Jamaica sets up special task force to boost COVID-19 testing capacity


Jamaica sets up special task force to boost COVID-19 testing capacity

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

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Ed Bartlett yesterday named a special task force to spearhead efforts to boost Jamaica's COVID-19 testing capacity in light of the increasing demand for such tests, fuelled by new travel requirements in key tourism source markets.

“Like all other nations, we understand the need to protect citizens and to put measures in place to help reduce the spread of this deadly virus. It is for this reason the Government of Jamaica and key partners are putting measures in place to boost the COVID-19 testing capacity locally,” a release from the tourism ministry quoted Bartlett.

The task force is led by Bartlett, the tourism minister, and includes Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President Clifton Reader; Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association First Vice-President Nicola Madden-Greig; Tourism Product Development Company Chairman Ian Dear; Sandals Resorts deputy chairman and chairman of the Tourism Linkages Network Council Adam Stewart; Chukka Caribbean Adventures Executive Director John Byles, who also chairs the COVID-19 Resilient Corridor management team; and senior advisor and strategist in the Ministry of Tourism Delano Seiveright.

Bartlett had revealed that urgent steps are being taken to ramp up Jamaica's COVID-19 testing capacity, amid reports of expected changes in testing requirements by one of the country's largest tourism source markets the United States of America.

News reports out of the US said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to issue an order for all airline passengers from international destinations to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights to the US. The new order is expected to be announced as early as today and is expected to take effect on January 26, 2021.

This comes on the heels of a similar COVID-19 test requirement by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom, which demands that all passengers flying to those countries present negative test results to facilitate entry or to avoid self-quarantine.

Though concerned about the strain this will place on the resources of Jamaica's health-care system and the general economic recovery of the island, Bartlett said, “The Ministry of Tourism is working closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, as well as private labs and other key stakeholders, to have more available testing facilities in place to make the process a more seamless one.

“These growing changes in testing requirements within the travel industry will undoubtedly cause a setback in the economic recovery of small, vulnerable destinations globally. These adjustments will place added pressure on the resources needed to treat our citizens, especially in countries that have made considerable efforts to successfully bolster their health and safety standards to insulate tourists and citizens alike, from the risk of COVID-19 infection. We will, however, continue to work closely with all local and international tourism partners to ensure the safety of our citizens and visitors.”

He reiterated that Jamaica has developed and introduced robust COVID-19 health and safety protocols that have been endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council. He also pointed to the COVID Resilient Corridors established to boost the country's ability to manage and trace the movement and activities of tourists along controlled corridors within the island.

“These innovative measures have helped to distinguish Jamaica as among the most COVID-19-resilient destinations in the world. We will continue to monitor and enhance our health and safety standards to protect our citizens and every single tourist who lands on our shores,” Bartlett said.

“While we make preparations to facilitate this likely request, we implore the governments of the United States, Canada, and the UK to reconsider such COVID-19 testing requirements and take into consideration the peculiar circumstances and risk level associated with travelling to individual countries, as we believe that Jamaica has proven to be a safe destination with strict and effective COVID-19 protocols in place,” he added.

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