St Vincent Government closes three Grenadine ports of entry

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves

The Vincent and the Grenadines government Friday shut down the ports of entry in Union Island, Canouan, and Bequia as the Caribbean island said it had no confirmed case of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, ordered that all yachts and other vessels entering the country’s territorial waters clear at one of three ports on St. Vincent Island.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister on Friday night, said that the decision was taken after four incidents earlier during the day, including “aggressive conduct towards the State authorities” by the captain and crew of a US-registered vessel.

The statement said that the decision was taken to focus the state’s resources “on better border security”.

According to the statement, the first incident involved the illegal entry into Cumberland, a port on the west coast of St. Vincent, by a yacht, the captain of which was advised by the Coast Guard to leave immediately.

It said the second incident was “aggressive conduct towards the state authorities by the captain and crew of an American-registered vessel which failed to clear Customs and Immigration in a timely manner.

“This vessel was eventually escorted south of the waters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the Coast Guard Service of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the statement said.

The third and fourth incidents, the release said, were the refusal by the crew and passengers on two vessels berthed in Bequia – US-fand Canadian flagged vessels – to be quarantined consequent upon their interaction with Customs, Immigration, port security and health authorities.

“They were thus denied entry. The vessels were then escorted by the Coast Guard Service out of the waters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

The statement said that as a consequence of the closure of these three ports of entry, following upon an earlier closure of the Chateaubelair port of entry, all yachts are required to enter at one of three ports on St. Vincent, namely Kingstown, Blue Lagoon, and Wallilabou.

“The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines urges all owners, operators, crew, and passengers of yachts to cooperate with the State authorities.  If there is any attempt to circumvent the integrity and laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, especially at the time of Covid-19, the government will take further action promptly,” the statement said.

“The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is determined to protect the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in every material particular. The government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines expect reasonableness and cooperation from those engaged in yachting; if they do not, the government will respond appropriately and firmly.”

Earlier, Health Minister, Luke Browne, said that a repeat test for the patient who originally tested positive was negative.

On March 11, the island confirmed its sole case of the virus after a national who returned from a trip to the United Kingdom tested positive.

Browne said that the Ministry of Health has done 31 tests so far for the virus for which there is no cure.