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Caribbean Resorts Supporting COVID-19 Fight

Caribbean hotels are stepping up to aid in the fight against COVID-19, providing accommodations for quarantine centers and housing for essential personnel during the outbreak.

Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), is providing Jamaica’s government with the 52-room Carlisle Inn hotel in Montego Bay as an incubation center, said company officials in a Jamaica Observer report (the newspaper is owned by Stewart).

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The SRI chairman has additionally helped finance the purchase of 40 ventilators for $20 million, “to be used to treat COVID-19 patients,” the report said. “The hotel will be at the disposal of the Government for as long as it takes to bring this COVID-19 disease under control,” said Adam Stewart, SRI’s deputy chairman.

Dr. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica’s minister of health and wellness, had earlier this week appealed to Jamaican hoteliers to provide emergency accommodation for patients recovering from COVID-19. Jamaica had 27 confirmed coronavirus cases through March 27, with one death and two recoveries.

Tufton said SRI’s offer “[is] the kind of response that we are very appreciative of as part of the national plan to respond to this COVID threat,” in the Observer report. The hotel is “very appropriately positioned to assist, in that it has its own rooms with bathrooms, a common area from which our staff can manage the process, and the location is strategic to Cornwall Regional Hospital,” Tufton added.

Although the company’s Caribbean resorts remain temporarily closed, Stewart is also retaining Sandals’ permanent workers rather than instituting layoffs, opting to pay 40 percent of employee salaries fortnightly. SRI workers will also receive health insurance benefits and paid vacation leave.

SRI also distributed food and vegetables from its freezers to create care packages for employees. “We were very proud to have done it,” Stewart said. “It shows the relationship we have with our team members who are at the center of who we are as a brand.”

Meanwhile, several U.S. Virgin Islands hotels are keeping their doors open to essential personnel during the COVID-19 outbreak, said officials at the USVI Hotel Tourism Association and the St. Croix Hotel Tourism Association.

The territory’s government has authorized hotels and resorts to remain open to provide housing for essential personnel including government workers, relief workers, business travelers and airline associates, officials said.

The properties remaining open include St. Thomas’ Bluebeard’s Castle, Calypso Realty, the Green Iguana Hotel and St. Croix’ Buccaneer Hotel, Carambola Beach Resort Spa, Hotel Caravelle and Tamarind Reef Resort.