At the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no cure or vaccine for the virus. Many countries responded by implementing measures to contain the virus transmission. Some of the measures included encouraging people to wash their hands, wear masks, and practice social distancing. Eventually, countries adopted more aggressive measures such as shutting down all non-essential services, the implementation of curfews and stay-at-home orders. Many countries also closed their borders to international travel to curb the importation of COVID-19 to their country.
The closure of the borders cut off the inflow of foreigners and other migrants into countries. However, the tourism industry is dependent upon the inflow of immigrants for commerce. Therefore, the closure of the borders effectively resulted in the decimation of countries’ tourism industries. Many countries are highly dependent upon the tourism industry to earn foreign exchange and to generate commerce domestically. Therefore, the closure of the borders dealt a significant negative blow to tourism-dependent economies in 2020.
Given the importance of tourism, many countries considered implementing a travel bubble. Travel bubbles also referred to as travel corridors, are essentially an exclusive collaboration between two or more countries that have demonstrated great success in containing the transmission of COVID-19 outbreak within their borders.
Several countries have implemented travel bubbles in the 4th quarter of 2020. Some of the regions that have implemented travel bubbles include Germany, Spain, Europe (consisting of Belgium, France, Russia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands), Australia – New Zealand (Trans-Tasman Bubble), Vanuatu – New Caledonia (Tamtam Bubble), UAE (consisting of Bahrain, Greece, Seychelles, Serbia, and Italy), and Caricom (consisting of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
In the Caribbean region, the travel bubble was implemented in September 2020. Citizens of the participatory countries are allowed to travel within the bubble. In September, the only requirement was for persons seeking to travel to test negative for COVID-19 on the PCR test that was taken 3 days before they travel. However, as vaccines became available in 2021, countries also required that travelers be vaccinated to travel to any country within the bubble. Barbados also has provisions to allow entry for citizens from the United States.
Notably, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is excluded from the CARICOM travel bubble. T&T remains excluded since it was not reliant upon tourism, as the other CARICOM member states, and it was not eager to reopen its borders. Furthermore, T&T has experienced an uptick in its COVID-19 infections during the 2nd quart of 2021, prompting the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT) to implement a state-of-emergency and curfews. The GORTT continues to monitor the COVID-19 infections within T&T and will relax its COVID-19 containment protocols when it deems it is appropriate.