Aruba will be opening its borders for passengers from Bonaire and Curaçao per Monday, June 15, followed by Europe, Canada and the Caribbean on July 1. Visitors from the United States (US) will be allowed as of July 10.
Aruba Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes announced this during a press conference on Wednesday evening. In the first phase, starting on Monday, a “bubble” will be created for Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire whereby free movement of passengers will be allowed.
Visitors and returning residents from European countries are welcome per July 1, as well as passengers from Canada and the Caribbean, with the exception of the Dominican Republic and Haiti where, the prime minister said, the number of COVID-19 infections was still high.
The border will be open for passengers from the US as of July 10. Despite the higher risks of importing the coronavirus from the US, Aruba has still decided to take that “calculated risk,” as Minister of Tourism Dangui Oduber put it, because the country’s economy greatly depends on visitors from the US.
Wever-Croes said that no date has been set as yet for the opening of the borders with South and Central America, and the rest of the world. “We will keep monitoring the situation.” She said the decision to reopen Aruba’s borders in phases had not been easy to make and had only been done following extensive meetings and gathering advice from local, Dutch and international experts.
All arriving passengers, except for the ones from Curaçao and Bonaire, must comply with a number of conditions, assured Minister Dangui Oduber. A screening is mandatory. Passengers should do a test 72 hours before their departure to Aruba, and upload the test result on a special online facility.
Passengers must also fill in a health declaration form before departure. If the test results are negative, the visitor can freely enjoy their vacation. Of course, they have to stick to the preventive measures such as the 1.5-metre social distancing and proper hand hygiene.
Passengers who did not do the pre-departure test, will have to take a test at the Aruba airport. These visitors will then have to go 24 hours in quarantine at their hotel, and they will only be cleared after the test is negative, explained Head of the Aruba Tourist Authority (ATA) Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes.
Visitors who test negative after their arrival are in trouble: they will be isolated in a designated accommodation, and not in their hotel. Children under the age of 12 will not need testing because the chances of infection are very low scientifically.
Another condition for visitors is the special coronavirus insurance. This mandatory insurance policy – which has been developed with the Aruba insurance sector – serves to cover the cost of isolation, medical and hospital expenses and transport/repatriation in case a visitor has COVID-19. The coronavirus insurance must be bought prior to boarding, stated Oduber.
Minister Dangui Oduber said Aruba was well-prepared to receive visitors again. “We have expanded our healthcare system. We have more intensive care units and ventilators, more personnel and more testing capacity,” he said.
Director Tjin Asjoe-Croes said she expected about 2,000 tourists per week in July, which is about 20 per cent of the number of visitors for that month in 2019. Overall, for 2020, she said Aruba would receive 50 to 60 per cent of the tourist numbers compared to 2019, depending on the coronavirus-pandemic developments locally and internationally.
Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes said the opening of the borders would evoke emotions of happiness, but also of concern and anxiety. “People will be happy because they can return to work, and there will be more income and economic activity. But feelings of concern and anxiety are also understandable. Naturally, people worry about the import of the virus, but it is important that we do not let fear be our guide.” She asked people to be positive, hopeful and courageous, and to inspire others to do the same.
Meanwhile, Bonaire Island Governor Edison Rijna informed the media that Bonaire would be opening its borders per Thursday, June 11, until June 30 as a test case with the entry of 108 persons from the Netherlands. These persons will have to go into mandatory quarantine.
As for passengers from Aruba and Curaçao, they will not have to go into quarantine upon entering Bonaire. The borders with Aruba and Curaçao will open today, Friday, June 12. Rijna did say that once Aruba opened its borders for visitors from the US, passengers from Aruba would no longer be allowed to enter without restrictions as Bonaire considers the US to be a high-risk area.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.