The largest Caribbean tourism economy reopened June 15 with stringent rules of engagement visitors must comply in order to stunt the re-emergence of COVID-19 virus which forced the Jamaica government to close its border three months ago.
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said the decision to reopen was partly due to the fact the health sector greenlit relaunching the industry following a three month shut down, which helped to slow a spike that resulted with 10 deaths and now 50 patients recovering in hospitals.
Christopher Tufton, the health minister reported that the numbers of casualties have remained static and with a controlled reopening the island could ease into restored conditions for business.
With that assurance the Jamaica government extended an open invitation to nationals to return to the paradise promoted in tourism campaigns.
Travelers to the island are now subjected to a number of precautionary measures including mandatory temperature checks at the airport, numerous sanitizing procedures, a COVID-19 test, and agreement to adhere to a track and trace system.
The minister explained that passengers may have to wait as many as 72 hours for the results of the test before receiving clearance to stay on the island.
Anyone testing positive will be isolated at their homes, hotels or at a government quarantine facility.
Bartlett explained that arriving passengers will be separated in three categories – non-nationals visiting on business for less than 14 days; non-national tourists, and resident citizens and non-citizens.
In order to safely transition to normalcy, all arrivals to the island will have to seek authorization from the government before travelling.
Despite the inconveniences, Jamaicans are returning home in large numbers.
Reportedly, thousands stranded by the border closing were anxiously awaiting reopening and are now relieved they will be able to return home.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said although the borders reopened to reinvigorate the tourism industry, he also wanted to accommodate 8,418 Jamaicans who are now able to reunite with their loved ones.
Since June 1 all were granted permission to return home.
The first American Airlines flight from Miami, Florida landed on the first day of the reopening and was greeted by cheers. Piloted and serviced by an all-Jamaican crew, the Montego Bay landing proved a jubilant start to what could be a robust return to tourism on the island.
“I congratulate Jamaica on the reopening of our borders on June 15 to all international travelers,” Adam Stewart, deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International said.
In making the statement he endorsed a newly proposed 100-page health and safety guide the government issued to suppress the emergence of COVID-19 infections.
“From transportation, restaurants, villa operators, tour providers and of course all sizes of hotels and resorts, it’s a world class document that will guide safely for all in the hospitality sector,” Stewart added.
“The re-opening of the tourism industry is required for the Jamaican economy and especially the Jamaican workers,” Bartlett explained.
He said the decision to re-open was also driven by the fact the island suffered considerable financial losses when it closed its borders resulting with unemployment of 350,000 workers in the tourism sector.
Another factor resonates with the fact one third of the country’s economy rely on the industry.
Although everyone has been invited to visit Jamaica tourists’ movements will be controlled from Negril to Port Antonio.
“Business within the corridor will be controlled via track and trace management,” he added.
Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines announced plans to resume flights on July 1 to Montego Bay.
And, Delta Airlines will resume daily flights from Atlanta, Georgia to Jamaica’s second city of Montego Bay later this month.