Following the eruption, the island's Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said only people vaccinated against Covid could evacuate to neighbouring islands via the empty cruise ships that were being rerouted to help with the evacuation. “If people are willing to welcome you at a time of Covid-19, they will wish you to have the highest level of protection possible,” Gonsalves added.
However, according to a report from The Independent, Celebrity Cruises have said that they will only require a negative PCR test for evacuees to board. “Our ship remains off the coast of the island awaiting word on whether or not we will be needed,” a spokeswoman is quoted as saying.
Humanitarian crisis and increasing Covid cases
In addition to the evacuation issue, the United Nations has warned of a growing humanitarian crisis on the island that could last for months – the organisation noted that 20 per cent of the population have now been displaced by the series of volcanic eruptions, while thousands more are now at risk of food insecurity.
Mr Trebucq, the UN Co-ordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said: “We are expecting that continuous explosions and ash fall will continue over the coming weeks in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but also in neighbouring islands such as Barbados, which has also been severely affected... as well as Saint Lucia and Grenada.”
He added: "This is a crisis that is going to last certainly more than six months in the sub-region, in Saint Vincent, and other islands," he said
And this crisis is, in turn, causing a further crisis. Officials in St Vincent say they are extremely worried about the island’s Covid-19 outbreak given a lack of clean water, as well as the fact that more positive coronavirus cases are being reported as thousands of evacuees into crowded shelters and private homes.
La Soufrière volcano had been dormant for decades, having not previously erupted since 1979 but, in late 2020, it started rumbling and then began spewing steam and smoke. It was just before 9 a.m. on Friday that seismologists from the University of the West Indies warned that an ‘explosive eruption’ was under way.
Also in April, tourists were evacuated from the long-dormant volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland after it first began to erupt in March.