Glorious beaches in St. Barts, St. Martin, Martinique, Guadeloupe will be even more tranquil now
Known for welcoming the uber-wealthy and uber-famous, the idyllic islands of St. Barts, St. Martin, Martinique and Guadeloupe will have to turn all of them away at the border, even if they’ve flown in on a private jet with bagfuls of cash. The islands’ parent government in France has closed all its Caribbean territories to incoming visitors in an effort to keep the coronavirus out — right in the middle of the peak winter season.
St. Barts, seeing a surge in popularity over the past few years, has but one hospital, which could be easily overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. It’s a tiny island, just 25 square kilometres, and home to just 10,000 locals. Saint Barthélemy, as it’s formally known, is reporting eight new infections on average each day, with just one death recorded since the pandemic began.
With splendid yachts lining its harbours and designer shops normally thronging with the well-heeled, it’s no wonder the chief of the tourism board is a bit vexé by the overseas decision. The French government took this action “independently of the will of our local authorities’ (desire) to keep St. Barts open,” Nils DuFau, president of the St. Barts Tourism Board, said in a statement. He said he and local authorities are “negotiating” with French officials “to ease the entry restrictions and find an alternative solution.”
Martinique is so French it sports retail outlets such as Carrefour supermarkets, Renault and Citroen dealerships and a Galleries Lafayette store in the capital, Fort de France, a city of 100,000. Most of its tourism comes from the mother country, so the many fine French restaurants on the island will be hurting with the latest border closure.
COVID-19 infections are increasing in Martinique, with 11 new infections reported on average each day, with 6,484 infections and 45 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country.
Five of Guadeloupe’s six islands received a group Unesco Biosphere Reserve designation, and one is volcanic — it last erupted in 1976. The ecotourism outfits as well as the hotels and rental companies will increasingly feel the pain of the border closure. COVID-19 infections are increasing in Guadeloupe, with 18 new infections reported on average each day, according to the Reuters virus tracker.
St. Martin, of course, is the island that is split in half – the Dutch side is Sint Maarten, the French is Saint-Martin. It’s the Saint-Martin airport where the planes come so close to the beach that tourists are occasionally blown down. Saint-Martin is reporting 14 new infections on average each day, with1,289 infections and 14coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.
Each of these territories is unique, but all fall under the umbrella of France. And how appropriate that word is, given the officials in Paris are suffering in cold rainy weather while the islands enjoy the tropical breezes on sunny days. Who wants to bet many of the high-flyers wish they could charter their own jet and take a few days of salt air and sunshine? Although, that’s what Ontario’s health minister Rod Phillips did in mid-December. But as his few days in St. Barts cost him his job, maybe Monsieur Macron et al would be smarter to stay home until the horreur of COVID is over.