THE Government believes it has sufficient measures in place to prevent persons entering the island from the United Kingdom (UK), via transit ports, while the present travel ban is in place.
The Jamaica Observer has received reports that people wanting to enter the island from the UK have been travelling to the United States and other countries before heading to Jamaica in an effort to avoid going into the required 14-day state quarantine.
But Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security Matthew Samuda says most, if not all, of the people who have tried this have been caught.
According to Samuda, some people who are British passport holders, have tried to enter the island via other jurisdictions have been blocked.
He said others with non-UK passports who have sought to enter by way of disjointed flights through the United States and the Eastern Caribbean, have also been rejected.
“We have caught attempts [being made] and blocked those before they got here. Literally one or two [have landed]; it hasn’t reached 10 persons either because of how they book their ticket. Because of IATA (International Air Transport Association), or the JAMCOVID back end, somehow they found a way to come, but those persons upon reaching Jamaica would have gone into Government quarantine,” Samuda told the Observer.
He said through the approval system on the JAMCOVID platform, persons with British passports attempting to come here, are either blocked or heavily reviewed. “So you could have a person with a British passport coming through Florida, but they have been in Florida for a month, or two months. It’s really up to the MOH (Ministry of Health) as they review the process, to see if the person represents a US risk, or a UK risk,” Samuda explained.The minister argued that while no system is perfect, persons certainly have not been slipping through the cracks, as there are several tiers of monitoring that would catch anyone seeking to enter surreptitiously. “So I can’t say it’s impossible, I can say it’s highly improbable. But I would be surprised to know of it happening on any scale that would concern the country.
“You either catch it at the approval stage or when they try to check in at the airport if they didn’t share that information or try to travel on with another passport. The airlines have caught some and not allowed them to board,” said Samuda. He said empty flights from the UK are being allowed to land in Jamaica to facilitate the repatriation of individuals who were here prior to the ban, and need to return home. In the meantime, Samuda said it is not the policy of the Government to keep people out, but that those who choose to come must bear in mind that travelling at this time is not travel as usual.
“We are not saying don’t travel. Those who want to come to Jamaica just need to apprise themselves of what to expect,” he said.
Samuda noted that the Jamaican economy relies on travel, and pointed to the measures which have been put in place to allow tourists to enter the island.
“When you look at the resilient corridor that has been put in place and has operated successfully with no outbreak of COVID-19 in the sector, you have to congratulate the Ministry of Tourism, led by Minister [Edmund] Bartlett,” said Samuda.
The Government of Jamaica last week extended the travel ban on flights from the UK into Jamaica, to January 31. The ban was initially implemented on January 21 for two weeks.This week the health ministry advised that Jamaicans who seek to enter the island through another country, and have been in the UK within the two weeks leading up to the date of their intended arrival date, will be tested and placed in state quarantine for a minimum of 48 hours until their COVID-19 test results are returned.