The La Soufriere volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent erupted on Friday, sending a column of ash 10km into the sky. With some 16,000 people living in the ‘red zone’ near the volcano, the authorities had been scrambling to put together evacuation plans in the hours leading up to the blast.
For viewers following the evacuation effort through television news reports, one detail of the plan may have stood out. “Cruise ships are evacuating people from the island,” CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell announced on Friday, adding that “only those vaccinated against Covid” would be allowed to leave.
INSANE: “Cruise ships are evacuating people from the island, but only those vaccinated against covid.”
What in the hell pic.twitter.com/FuKq3IU1i7
— Drew Hernandez (@DrewHLive) April 10, 2021
The clip, which has since raised some eyebrows online, turned out to be factually correct. St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, did announce in a press conference that evacuees would need to receive a Covid shot before boarding any of the two Royal Caribbean cruise ships and two Carnival Cruise Line’s vessels that arrived on Friday.
Furthermore, Gonsalves said that the neighboring islands of St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, and Antigua would accept evacuees, but only if they had been vaccinated.
To add to the horror on St Vincent, *only vaccinated* evacuees are being accepted on cruise ships or nearby islands. This is worse than my worst nightmares about vaccine segregation.
This has to redouble our determination to NEVER allow covid passes.pic.twitter.com/Q2Zx73bFkN
— Silkie Carlo (@silkiecarlo) April 10, 2021
So… a volcano on St Vincent has erupted and cruise ships are evacuating residents in peril, but only if they've been vaccinated for Covid. We're through the looking glass, everybody.
— Oliver Smith (@ollysmithtravel) April 10, 2021
This is insane. And so wrong. 😡 https://t.co/snGDQJPaC6
— MrsJustMe🇺🇸🥊 🏋🏻♀️ 🍷 (@JustMe73forAll) April 10, 2021
However, despite Gonsalves’ announcement, neither Royal Caribbean nor Carnival Cruise Line have mentioned anything about keeping unvaccinated passengers off their ships. Royal Caribbean did say that “all precautions will be taken to protect the health and safety of the crew and passengers who board our ships,” but did not elaborate further. Nor have the governments of the aforementioned islands released any official statements clarifying whether or not they would accept unvaccinated evacuees.
Further complicating matters is the fact that St. Vincent received its first shipment of vaccines only two days before the eruption. Throughout the pandemic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded only 1,789 cases of Covid-19 and 10 deaths, according to figures from the World Health Organization.