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Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge #542475
05/20/20 05:06 AM
05/20/20 05:06 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

Last week, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced a tentative date for the reopening of the Philip Goldson International Airport to allow for international visitors to resume travel to Belize. July first is the earliest date on which the airport can reopen.  Director of Health Services, Doctor Marvin Manzanero says that the reopening of this port of entry will pose a challenge, even if the country has rapid testing capabilities.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“That’s a question that has a changing answer every day. We are in discussion with partners in the region, and looking at that, I can’t say that it is the same thing for Central America because most airports are now, at least partially, open for commercial flights. I know neighbouring Cancun, for example, never really locked down the airport. So for us, we might be the ones in the region. I don’t know if there is a straight answer because we are still looking at process flows; how potential arriving patients or passengers will be coming through the airport. We have had an initial discussion with B.T.B.”

Marleni Cuellar

“Have we acquired the rapid tests yet?”

Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“No we don’t have. But even if we have a rapid test, we still have to look at the process flow because how rapid will the results be. If you have a flight coming in of a hundred and eighty people and you have to swab all of them; I mean that is a delay already in terms of getting them through the airport. If anyone turns up positive, you have to send that sample for a confirmation to the Central Medical Lab; does that mean you then quarantine the entire plane until you have that result. Those are the kinds of questions that keep popping up.”

Channel 5


Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542657
05/29/20 11:06 AM
05/29/20 11:06 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
PGIA will NOT reopen to commercial flights on 1st July 2020.

As reported by the PM this morning, the Belize Government was prepared to open the International Airport on July 1st with the requirement that incoming travelers must present a negative PCR test result no later than 72 hours prior to travel.

However, IATA and the major commercial airlines rejected this requirement and said they will not fly to Belize under that condition and will wait until there are rapid tests available. Thus, there can be no official airport opening date provided at this time. As soon as reliable rapid tests are available, we are ready to open to incoming travelers. The PM personally felt that there would be rapid tests available "soon".

The PM said if there was a private charter plane (that could meet the testing requirements) wanted to come, we would allow it but since no major airlines agreed to fly here..... there will be no planes landing. Now, it's all up to the availability of rapid test kits for the opening to occur.

Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542666
05/30/20 05:09 AM
05/30/20 05:09 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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PGIA Plan On Pause

Belize's tourism industry will likely not open in July. That July first date had been the hope and expectation from an industry where many large interests are teetering on the verge of collapse - they just can't go anymore without an infusion of tourist traffic, and revenue.

The bad news came today in the Prime Minister's virtual press conference. For weeks he had been announcing that the plan was to open the airport in July 1st, and welcome visitors - on the condition that they can produce a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of their travel.

That had been communicated to the major airlines, but yesterday a message came from the International Air Transport Association saying that just won't work. The Prime Minister explained this morning in the opening remarks at his virtual press conference:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Yesterday IATA, the International Air Transport Association, sent a message to our Director of Civil Aviation. That message made clear IATA's disapproval of the Belize travel testing requirement. According to IATA, that could not work now, and Belize should wait on the development of a reliable rapid test that would allow for the airlines themselves to administer a pre-boarding test. After that the dominoes started falling. The carriers changed their tune, and it became clear that they would not fly to Belize if we insisted on travelers coming armed with a negative test result. I repeat, though, that our paramount safety concerns mandate our holding firm on that requirement."

"Long story short? I am in consequence of all this today unable to confirm July 1st as a firm reopening date for the PGIA."

"Everything suggests, though, that rapid testing nirvana is imminent. And the moment that happens, we will be good to go. Having not been able to secure July 1st, you will understand that I don't feel comfortable hazarding a guess, an estimate, as to the actual new date."

"But let me take the plunge, there is no way tourism will not be back by November 1st. I personally anticipate that it will restart long before November 1st. By November 1st something has to give, if not, as a country we will have to contemplate the possibility of re-opening even if we don't have the reliable rapid test kits that we are so earnestly hoping for. But take the chance that there can be a return to some degree of Covid-19 once we re-open to the exterior. Take the chance of running that risk or face the inevitability of our almost literally dying, because of the absence of tourism."

Channel 7


Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542728
06/02/20 04:47 AM
06/02/20 04:47 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
Belize’s Aviation Community says IATA cannot mandate keeping PGIA closed

The Belizean aviation community is questioning the reason provided by Prime Minister Right Honourable Dean Barrow to maintain the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (PGIA) closed. Barrow claimed the re-opening of the PGIA hinges on the rapid testing of travellers to detect COVID-19 before boarding an aircraft, and it is allegedly what is required by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to clear international flights to Belize. The aviation community, however, believes this mandatory requirement might be inaccurate, and that IATA has no mandate in setting such policies.

The aviation community, through their letter, claims ‘IATA has no mandate or interest in setting policies that will see air travel and the air travel industry continue to be handicapped, as the requirement for a rapid test kit would do. No international body, including the World Health Organization, has recommended that a rapid test kit be a pre-requisite for the opening of an airport to international travel.’ In addition, they indicated that Belize is a sovereign country, and all local policies to deal with the pandemic should not be imposed by IATA or any other international body. A call to be more independent when it comes to policies that benefit Belizeans was also stressed.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun

Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542730
06/02/20 05:30 AM
06/02/20 05:30 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

Further Delay of Airport Reopening is Killing Local Airlines

The Philip Goldson International Airport will not resume operations to allow for the arrival of flights from other countries on the initially scheduled July first timeline.  That announcement was made on Friday by Prime Minister Dean Barrow who informed that government had to revisit its position at the eleventh hour based on recommendations made by the International Air Travel Association.  We will have more on IATA a little later in our newscast, but tonight the local airline industry continues to take a significant hit from losses due to a reduction in domestic flights.  As we have reported, Tropic Air has laid off as many as two hundred and twenty employees and is only functioning at two percent of its capacity when compared to the same period in 2019.  While additional layoffs seem inevitable, many questions are being asked by stakeholders in the aviation sector, including the massive cost of not reopening the airport as previously scheduled.  Late this evening, News Five spoke with Ravei Nunez, Tropic Air’s Deputy Director of Operations.

Ravei Nunez, Dep. Dir. Operations, Tropic Air

“Now in terms of the financial impact that it is having on both pilots, the aviation industry and tourism on a whole, it’s self-evident.  You walk around the streets and you see taxis parked that have not been parked before.  I work at Tropic Air and we’ve lost more than or close to fifty percent of our employees.  The employees who remain on staff have had their salaries reduced.  B.T.L., I believe, has already reduced salaries for its staff.  So in terms of the immediate impact, yes, the aviation industry and tourism on a whole feels it immediately, but there has to be some accounting for the policies that are put in place.  At some point, government employees will have their salaries cut, at some point government employees may have to be reduced in terms of numbers.  So we don’t know if a thorough conversation is being had about the long-term effects of the policies that we have in place.  I would just say that we need to look at this issue as yes, we had the coronavirus situation, the COVID-19 situation.  We need to look closely at the accounting for the evolving crisis that’s evolving before our very eyes, the crisis that’s resulting from the policies that we chose to impose, the procedures that we chose to follow in dealing with that crisis.  At some point we will open up, it’s not an if, but or maybe.  We will have to open up, the finances dictate that we will have to.  At that point we will have to look back and say, were we right in what we did?  Did we open up too early or did we open up too late and what’s the cost of opening up too late.  At the moment it seems that we just want to maintain a COVID-free Belize and that’s a worthy objective but that comes at a heavy, heavy price and that needs to be aired out and that needs to be discussed because all Belizeans are paying the price for that.”

Tropic Air is Down to 2% of Its Revenue

With ninety-eight percent losses being incurred by one carrier alone, the cost of delaying the reopening of the P.G.I.A. is staggering.  Investments have been made to improve the overall efficiency of Tropic Air, but with only a trickle of revenue coming in, the airline company is tethering on the brink of financial collapse.  According to Nunez, an additional cut will not necessarily save the airline industry if the government has not formulated a plan of action to reopen the P.G.I.A. with all the safeguards in place.

Isani Cayetano

“The continued closure of the Philip Goldson International Airport, the only international airport in the country, has some serious financial ramifications, as you’ve mentioned.  How are you guys coping to kind of deal with the significant loss in revenue and preparing for whatever eventualities are to come as a result of this continued closure?”

Ravei Nunez, Dep. Dir. Operations, Tropic Air

“So we’ve had to cut our operations by close to ninety-five percent.  The revenue we’re generating is close to two percent of what we’d be generating at this time of year.  So all that infrastructure is in place, all that infrastructure needs to be maintained, airplanes need to be maintained regardless of the amount of revenue that’s brought in.  So we have made significant cuts to staff, significant cuts to salaries in order for the company to maintain operations, in order for the company to keep the few of its passengers that we still have remaining moving.  We’re not sure how much longer we can keep this up.  Every single company that’s invested in the tourism industry and every single industry that benefits from the tourism indirectly, at some point has to make these decisions.  They have to make these cuts, if they haven’t done it already, the time for accounting will come.  It’s just a matter of whether we choose to put off that time or we choose to bring it forward.”

What’s the Fate of the Employees at the P.G.I.A.?

You’ve heard that Tropic Airlines is looking at a second wave of lay-offs and the matter is also under consideration at the Philip Goldson International Airport.  A meeting of the Board of Directors of the P.G.I.A. is being held to determine what’s next. But word is that with little revenue coming in, airport staff may very well be cut.

Ted Tejada, President, Belize Hotel Association

“The airport has, I understand, one hundred and fifty employees. The airport as well is holding a meeting with the board of directors to see what is going to be the next step because as well, they cannot continue paying their employees with no revenue coming in.”


Local Pilots Say IATA Can’t Say When P.G.I.A. Should Reopen

The announcement that the P.G.I.A. will not reopen on July first triggered further shocks in the already weakened tourism industry.  Last Thursday, the Government of Belize was set to announce the reopening of the Philip Goldson International Airport on July first.  Just a few hours before addressing the nation in a scheduled virtual press conference, PM Barrow was informed by the International Air Travel Association, also known as IATA, that strict measures ought to be put in place ahead of resuming operations at the P.G.I.A.   Those measures include the use of rapid testing to determine the medical condition of passengers prior to departure for Belize, where COVID-19 is concerned.  But a local group of pilots and aviators is refuting the position that the prime minister has taken, as well as his rationale for delaying the reopening of the international airport.  They say that it is not within IATA’s mandate to determine how and when a country can open up its airport to international arrivals.

Ravei Nunez, Dep. Dir. Operations, Tropic Air

“As stated in the letter that we had sent to the media, the pilot corps, Tropic Air to some extent, and I cant speak on behalf of Maya had some concerns about the way in which the prime ministers press conference was reported, in terms of his stance with regards to IATA and IATAs impact on governments decision to keep the airport closed.  IATA has no mandate to impose on governments what procedures and policies they should put in place to maintain the safety of aviation or their population.  IATA, in this instance, only gives recommendations and/or guidelines and in none of their recommendations and/or guidelines did they put in place that we have to have a rapid test kit as a prerequisite to opening the airport.”

Isani Cayetano

“In speaking on behalf of Tropic Air at this point, are you guys facing perhaps another round of layoffs should this scenario play out in the manner in which it is?”

Ravei Nunez

“We’re facing uncertainty.  Uncertainty in terms of when the industry will restart, uncertainty of when the international airport will open.  We’ve predicated our future, and this is as a country, not just Tropic Air, we’ve predicated our future on the hope that a rapid test kit can be developed, the hope that some immunity passport can be developed.  Any business persons, anybody who’s involved in the private sector will tell you that that type of uncertainty doesn’t bode well for business in general.  As an individual, speaking to people out there, speaking to fellow pilots and other Belizeans, that type of uncertainty for them doesn’t bode well either, because yes, I benefit directly from tourism but there are other people who benefit indirectly as well and not knowing when they can return to some semblance of normalcy in terms of the finances that they generate doesn’t bode well for them down the road.  So continuing to make cuts can only last for that much longer before at some point you abandon whatever it is that you are involved with.”

Channel 5


Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542853
06/09/20 04:41 AM
06/09/20 04:41 AM
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Posts: 71,996
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
Tropic Air pressures BTIA to support the reopening of the International Airport

Dear BTIA Member,

We ask for your kind support in the ongoing effort to open the Philip Goldson International Airport on July 1. We also ask for your support to get a public statement from BTIA to that effect.

You may not want to open your business at this time, and we understand and appreciate that, but the potential to lose vital international air service for the long term grows with every month we remain closed. We have already lost Southwest for the rest of this year. COPA will not resume until December. United, last night, cut its flights from 16 a week to 5. And the list goes on. The airlines will only reopen routes (that will lose money for the foreseeable future) where they have a committed partner that wants to start rebuilding from now. They will not invest in a country that doesn't want to share their risk. The more we wait, the longer it will take to get hack to the airlift levels needed to fill your hotels, tour boats, gifts shops and restaurants. The longer we wait to start rebuilding traffic, the more likely the scenario becomes that the airlines will abandon Belize altogether, taking their planes permanently to other open destinations.

Opening the airport now will not bring a rush of tourists. It will be a long slow process to rebuild traffic. It will be a process where we learn to live and become comfortable with the new normal. With the few passengers that arrive we will have time to streamline and perfect the health protocols to protect the public. BTIA Members should know that a comprehensive reopening plan is nearing completion. This plan is a model for reopening safely and goes far beyond what other Caribbean countries are doing. It includes comprehensive testing protocols to ensure near zero risk of a Covid-19 positive person entering the country through PGIA. It further includes comprehensive mitigation requirements and thorough screening with proactive contact tracing utilizing an app as well as strategic questionnaires to facilitate anticipated contact tracing. This comprehensive plan now hinges only on obtaining the needed reagents for the Covid-19 testing equipment already in place. We see other competing countries like Antigua and Costa Rica opening. The time for us to do the same, is here. We ask for your kind support in letting your BTIA leadership at all levels know that you support the effort to get Belize moving again.

Yours in Tourism,
Steven Schulte, CEO Tropic Air Limited

Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542876
06/10/20 05:37 AM
06/10/20 05:37 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 71,996
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
P.G.I.A. Remains Closed; Can the Situation Change Soon?

The tourism sector continues to plummet as Belize remains locked off from international visitors. There is no set date for the reopening of the international airport and worse so, border entry points as the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Mexico and neighbouring Central American countries. Even though domestic tourism is now being allowed, revenues are falling short and put at under three percent. After the announcement was made by PM Barrow that the reopening of the P.G.I.A. on July first will be pushed back, a group of hoteliers met with the PM and Director of Health Services, Doctor Marvin Manzanero to see what can be done to change the situation.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services


“It’s only a small group of hoteliers that came to ask and to look at possible options in terms of when you open the airport, throwing out a tentative date of July first. I think the one common agreement we had—we offered some suggestions—the common agreement we had is that they were going to give us a paper that would highlight how they think it could happen, how we could move this agenda forward in context of the COVID-19 situation, understanding that neighbouring countries and the U.S. itself are having increasing number of cases. Understanding that we had initially thought that by the ending of May, June, we would have had rapid tests available; those are not available. So in light of that, we said okay can we try to draft up a document of how the flow of people arriving would be. I don’t think we have a clear straightforward answer in that regard.”

Channel 5

Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542893
06/11/20 05:41 AM
06/11/20 05:41 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
88% of BTIA poll respondents want a comprehensive plan before reopening PGIA

For the past two nights, we've been telling you about the big poll that the Belize Tourism Industry Association did. They asked their members how they felt about re-opening the Phillip Goldson International on July first, or later in the year.
As we told you, one prominent tourism interest, Tropic Air, wrote a letter lobbying members to vote for an urgent opening on July first for an industry in peril.

Well, the results are in - and as we suggested last night - the final tally does not fall in the favour of Tropic and other large interests who are pushing for that July first opening.

The BTIA today sent a release saying, quote,"The survey confirmed that BTIA members are divided about the timing of any PGIA opening. Specifically, there was no consensus for a July 1st reopening, with 50% of respondents supporting this opening date. 50% of respondents indicated a preference for a later reopening date." end quote.

It continue to say, quote, "In summary, BTIA's membership is conflicted on the PGIA reopening issue. Since the matter is so complicated and factual knowledge is limited, BTIA will refrain from lobbying for a specific reopening date. BTIA trusts that the Government of Belize and the Covid-19 National Oversight Committee will evaluate the situation and act accordingly in the best interest of Belizeans." End quote.

So, there it is, BTIA - the leading industry group for tourism - will back off and leave it to the GOB. We asked the Executive Director all about this big decision:



And while BTIA won't push Government, reliable reports say its members are still privately pressuring the PM and others for that July first re-opening.

Channel 7

======================

Reopening of the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) Survey Results

The subject of the reopening of the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) has been at the forefront of discussions in our sector. We have heard strong arguments for a July 1st PGIA reopening, as well as very good arguments to defer the reopening to a later date. The BTIA recently polled its members to gauge their views regarding the reopening of the PGIA. Here are the results.

///////////////

The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) recently polled its members to gauge their views regarding the reopening of the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (PGIA). The survey also asked members to share their views on the medical safeguards that should be in place once PGIA is reopened to minimize the importation and spread of Covid-19 from arrivals.

The survey confirmed that BTIA members are divided about the timing of any PGIA opening. Specifically, there was no consensus for a July 1st reopening, with 50% of respondents supporting this opening date. Fifity percent of respondents indicated a preference for a later reopening date. Of this group of responses, the preferred dates ranged as follows: August 1st (22%), September 1st (9%), October 1st (11%), November 1st (11%), and December 1st (2%). Forty six percent indicated that Belize’s medical preparedness is more important than setting of an arbitrary PGIA reopening date.

88% of respondents were of the opinion that the Government of Belize must have a comprehensive reopening plan with adequate medical safeguards in place before the actual reopening of PGIA.

Members felt that the following protocols and safeguards should be instituted and form part of a PGIA reopening plan:
• 96% of respondents support the implementation of sanitation protocols and guidelines for all tourism service providers (Hotels, Restaurants, Tour operators, etc.).
• 60% of respondents wanted a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test conducted by a certified facility within 48-72 hours before boarding.
• 57% stated that they also wanted a certified rapid test (protein sensitive) in Belize upon arrival.
• 52% of respondents stated that they also wanted to see a contact tracing app in place.

BTIA notes that these medical safeguards are not available at this time.

In summary, BTIA’s membership is conflicted on the PGIA reopening issue. Since the matter is so complicated and factual knowledge is limited, BTIA will refrain from lobbying for a specific reopening date. BTIA trusts that the Government of Belize and the Covid-19 National Oversight Committee will evaluate the situation and act accordingly in the best interest of Belizeans.

Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542905
06/11/20 11:50 AM
06/11/20 11:50 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
Received from a friend....

Re-Opening the Airport

Dear friends, after much thought and consideration and with all due respect to the Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, as well as with the support of my colleagues, I believe and urge our fellow ministers to consider greatly in opening the international airport on July 1, 2020 or to at least set a fix date at its earliest as this has gravely affected our tourism industry, which is the bread and butter for most of the country.

I am aware that opening the international airport puts our country at a high risk of contamination of COVID-19; however, our country is severely being affected economically and our people are crying out of desperation to maintain themselves and their families. I know that our country is not capable of handling a huge outbreak but I believe that our country will just have to be more cautious in our daily lives; practicing good hygiene, wearing face masks, keeping to social distancing regulations and having everything sanitized – all of which has become our new lifestyle.

Lastly, if we do not open our airport, our local airlines will continue to be forced to terminate many employees. Many companies and resorts are hanging by a thread in trying to sustain their currently limited employees but this will not be for long. Politically, us at the San Pedro Town Council are barely making ends meet and our council is finding very difficult in maintain the daily upkeep of the town since there is not much revenue to sustain the expenses of our town.

Our country has always shown perseverance throughout many challenges and this makes it no different. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is here to stay, we must learn to live with it and like I mentioned previously, we must come to accept our new way of living in order to survive because if the virus will not get to us our economic crisis will.

Re: Reopening the P.G.I.A. Will Pose a Challenge [Re: Marty] #542911
06/11/20 02:23 PM
06/11/20 02:23 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
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I am disappointed that too many times this discussion is framed in an "Either Or" approach.
Either: open the airport for economic reasons.
Or: keep the airport closed for health safety reasons.
This should be a reasoned approach in an effort to balance the two. Without that both approaches will have unintended consequences.
First of all, just opening the airport either now, July, August or even September is not going to do a lot to help with the economic recovery. It is unlikely there would be that many tourists coming and it is going to be sometime before Belize economy recovers. Secondly, prematurely opening without sufficient protocols in place could lead to a dramatic increase in the number of cases. Currently Belize is one of the more safe countries based on the number of reported cases. In order for tourists to return to Belize it needs to continue to keep that number low and provide the safety protocols that give the tourists the confidence to come. Worse case scenario would be to have a spike in cases prior to the high season.
Secondly, the longer the country remains closed, it delays the recovery. It is not like a water faucet that you turn on and the full volume of water immediately comes out. Knowing the country is open allows people to start thinking about visiting and airlines to plan for future travel. The sooner the country opens the more people will start to plan to visit in future months.
It would be helpful if those making the argument to open for economic reasons would also provide suggestions on safety protocols. And those arguing not to open at this time also reveal what they would propose in order to have an opening sooner rather than later.
There needs to be compromise knowing that there is no perfect solution. There is risk involved in opening to soon just as there is risk involved in remaining closed for too long.

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