The Gleaner, Jamaica, Western Bureau, Thursday, May 14, 2020: Scores of tourists explore Port Royal after disembarking the Marella Discovery 2 on Monday, February 24, 2020, on the vessel’s second visit to the recently developed pier in Kingston.
Airline and cruise-ship visitors to Jamaica may be required to present medical certificates of a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the island when the country reopens its borders for tourism.
The medical certificate, which should be no older than 76 hours, is among a number of proposed protocols now on the table for implementation.
All airline passengers departing Jamaica should also be tested prior to boarding and their temperature checked by thermal scanners. If their temperatures are above normal, they will be denied boarding.
Pressed on tourists’ risk of contracting the coronavirus disease in transit between airports, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton was coy.
“We are working on the protocol. … We have protocols now, but those are being reviewed in light of the new public-health threat … . What I would encourage is to just hold a bit until protocols are established,” the minister said at a virtual press briefing on Wednesday evening.
But Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie sought to pooh-pooh the quality of testing regimes in some countries, emphasising that many of those evaluations were being culled by subpar rapid kits.
“The test results are not reliable, one, and two, the tests speak about now. So if a person is incubating a virus, then they may very well have a negative test and then two days later, when they are in the country, they develop symptoms,” Bisasor-McKenzie said.
The team tasked with fine-tuning the strategies that must comport with international travel and tourism standards has also suggested that the walkway leading to security scanners be sanitised after each person passes through.
Floor markers are also to be installed to maintain social distancing while handwashing stations and pedal-openable bins are to be set up at all entrances.
It is unclear whether major hotels, such as Sandals Resorts International (SRI) and Moon Palace Ocho Rios, will be able to make all the adjustments in time for initially announced resumption dates of June 4 and June 1, respectively.
Deputy chairman of SRI, Adam Stewart, who skirted questions by The Gleaner of a possible delay in reopening, said that he was closely monitoring developments relating to travel restrictions and airport closures and anticipated that the government protocols would guide the hotel chain’s decisions.
SRI has resorts in Barbados, Turks and Caicos, Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, and Grenada. Antigua will welcome its first international flight from the United States on June 4, weeks after borders were closed to incoming passengers in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Sandals and Moon Palace are not the only resorts anxious to see the tourism sector back up and running. In fact, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told stakeholders during a digital press conference on Wednesday morning that hoteliers were eager for the country’s borders to be reopened immediately but cautioned that resumption must guarantee the safety of tourism workers and the wider populace.
Instead, Bartlett wants a staggered reopening, especially because forward bookings indicate a forecast of no more than 30 per cent occupancy.
RIU said, on its website, that it will require guests to wear gloves in buffet areas while one of the world’s largest tour operators, TUI, which does business with hotels such as Grand Palladium in Lucea; Royalton, Trelawny; and Negril, is reportedly insisting on no buffets when holidays resume.
At SeaGardens Beach Resort in Montego Bay, June Wright, a manager, said there would be increased prioritisation of cleanliness and sanitisation.
“Following the pandemic, sanitisation is going to be a highlighted feature in our facilities or services. Public areas will be arranged to maintain space between individuals, and additional precautionary measures will safeguard the welfare of our guests,” Wright said.
Many of the island’s tourism workers are being trained to deliver on the new standards while the two international airports are to get electronic gates valued at $300 million.
The gates will be used by the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency.