Jamaica bolsters Covid-19 testing as ‘burdensome’ travel rules bite

Jamaica has bolstered its Covid-19 testing infrastructure to meet the growing demand driven by new travel requirements in major tourism source markets.

This follows a recent order by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which requires evidence of a negative test result for airline passengers arriving in the US.

Similar requirements were introduced by the governments of the UK and Canada, which require negative test results to allow entry or to avoid self-quarantine.

The island’s tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said: “Jamaica is now very ready. We have developed the infrastructure to secure the quantities of testing agents and/or to enable the viral testing methods that are approved by the relevant authorities.

“So, all visitors who come to Jamaica will be able to access approved testing arrangements to enable them to fulfil the requirements of their respective countries for re-entry.

A special task force is spearheading efforts to boost Jamaica’s Covid-19 testing capacity. The group has also created a system which will make the process easier for visitors.

Bartlett added: “The task force has done quite a lot of work, which includes taking steps to assess and determine the capacity to respond to the need for testing of all visitors going back to their country. We are able to report positively that the labs are all accredited and resourced.”

Sites close to both international airports in Montego Bay and Kingston have been established.

Testing facilities are also in place at major hotels and transportation arrangements are in place to move visitors to the closest testing centre if one is not available on site.  Visitors will also have the option to pay for tests prior to arrival.

A policy is also being developed for visitors who test positive ahead of their departure from the island.

“For visitors who test positive, we have a positive care programme that is being structured,” Bartlett said.

“Hotels will be the first responders by allowing the visitors to stay on property in a designated area throughout the period, especially if they are asymptomatic, to fulfil the requirements to enable them to go back home.”

But the minister described new travel regulations as “burdensome”.

He said: “These new requirements are very challenging and we are already hampered by the existing protocols. The new ones only add to that burden.

“It is moving costs up and reducing volumes in, and will have implications in terms of the viability of some of the entities. However, what it is not affecting is the quality and high experience level that Jamaica offers.”

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