PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has fired back at critics who have accused the Government of risking the health of Jamaicans for the tourism dollar, in its decision to reopen the sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement in the House of Representatives yesterday, Holness said, “The truth is that the Government of Jamaica does not make policies to favour tourists. We make policies to favour the people of Jamaica. I want to dispel that because whilst it has not come up to the surface, in conversations and in public discourse it is there simmering somewhere in the subliminal.”
Holness stressed that tourism must be treated as a business and the country has to get the most economic value that it can from the sector. “It is a situation that we are in as a small island state, an economy highly dependent on tourism and travel, highly dependent on our diaspora,” he said, pointing out that the Jamaican economy cannot exist without trade and travel.
He argued that relative to many, if not most countries, Jamaica has done well in the management of the pandemic, and that comparative data dispels the false narrative that has been circulating about the Government’s management of the crisis.
The prime minister also announced that pretesting for visitors from high-risk countries would continue but that antigen test results will now be accepted alongside PCR test results. The health ministry recently announced that it is expanding testing for COVID-19 to include antigen testing, based on WHO/PAHO guidelines. The changes for visitors will take effect on October 10.
“This will make it easier for visitors, both Jamaicans coming from overseas [and] Jamaicans who live overseas, and for tourists who are visiting Jamaica, to meet the pretesting requirement as antigen tests are more readily available and are cheaper and faster than PCR tests,” he stated.
Furthermore, applicants using the Visit Jamaica platform will no longer be required to upload their test certificates but will have to present them at check-in, along with the other travel authorisations.
Holness also informed the House that the Government is in advanced negotiations for the implementation of a health services and logistics insurance plan which will be mandatory for visitors to Jamaica. The target date for implementation is November 1. “Those plans will provide for local medical care and air ambulance services where necessary for visitors who fall ill while in Jamaica,” he explained.