We first heard of the new Coronavirus outbreak back in December 2019. A new virus identified in Wuhan, China, thought to have originated in the Hubei province at a seafood wholesale market. After extensive research, scientists now believe the virus was contracted from either a bat or a pangolin and passed on to humans.
Cases soared in China and the death toll rose surpassing that of the 2002/2003 SARS epidemic, however in February 2020 cases dropped in China but suddenly increased in Italy, Iran and South Korea. By 11th March the World Health Organisation declared a worldwide pandemic. To prevent the virus from spreading, travel restrictions including border closures, curfews and quarantines were put in place. Sporting, religious and cultural events were cancelled, schools, universities and restaurants were closed and finally complete lock down in various countries were taking place.
In early March, Gavin and I were finishing up one of our charters when we got our first cancellation. After that, cancellations of bookings came in thick and fast resulting in the charter company we work for closing within a couple of weeks. The BVI government announced they were stopping all cruise ships entering the ports. Visitors and tourists were no longer allowed into the territory and all visitors already here must make arrangements to leave as soon as they possibly can. They also closed all schools and universities in the hope to reduce the spread of the virus.
Even though there were no known cases of the virus in the BVI, it was inevitable it would soon be on our shores as there had been so many people coming in and out of the island.
For the first couple of weeks we decided to self isolate to try and keep our distance from others as much as possible, only going for walks in the mountains and along the beach to get some fresh air and exercise. We went to stock up on supplies from the stores as little as possible.
As we were already feeling a little claustrophobic in the house we decided to take one of the boats out from work for a week or so to keep ourselves away from the crowds and enjoy some outdoor space. We kept ourselves busy swimming, snorkelling, fishing, tubing and playing games. The waters surrounding the BVI were almost completely empty apart from the cruisers living on their boats hidden away in remote little coves. It was eerily quiet although thoroughly enjoyable to be spending time with the family away from the fear of catching the virus.
Unfortunately our time out at sea was cut short. On day four we came back to base as the government had made an announcement that the BVI was going on complete lock down for 5 days with all businesses, supermarkets and pharmacies closing. Two cases of the Coronavirus had finally made its way on to our little island. Residents had two days to prepare themselves and stock up with groceries from the supermarkets. We headed back to the marina first thing in the morning to get to the stores before the chaos of stockpiling and panic buying began.
Gavin and I jumped in our Jeep and headed off to buy a few essentials items. The roads were so incredibly quiet and there was an uneasy feel in the air. It felt almost apocalyptic, like there was some deadly monster waiting for us around the corner and we needed to prepare to make a run for it. The stores however were the complete opposite. Everyone was avoiding opening the doors with their hands, most were keeping a 6 foot distance from each other, nobody was talking and everyone was looking at each other like they were carrying the potentially deadly virus. We were in and out as quickly as possible sanitising our hands as often as we could.
We were then told by management that we were allowed to stay on the boat but we must stay in the marina for insurance purposes. We decided to stay put rather than go home as although the boat was more compact, it felt a lot more spacious being on the water and there were far fewer people around than at home to come into contact with.
Even though we have been told the BVI is initially only on a 5 day lock down, I have a feeling it will extend a lot longer than that.
Tonight the lock down begins…