Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley has said the recent suspension placed on regional airline, OCL Barbados is a clear statement to all airlines that the territory is taking its COVID-19 protocols very seriously.
The airline was embargoed from flying to the BVI days ago after reportedly breaching one of the territory’s recently-implemented entry policies.
The policy for which OCL Barbados is accused of breaching falls under the BVI’s Advanced Passenger Information Act.
It requires all airlines arriving in the territory to provide information on its passengers at least 24 hours prior to their arrival.
“My understanding is it (the airline’s advanced passenger information) came under 24 hours’ notice. You cannot do that. We can’t afford the risk of having COVID rampant throughout the BVI,” the minister explained.
“We had to send a strong message to persons that we are very serious about keeping the BVI safe,” he added.
The airline’s Foreign Operator’s Permit (FOP) to fly to the BVI was indefinitely suspended after an August 4 flight into the BVI.
Last-minute change to blame
According to Chief Executive Officer of OCL Barbados, Reginald Adams, a last-minute change in the BVI’s protocols contributed to his airline’s breach.
“Tortola changed their protocol on a Saturday and we were not updated as to the change,” Adams told a media house in St Vincent where the airline is based.
He said the flight proceeded to the BVI the following Monday unaware of the change. It was carrying three BVI government employees at the time.
However, due to the changes of the protocols, one of the three passengers were not accepted into the territory and therefore had to return to their place of departure.
According to the new policy, all passengers are to be in possession of a valid travel certificate issued by the Ministry of Health confirming that they are safe to enter into the BVI.
Suspension lifted following appeal
CEO Adams said that following investigations into the matter, it was concluded that there was no intent on the airline’s part to break the BVI’s COVID-19 protocols.
He said he received an official letter from local authorities on Sunday, August 23, indicating that the suspension was lifted.
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