Many islands that opened for summer travel are grappling with rising Covid-19 infections.
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CNBC Travel

Here's what happened when the world's most popular islands let tourists back in

Some of the world's most popular islands experienced a spike in Covid-19 cases after reopening to tourists this summer.

Now, governments are adding restrictions that range from outright tourist bans to increased testing and quarantine requirements, while other islands are indefinitely postponing plans to reopen.  

U.S. Virgin Islands bans tourists for one month

As of Wednesday, hotels, villas, Airbnbs, charter vessels and "similar businesses" in the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot accept new guests or make reservations from leisure travelers for a period of 30 days.

For those there, the island atmosphere is about to change. All nonessential businesses, including bars and nightclubs, have been ordered to close, and restaurants cannot offer dine-in services. Weekend beach access has been restricted.

New rules follow the U.S. Virgin Islands return to "stay at home" status, the country's fourth (out of five) most restrictive reopening phase.
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"When we announced our Covid-19 alert system in May, I indicated at that time that we would retreat back to a more cautious state of alert if conditions warranted," Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said during a press conference on Aug. 13. "Unfortunately, we have arrived at that point this week."

Overall numbers remain low, but Covid-19 infections in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which includes St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, have doubled since last month.

Total cases: 760

Bahamas welcomed, then banned, then re-welcomed travelers

The Bahamas had been open to tourists less than three weeks when 49 new cases of Covid-19 prompted Prime Minister Hubert Minnis to announce that only travelers from Canada, the U.K. and the EU could enter. The decision mostly affected Americans, who had made up more than 78% of the islands' stopover visitors as of 2016.

The restriction lasted mere days, however, as the country announced on July 24 it was reversing its decision in favor of updated requirements and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors. The government also imposed a weekend lockdown from July 22 to 24. At that time, the Bahamas had 274 Covid-19 cases. 

Total cases: 1,329

Cayman Islands extends its border closure

On Aug. 7, the Cayman Islands announced its borders will stay closed until at least Oct. 1. The decision was based on the rate of infection in other countries — particularly the United States — according to a press statement from the country.

Total cases: 203

Visitors, who travel to the Cayman Islands for the beaches and scuba sites, won't be able to go this summer.

Other Caribbean and Atlantic islands:

Antigua, Bermuda and St. Lucia reopened this summer and have kept new infections relatively low. Jamaica is stable, though an upward trend in new cases is emerging. 

Others have not been so lucky. Puerto Rico, Aruba and Turks and Caicos experienced a rapid increase in new infections in August, resulting in Aruba and Turks and Caicos being removed from the U.K.'s travel corridors list.

Bali's reopening is iffy

Except Cambodia, Southeast Asia is closed to international travelers, so the region has kept close tabs on Indonesia's plans to reopen Bali to foreign tourists on Sept. 11.

Those plans now appear tentative at best. Last week, Indonesian Minister Erick Thohir, who oversees the country's coronavirus task force, said that due to concerns over new outbreaks, the reopening schedule is under review.

The popular town of Ubud (shown here) and the rest of Bali opened to domestic tourists on July 31.
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Bali opened to domestic travelers on July 31. At that time, the island had around 3,300 total cases. As of Aug. 15, 724 more cases have been confirmed.

After the Philippines, Indonesia has the second highest number of Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia.

Total cases: 4,024 (as of Aug. 15)

French Polynesia is open — but there's a catch

While French Polynesia remains open to tourists, the country is experiencing a spike of Covid-19 cases. After the South Pacific islands reported just two cases in all of June and July, French Polynesia has confirmed 104 cases in the past two weeks. The country has been open for just over a month; it reopened to tourists (and abolished quarantine requirements) on July 15. 

Cases have been confirmed in Tahiti, Mo'orea, Bora Bora and Rangiora, despite requirements that travelers produce negative polymerase chain reaction Covid-19 tests before arriving.

From Aug. 12 to 25, nightclubs must remain closed, and masks are required in restaurants, bars, shops and other public areas.  

Total cases: 211

The Maldives is surging

More than 3,000 foreign tourists, mainly from the U.K. and the U.S., visited the Maldives since it reopened on July 15. Unfortunately, the country experienced a surge in coronavirus cases several weeks later. 

The island nation has had 1,730 new cases since the start of August, which means around 30% of its total cases stem from the past two weeks alone. The first confirmed Covid-19 case in the country was on March 7. 

Total cases: 5,909

Hawaii's reopening is likely delayed

Hawaii was on schedule to reopen on Sept. 1 until the island of Oahu experienced a spike in new cases this month. The state's reopening had already been postponed from Aug. 1, due to an increase in cases in the continental U.S.

A rise in cases on the island of Oahu is threatening to derail Hawaii's Sept. 1 reopening plans.
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"We are headed in the wrong direction," Gov. David Ige said during a Zoom press conference on Aug. 13. He warned that if cases continue to rise, Hawaii's pre-travel testing program may be delayed. The program would allow travelers with recent negative Covid-19 test results to avoid Hawaii's 14-day self-quarantine requirement.

Tourism industry executives predict Hawaii's reopening may be pushed to November or even December, as reported by Hawaii News Now.

Total cases: 5,024

Correction:  This report has been updated to accurately indicate that Bermuda is an Atlantic rather than a Caribbean island.