As the Virgin Islands reopens its seaports to international arrivals this week, leaders should expedite plans for a system designed to ease entry requirements for anyone who has been vaccinated.
Some countries are already implementing such measures, and the VI’s heightened reliance on tourism means that it should be at the forefront of this effort.
So far, however, leaders here have said little on the topic, promising only that they will consider a vaccine passport system in the future.
We hope they move quickly to make a decision.
In the United States, home to the majority of VI tourists, some 17 percent of the population has already been fully vaccinated, and the numbers are rising fast. In the UK, about half the population has had at least a first dose. Many other countries have seen similar success.
For the VI, these numbers mean a fast-growing pool of potential tourists who likely pose a low risk. But as other destinations implement vaccine passports, tourists’ patience for onerous entry requirements will quickly wane.
The VI, then, should stay ahead of the curve.
The effort will take careful advance planning, however. As other countries have shown, potential hurdles are many, and any vaccine passport system will need to protect privacy while also taking into account the risk of vaccine-resistant strains of Covid-19, among other concerns.
But VI leaders can consider other jurisdictions’ successes and mistakes, and they can pick and choose from regimes implemented elsewhere as they plan the way forward.
Safety, of course, should come first, but the ultimate goal should be a system that allows vaccinated people to enter the territory without undergoing the current five-day quarantine period.
Anyone who wishes to forgo vaccination, on the other hand, could be required to stick to the current requirements.
We believe the VI government was right to strictly limit the borders here in the early stages of the pandemic in spite of later missed opportunities for a smoother phased reopening that could have helped mitigate the very real damage to the economy.
That said, now is the time to find solutions that will boost tourism without compromising the territory’s safety.
If rolled out with careful planning in accordance with international best practice, vaccine passports could be a big step toward that goal.