COVID19, caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARSCoV2), is
wreaking negative health and economic havoc in several states in the US, and countries including Brazil, Sweden Mexico, and several others.
Jamaica’s economy has also been significantly, and negatively impacted by COVID 19. The well-executed, aggressive COVID19 reduction strategies implemented in Jamaica have achieved major success. This despite significant outbreaks in a Portmore St. Catherine Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), and community outbreaks in Bull Bay, Clarendon, and Buff Bay on the St. Mary Portland border.
Jamaica reopened its borders to International Travellers on June 15, 2020 and has recorded several
positive cases among visitors during mandatory testing after their arrival on the island. By implementing
a mandatory testing strategy, required isolation or quarantine, disease spread by reentering citizens or
tourists can be minimised. Mandatory COVID19 testing of all passengers arriving in Jamaica however
can be an expensive undertaking.
It may be time to rethink the mandatory LOCAL testing, isolation, and quarantine strategies because of
the inherently associated time delays and cost, especially when other more effective options may be
available. These may include:
1. Required pre-arrival testing for tourists arriving in Jamaica.
Considerations may include 7 day or 72- hour pre-arrival testing with verified results from a Clinical
Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) authorised United States or equivalent laboratory. On
arrival in Jamaica there would be triaging based on the testing and result categories to which arriving passengers belong.
Jamaican nationals, and guests requiring testing on arrival would also be triaged separately. Expedited immigration processing would be provided for those who completed pre-arrival testing and whose results are negative. A fee to defray the cost of testing for those who failed to complete pre-arrival testing would be incurred/assessed. Part of this fee could be collected by the government and the rest by the hotel which would later forward the hotel’s portion to the government.
2. Appropriate tourism sector agreed and dedicated protocols including isolation and quarantine facilities for COVID19 negative and positive guests.
Hoteliers working together independent of, but in consultation with the government’s tourism sector
should develop 3 categories of facilities for placement of guests based on testing results. Those with
positive COVID19 test results would be assigned to a predetermined quarantine hotel in either Kingston, Montego Bay, Ochi Rios, Lucea, or Negril.
All guests and staff would be required to practice social distancing and use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These guests would be required to agree to state mandated monitoring either using cell phone or other devices. Failure to adhere to this contract would result in cancellation of guest’s privileges resulting in immediate return to country of origin. Any guest not in agreement with this protocol would be immediately returned to his/her country of origin.
If pre-testing is negative guests would proceed to their pre-booked hotel and be encouraged to
practice social distancing and use of PPEs as appropriate. All employees would also engage in
similar infection reduction practices.
Guests requiring testing on arrival would be required to immediately begin isolation/quarantine and
await results before exiting same. They would also be required to agree to state mandated
monitoring either using cell phone or other devices. Failure to adhere to this agreement would
result in for forfeiture of all guests’ privileges resulting in immediate return to country of origin.
3. Returning Jamaican nationals
All returning Jamaican nationals would be required to either self-isolate or quarantine for 14 days
after arrival and agree to some form of monitoring in the interim. If concerning medical symptoms
for COVID19 develop health authorities should be immediately informed. A meaningful fine would
be imposed on all Jamaican nationals who are non-compliant.
With the European Union ban/restriction on the arrival of US citizens due to COVID19, Jamaica can offer
and ideal alternative for those wishing to travel. It is believed the EU earns US billions of dollars each year
from US travellers.
Even a small percentage of this income would inexorably, and positively impact Jamaica’s economic situation in these difficult times. Tasting the charming, rich, and engaging Jamaican
hospitality mixed with the overwhelming, idyllic beauty of the Jamaican people and scenery could
translate into multiple return visits. In addition, Jamaica would be recognised worldwide as a leader
among those few countries which masterfully and successfully navigated the COVID19 pandemic.
The entire Jamaican business community including hoteliers, farmers, poultry producers, tour operators,
hospitality employees, transport operators, physicians, restaurateurs, and other businesses would
continue to regain and increase meaningful income/employment.
Importance and need for aggressive compliance and COVID19 containment
Brazil, Sweden, and the United States provide clear examples of delayed and lack of thoughtful and
scientific response managing and therefore effectively reducing the catastrophic impact of COVID19.
Jamaica cannot allow resurgence of COVID19 as this would smear the countries favorable reputation as
a safe hotel destination, result in increased fear among Jamaicans, cause major disruption in the slowly
recovering economy, and overall result in major disruption in the society.
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