With lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders now in effect in a number of countries worldwide, the urge to find a coronavirus-free corner of the earth to hunker down and wait it out is a tempting one. But officials in far-flung destinations say travellers are taxing their already tight resources and bringing COVID-19 along with them, so they’re urging would-be visitors to stay at home – at least for now.

An Oahu North Shore beach, Hawaii
Hawaii's governor has issued a stay-at-home order and a mandatory quarantine for anyone entering the state © ejs9/Getty Images

Last week, Hawaii governor David Ige issued a statement that “strongly encouraged” visitors to postpone vacations for at least the next month, and this week he followed up with a stay-at-home order – and a mandate that anyone arriving at a Hawaiian airport would be subject to a 14-day self-quarantine. 

“With the majority of Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases linked to travel, it is critical that we further mitigate the spread of the virus by both residents and visitors who are coming from out-of-state,” Ige said, per a press release. “We want this action to send a message to visitors and residents alike that we appreciate their love for Hawaii but at this time we believe our community is very important and we need to come together to fight this virus. We are asking them to postpone their visits to our island community… The safety and welfare of the people of Hawaii is our number one priority.”

Town and bay of Terre-de-Haut, capital of Les Saintes islands, Guadeloupe archipelago, Caribbean Sea
Last week, the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe announced that it would be suspending international flights – and sending travellers home © Oliver Hoffmann/Shutterstock

The Caribbean is particularly susceptible to tourists trying to outrun the coronavirus disease, and outbreaks in the region are reportedly on the rise. While many islands have suspended flights originating in hotspots, banned cruise ships, and restricted entry for visitors who’ve recently travelled to locations where COVID-19 is active, some are resorting to extreme measures to protect their populations. 

On 17 March, the Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board announced that all international flights would be suspended for a 30-day period – and any US citizens or residents currently in Guadeloupe who had travelled on JetBlue, American Airlines, or Air France would be flown back. Points of entry have also been closed across the Caribbean. The Cayman Islands closed their airports to all international travel for three weeks, beginning 22 March, while Turks & Caicos closed both airports and seaports to non-essential international and regional travel for 21 days, effective 24 March.  

A fresh water stream surrounded by the mountains of Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands & Islands are being flooded with traffic © SW_Photo/Getty Images

The problem may be especially prevalent in destinations known for their balmy weather and beach-front views, but it’s not exclusive to them. Scotland’s Highlands & Islands are being flooded with traffic from tourists and those with vacation homes in the area – and they aren’t being welcomed with open arms. 

“If you live elsewhere, please don’t use the Highlands as your means of self-isolation,” the Highland’s parliament representative, Kate Forbes, tweeted last week. “People live here who are trying to follow government guidance and the continuing flow of campervans and other traffic who appear to be escaping the cities is not helping.”

Rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing echoed the sentiment in stronger terms, saying in a statement, “I am furious at the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some people travelling to the Highland and Islands. This has to stop now. Let me be crystal clear, people should not be travelling to rural and island communities full stop. They are endangering lives. Do not travel.”

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