Tourism sector confident despite new COVID travel requirementsTuesday, December 07, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Tourism stakeholders say they are confident Jamaica will be able to facilitate the new 24-hour COVID-19 test required for travellers to the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), two of the island's largest source markets.
Both countries have put the travel restrictions in place as a result of the emergence of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
Starting at 4:00 am today, individuals aged 12 and above who are desirous of travelling to the UK need to provide a negative pre-departure test (LFD or PCR) as close as possible to departure and not more than 48 hours before to slow importation of the new variant.
An LFD (lateral flow device) is a self-test for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing is considered the gold standard in SARS-CoV-2 detection as it actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection.
Starting yesterday, passengers flying to America from abroad will need to show airlines proof of a negative COVID-19 test result that was taken within one day of departure before being allowed to board. That includes US citizens and vaccinated travellers.
This is down from the three days previously required for vaccinated visitors, permanent residents, and citizens.
Yesterday, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) stated that the island is positioned to meet the new one-day COVID-19 testing requirement for international travellers.
“The island has established ample testing locations offering both antigen and PCR tests available. In addition to multiple lab facilities and testing capability at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, many of the island's resorts and hotels offer approved testing services on property, making the departure process even more seamless,” the JTB said in a news release.
“Perhaps most important for travellers, Jamaica offers pre-booking for return tests to ensure results are provided in time to meet departure needs. There are established partnerships with three approved private laboratories to provide travellers with seamless in-hotel antigen or PCR tests. Tests can be easily scheduled in advance — even prior to arrival on island through each lab's dedicated online booking platform,” the JTB added.
The tourism promotions and marketing agency explained that both airports in Jamaica are equipped with pre-flight testing capability prior to check-in.
“For persons opting for in-airport testing, they can book their appointment online and arrive at the airport a minimum of three hours in advance of their flight to obtain their required departure result,” the JTB said.
“Visitors staying at licensed hotels, resorts, villas, guest houses, or residences can schedule their test on property via a convenient concierge service or book an in-person appointment at the closest laboratory location. All certified lab locations can be found on VisitJamaica.com,” the JTB advised, adding that visitors are encouraged to continue to come to Jamaica with the confidence that they can enjoy everything the 'Heartbeat of the World' has to offer.
Meanwhile, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President Clifton Reader said he is hoping the new requirements will result in affordable testing.
“Tests are already expensive, and we can only hope that the new requirements for entry to the UK and USA will be met by cheap and fast tests so that the effect should be minimised,” Reader stated.
“Every country is on alert due to emerging variants of the coronavirus, and we can't dictate to countries what precautions they should take to keep their nation safe. Unfortunately, the imposition of more restrictions on a system already burdened will be problematic,” he said.
At the same time, senior advisor and strategist in the tourism ministry Delano Seiveright remained optimistic that the island's testing facilities are up to date.
“They are aware of the rapidly changing circumstances and they are prepared to deliver test results within record time. They have been doing so in the last few months and we expect them to do so within the coming weeks and months forward. So we are confident that our facilities will stand up,” Seiveright stated, even as he conceded that the latest testing requirements will cause anxiety.