Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett has revealed that Jamaica has bolstered its COVID-19 testing infrastructure to meet the growing demand for such tests, driven by new travel requirements in major tourism source markets.
“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,” said Minister Bartlett.
This follows the recent order by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which requires evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result for airline passengers travelling into the United States. Similar requirements were previously introduced by the governments of Canada and the UK, which require all persons flying to those countries to present negative test results to facilitate entry or to avoid self-quarantine.
The Minister underscored that the improvements to the testing framework was being driven by the special task force he recently developed to spearhead efforts to boost Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity. The group has also created a system which will make the process easier for visitors.
“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 and I am pleased to say that that work is completed. We are able to report positively that the labs are all accredited and resourced,” the Minister outlined.
“We have also established two redundancy arrangements. They are located at sites close to both international airports in Montego Bay and Kingston,” said Minister Bartlett.
Testing facilities are also in place at all of the country’s major hotels and transportation arrangements are in place to facilitate the movement of visitors to the closest testing center, if one is not available on property. Visitors will also have the option to pay for the tests prior to their arrival at the facilities.
The Minister also shared that a policy is being developed for visitors who test positive ahead of their departure from the island. “For visitors who test positive, we have a positive care program that is being structured. The 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,” he said.
The Minister also explained that the new travel requirements are burdensome. “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. We are still the finest destination to visit,” said the Minister.
The special task force is led by Minister Bartlett and includes President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader; First Vice President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and former President of the JHTA, Nicola Madden-Greig; Chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), Ian Dear; Deputy Chairman of the Sandals Group and Chairman of the Tourism Linkages Network Council, Adam Stewart; Executive Director of Chukka Caribbean Adventures and Chairman of the COVID-19 resilient corridor management team, John Byles; and Senior Advisor and Strategist in the Ministry of Tourism, Delano Seiveright.
This task force works along with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and tourism stakeholders, both within the public and private sectors.
Visitors are encouraged to check the Jamaica Tourist Board’s website (www.visitjamaica.com) as well as the website of the Ministry of Health and Wellness (www.moh.gov.jm) for updates on the testing arrangements and approved testing facilities.