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Jamaica proceeds to reopen borders; will test returning nationals but not international travellers

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Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2020. 1:57 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: This week, Jamaica has reopened its borders for repatriated Jamaicans and others, and will do so for international travellers two weeks hence, the Jamaica Gleaner reports, citing a letter to tourism stakeholders from the country’s tourism minister Edmund Bartlett.

But the island nation will not pre-test or quarantine visitors when it reopens, as according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the country does not have the human resources and fiscal capacity to carry out testing for the virus at its three international airports and several seaports. Holness told reporters that requiring pre-testing would strain the public health system.

Persons can however volunteer to be tested and there is provision for this. All passengers would have their temperatures checked and sensitized as to the dangers of COVID-19. Those with higher temperatures than 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit and or showing flu-like symptoms would be secondarily check in designated spaces and may be referred to the country’s ministry of health, per The Gleaner.

Jamaica closed its borders on March 24 to flatten the curve of the coronavirus disease, which has infected 586 nationals, nine fatally. The travel restrictions have shuttered scores of hotels and guest houses locally and haemorrhaged an estimated 300,000 direct and indirect tourism-related jobs, The Gleaner says.

Similarly to Belize, Jamaica’s Hotel and Tourism Association asked that it be required that visitors present a negative result test done at least 72 hours before visiting, but that the airlines were not in agreement per the order of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Jamaica is nonetheless choosing to move ahead despite acknowledging that there may be a surge in cases as a result. Prime Minister Dean Barrow has said Belize will wait until the situation changes, but only until the start of the high season in November at the outset.

Meanwhile, all persons entering the country from June 1-14 will be subject to testing except for those entering from a country designated as a “travel bubble” – nations with management and profile results for COVID-19 similar to Jamaica’s regarding spread, death rate, infection prevention, and control measures, contact-tracing protocols, and other such criteria.

Persons seeking to enter Jamaica from countries within this travel bubble may not need to be tested on arrival. They would, however, be subject to health status screening (including temperature checks and symptom observation).

Everyone is required to go through a sensitisation programme with a public-health official using flyers and audio-visuals.

“We are also considering including a pledge document, which will need to be signed,” the prime minister said.

He added that based on their health status and risk assessment by a public-health officer, Jamaicans seeking to re-enter would still be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The Opposition People’s National Party’s Spokesperson on Tourism, Dr Wykeham McNeill, has described this as a double standard and has called for immediate clarification.

McNeill said while the Opposition is generally supportive of the government’s endeavour to reopen the economy to visitors, there should be no shortcutting of the necessary protocol to ensure the maximum protection of the Jamaican society, but especially those workers in the tourism sector who will come into direct contact with the visitors.

 

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