Restarting tourism — the key to the economy

Letters to the Editor

Restarting tourism — the key to the economy

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Greece is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world with approximately 30 million visitors per year contributing billions in euros to its economy annually. The country is popular for its historic sites, scenic islands, its Mediterranean climate, cuisine, and culture. The country, like Jamaica, is heavily dependent on tourism, with many jobs and small businesses linked to the industry informally.

Reports indicate that borders in Greece will start to reopen for tourists on June 15, 2020, starting with the main port in Athens, with strict protocols and restrictions. Other ports will reopen on July 1, 2020. According to details of the reports, countries will be categorised based on the level of risks and control of the virus, and arriving flights will be coded — green, yellow, orange, and red — and mapped based on the countries from which they arrive.

It may not be practical to test every passenger at airports due to the sheer volume, unless a cheap, quick, and random test is available and accessible. Flights arriving in Greece will be selected and passengers will undergo COVID-19 testing. The green category has the least amount of restrictions; one to two passengers of 150 passengers will be tested. Yellow category will have more passengers tested; five to 10 in 150. For orange categories there will be 20-30 tested; and for those classified red all passengers will be tested. Positive tests will result in mandatory quarantine and contact tracing. They will obviously follow epidemiology data and trends and make changes to the process as needed. Each port will have a team on-site to facilitate tests; personnel will consist of military, doctors, nurses, and officials from the Ministry of Civil Protection. I think this is a great first step.

Jamaica has not yet set a timeline to reopen and get tourism going again. Many people have been laid off from hotels, airlines, and other support businesses and services. Hotels have been empty for months. These are indeed very difficult times, but we had a few months to adjust mentally. There was time to learn, process, make errors, and plan ahead in what is expected to be the new normal for a long time. We can implement changes necessary to safeguard public health and get the economy going again. We can observe how others are reopening and adjust the steps to our own needs, with the flexibility to adapt to problems.

So far the Government should be commended on how it has been managing the pandemic, but the country is too small to suffer the shocks from an economic collapse; we have to balance all the factors. And the only way to return to normal is to return to normal...safely.

P Chin

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