Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says urgent steps are being taken to ramp up Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity, amid reports of expected changes in testing requirements by one of the country’s largest tourism source markets — the United States of America (US).
“Like all other nations, we understand the need to protect citizens and to put measures in place to help reduce the spread of this deadly virus. It is for this reason the Government of Jamaica and key partners are putting measures in place to boost the COVID-19 testing capacity locally,” said Bartlett.
According to news reports by media entities such as the Wall Street Journal, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to issue an order for all airline passengers from international destinations to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights to the US. The new order is expected to be announced soon, and is expected to take effect on January 26, 2021.
This comes on the heels of a similar COVID-19 test requirement by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom (UK), which also require all people flying to those countries to present negative test results to facilitate entry or to avoid self-quarantine.
Though concerned about the strain this will place on the resources of Jamaica’s health care system and the general economic recovery of the island, Bartlett is up for the challenge.
“The Ministry of Tourism is working closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, as well as private labs and other key stakeholders to have more available testing facilities in place to make the process a more seamless one,” he said.
“These growing changes in testing requirements within the travel industry will undoubtedly cause a setback in the economic recovery of small vulnerable destinations globally. These adjustments will place added pressure on the resources needed to treat our citizens, especially in countries that have made considerable efforts to successfully bolster their health and safety standards to insulate tourists and citizens alike, from the risk of COVID-19 infection. We will, however, continue to work closely with all local and international tourism partners, to ensure the safety of our citizens and visitors.”
He said Jamaica has developed and introduced robust COVID-19 health and safety protocols that have been endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council, as well as COVID-resilient corridors, to boost the country’s ability to manage and trace the movement and activities of tourists along controlled corridors within the country.
“These innovative measures have helped to distinguish Jamaica as among the most COVID-19 resilient destinations in the world. We will continue to monitor and enhance our health and safety standards to protect our citizens and every single tourist who lands on our shores,” Bartlett said.
He added: “While we make preparations to facilitate this likely request, we implore the governments of the United States, Canada and the UK to reconsider such COVID-19 testing requirements and take into consideration the peculiar circumstances and risk level associated with travelling to individual countries, as we believe that Jamaica has proven to be a safe destination with strict and effective COVID-19 protocols in place,” he added.