Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint Martin to ease COVID-19 restrictions from May 11. Disruptions persist.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Barthelemy

This alert began 11 May 2020 15:00 GMT and is scheduled to expire 01 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint Martin (map)
  • Time Frame: May 11-June 1
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions

Summary
As of May 11, authorities in the French Overseas Territories in the Caribbean will begin to relax restrictions introduced by the French national government to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This initial reopening phase will last through at least June 1. Residents of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint Martin will be allowed to circulate within their own territories during this period. Several businesses and facilities will be permitted to resume operations provided they can implement social distancing measures. However, large shopping centers, cultural sites, and entertainment venues will remain closed, as will cafes, bars, and restaurants. Schools are permitted to gradually reopen from May 11 on a voluntary basis and as directed by local authorities. Beaches will mostly remain closed, with some local exceptions. The use of a face mask is mandatory on all public transport. Social gatherings are to be restricted to 10 people across the territories.

Nonresident foreign nationals remain banned from entering the islands. All authorized persons arriving on the islands will be placed at an isolation facility, where they must remain for at least 14 days. While flights between the islands remain limited, operations between Guadeloupe and Martinique have resumed, and flights connecting to French Guiana, and France continue to operate. Only those with compelling personal or family reasons, health emergencies, or essential professional tasks will be allowed to travel. Cargo aircraft will continue to operate. Restrictions on ground travel between Saint Martin and Sint Maarten will continue until further notice, except for cargo transport, medical emergencies, and if telework is not possible and officials have approved authorization.

The local governments could continue to impose their own stricter measures. Guadeloupe and Martinique are maintaining a nightly 2100-0400 curfew as of May 11. All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice.

Background and Analysis
The measures are similar to actions taken by other governments globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic March 11. Some governments have begun relaxing certain domestic restrictive measures in response to indications that the spread of the disease has been adequately contained locally, and due to the need to allow for some economic recovery. French officials have indicated that the next reopening phase will only be detailed once the functionality of the current phase has been assessed. Should the number of COVID-19 cases significantly increase, relaxed restrictions may be reapplied. Likewise, a continued low number of cases may result in further relaxation of restrictions.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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