienating visitors and tourism businesses while bringing damaging press from abroad.
With the reopening upon us, teamwork and communication are needed now more than ever. The territory cannot afford mistakes.