Practical reopening restrictions needed

Letters to the Editor

Practical reopening restrictions needed

Friday, May 15, 2020

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Dear Editor,

As many countries hasten to find and establish new protocols for reopening their economies and borders, an interesting new dimension is beginning to emerge — one I like to think of as the 'Quarantine Cold War'.

Already we have seen vast and diverse sets of requirements being touted by different leaders as they try to balance the urgency of getting back to business with the anxiety of protecting citizens against future outbreaks of COVID-19.

Two tools being bandied about are mandatory 14-day quarantine for individuals entering countries, along with the requirement for them to have a certificate of medical clearance.

But here's where things get intriguing, countries that do not have such requirements are going to be hard-pressed to have their citizens go through such trials while travelling without reciprocating. In other words, if the UK or some other country wants to quarantine an American for travelling to do business or for other purposes, then it's quite likely the US will exact the same requirement from the citizens of those countries entering its borders. So where does this now end?

At first glance, it probably means that few, if anyone, will care to travel at all, and for countries whose economies depend on travel that's bad news. Secondly, the requirement for a medical certificate before you board a plane to travel may encounter a similar predicament. In other words, if an American is travelling to Barbados or St Lucia, and these islands demand they have a certificate of COVID-19 clearance no more than two or three days old, then it is quite likely that the US will reciprocate, and demand that when people travel from Barbados or St Lucia to the US then those countries better have a system in place so they are tested before getting on that plane.

Are these countries capable of providing such a service to hundreds or thousands of travellers? And, if not, then they might as well just keep their borders closed because no one is going to be travelling in such a situation.

In any event, such a requirement seems moot unless that person is tested immediately prior to boarding a plane. A test is a snapshot in time, and because someone was tested two of three days ago does not mean they could not get infected in that window. So the requirement has a huge hole in it, and so it makes you wonder who came up with that idea in the first place.

But even more than that, who is going to be notifying the travellers of these requirements? And who is going pay for the testing and the accommodations?

I don't know about you, but this doesn't sound like something that would endear me to be travelling to your destination.

These are but two of a whole list of requirements now being discussed. Airlines will not be taking on additional burdens. Many of the legacy carriers have made it clear that they do not intend to deal with a plethora of requirements when flying to the Caribbean; they want conformity of standards and they want practicality from the various destinations.

We have a tendency to want to be heroes in the Caribbean, and that's all good, but Caribbean destinations, particular those dependent on tourism and travel, need to think long and hard about how realistic and how practical their protocols for reopening are, because wanting to get economies back up and running is one thing, being able to actually do it without incurring long-term fallout and damage is quite another.

Ernest Amadoe

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