ROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – Dominican authorities were scrambling on Tuesday to bring home hundreds of nationals left stranded in French Caribbean islands after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a closure of external borders in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“As of noon, external borders of the European Union and the Schengen area will be closed,” Macron said in a televised address to the nation, adding that “all travel between non-EU countries and the European Union will be suspended for 30 days”.
“We need to be able to protect ourselves and curb the spread of this virus,” Macron said on Monday night after cases in France reached 6,633.
The announcement by Macron has led to the cancellation of the daily ferry service between Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and St Lucia.
The operators of Val Ferry, which is providing transportation between the French Antilles and Dominica and St Lucia, said the efforts now are to get passengers out of the various islands back to their homeland.”
Leroy Charles said that for Val Ferry, the priority also is to save lives as a result of the COVID-19.
“No monetary gain can come from it. Whatever the impact is for Val Ferry, the most important thing is that we are saving lives and in light of this pandemic we have absolutely no problem with moving ahead with what the President of France decided to close the borders.
“So it will impact the hucksters, the hospitality sector, even the government in terms of departure taxes, the diaspora, but the overall mission is to actually get people safe. We are concerned about Dominicans that are stuck in the French Antilles…and how are we going to get them back home because people move across to the French Antilles every week.”
He said Val Ferry have suspended all calls to Dominica with immediate effect and in order to deal with getting Dominicans back home, “we may have to deal with that at a higher level.”
The operations supervisor of L’Express Des isles, Hans Victor, said the ferry service is being withdrawn with immediate effect.
“The ferry services on the international line and that would be Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica and St Lucia have been suspended until further notice,” he said, adding that arrangements are being to try to get passengers affected by the “sudden decision” back to their home countries.
“The French Embassy is in discussion with us…in order to put something in place to get French citizens out of Dominica and at the same time we are looking to piggyback on that effort to get Dominicans who are stuck in Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Lucia to get them back home”.
While Dominica has not reported any case of the COVID-19, St Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe have both recorded cases of the virus for which there is no vaccine.