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JAMAICA | Government back-tracks; all tourists to be tested for COVID-19

  • Written by Calvin G Brown - wiredja.com
  • Published in Tourism
Featured Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says as of June 15, all visitors to the island will be tested for covid-19 Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says as of June 15, all visitors to the island will be tested for covid-19
KINGSTON, Jamaica, June 12, 2020 - Faced with mounting pressure from civil society, business and tourism sectors of society, the government in a policy reversal, now says as of Monday, all tourists and Jamaicans arriving in the island will be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett made the disclosure evening while speaking at an online media briefing yesterday.

“All visitors and local alike who are coming in as of the 15th (June) will be tested. The secondly source market will be the USA primarily and some from Canada,” said Minister Bartlett.

This is a reversal of the initial decision that was taken by the Government for tourists to only submit to voluntary testing.

Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton said testing will be done to understand and manage the risk profile of visitors.

“I don't think anything has changed. I know that there has been some speculation or utterances that suggest that we were going to take a particular route, but I think based on the advice and the assessment, the decision has been to appreciate the risk a little more and then from there to make some more concrete decisions based on information,” Dr. Tufton said.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett earlier said some 70 flights are expected to arrive in Jamaica between June 15 and 30, bringing about 5,000 to 6,000 visitors.

The minister said a 'resilient corridor' will be established from Negril through to Port Antonio and will include all properties on the seaward side of the corridor for these arriving tourists.

The Parliamentary Opposition said it supported the call by the Medical Association of  Jamaica (MAJ) for mandatory coronavirus testing for tourists when the country reopens to international travellers on Monday.

MAJ President, Dr Andrew Manning, said arrangements could also be made for source countries to organize testing before the passengers leave.

Opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr Morais Guy, said pre-testing would provide a greater sense of  security to travellers as well as tourism workers.

Jamaica reported six new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 611 with ten persons dying as a result of the virus.

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, the JHTA has welcomed the government’s decision to institute COVID-19 testing for visitors to the island and says it is awaiting details on the roll-out of the regime at airports.

The JHTA says while it appreciates the many moving parts the government is managing in relation to COVID-19, it is vital for a streamlined approach to be taken for the introduction of protocols for the tourism sector as well as an effective communications strategy.

It argues that these are important, particularly relative to when and what is said to guide the global travel trade community on Jamaica’s policy related to entry and COVID-19 testing.

“It is therefore unfortunate that the decision to test all incoming passengers follows a prior announcement that no such blanket requirement was required.  

“A lack of timely and concise communications serves only to confuse the market and discredit the hard work of all involved in trying to reopen our economy,” a JHTA spokesperson said in a statement.

With this new testing regime, along with the already announced tourism protocols, Jamaica has provided a multi-layer strategy to mitigate risks for tourism workers, the wider Jamaican community and visitors, the JHTA says.

Up to yesterday, six persons have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of cases in the island to 611 to date.

At the same time, there was one additional recovery from the virus over the last 24 hours, putting the country’s overall recovery numbers at 408 or 66.8 per cent of those who have tested positive.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr.  Christopher Tufton, in an update yesterday,  informed that there are currently two critical cases of the virus.

He said the new positive cases were from 325 samples tested within the last 24 hours. Of the total, 105 were discharge samples.

“The new cases were all imported; four arriving on a flight from the United States and two on a flight from the United Kingdom,” he noted.

There are five females and one male, whose ages range from 38 to 63 years. Two of the cases are from St. Elizabeth, two from St. James, one from Portland and one from St. Catherine. There are now 110 imported cases of COVID-19 in Jamaica.

Some 3,289 Jamaicans have been returned to the island since April 20 says Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie.

Jamaica opened its borders to cruise ship returnees on May 6, returning 1,662 Jamaicans.

Since June 1 there have been 22 flights — 15 through the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and seven through Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay — a total of 989 passengers.

Over that period, the country has seen 49 positive cases from the cruise ships, and 26 from the flights, Dr Bisasor-McKenzie said.

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  • Countries: Jamaica