Tufton defends travel ban on eight southern African countriesThursday, December 02, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says there was no ill-intent in the Government's decision to impose travel bans on several African countries.
Last Saturday, the Government announced the travel bans and Tufton defended the move in Parliament on Tuesday as he argued that was done as part of efforts to keep Omicron, the latest mutation of the novel coronavirus, at bay.
“This isn't an unusual position in the context of the virus and dealing with emerging threats and what is perceived at the time to be the origins of the merging threat. We have done it with several other countries. And there is no mal-intent outside of protecting the population in terms of slowing the virus and its spread.
“I would just describe it as being cautious and we must always err on the side of caution when it comes to our responsibility to the people of Jamaica. The process is constantly under review so to the extent that the threat dissipates, we will review, and we will do so in a relatively short period of time,” Tufton told the House of Representatives as he responded to questions from Opposition spokesman Dr Morais Guy on the fairness of the ban, which excludes other affected countries.
The health minister pointed to previous travel bans for the United Kingdom, when Alpha variant of COVID-19 was discovered; India when the Delta variant was announced and on South American countries when the Brazilian, Mu and Lamda variants were detected.But this did not satisfy Guy who argued that: “There is concern that we have acted in a way that – there is no equity there”.
The travel ban impacts travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
People who are not citizens, or permanent residents of Jamaica, and who have visited those countries within the past 14 days will not be allowed entry into Jamaica.
In addition Jamaican citizens and permanent residents, who have visited the countries within the past 14 days will be allowed entry, but will be subject to mandatory State-supervised quarantine for no less than 14 days.
The travel ban has sparked criticisms from people who note that the Omicron virus is not restricted to southern Africa. At the same time, international health experts say it is not known whether the variant is more transmissible, nor the severity of the strain, compared to other variants.
But Tufton argued that Jamaicans must be on the alert.
“This variant has now been identified in 19 countries in four WHO [World Health Organization] regions. Preliminary evidence suggests, there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron,” said Tufton.
He noted that the WHO is working with its technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on existing countermeasures, including vaccines.