Wed | Sep 30, 2020

US upgrades Jamaica rating but fresh worry as virus spreads

Published:Saturday | August 8, 2020 | 12:24 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Delano Seiveright, strategist in the Ministry of Tourism.
Delano Seiveright, strategist in the Ministry of Tourism.

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) says the Level 3 United States travel advisory published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was an upgrade from Level 4, which advises Americans ‘NOT TO TRAVEL’.

Since March 31, Jamaica and several other countries were part of a globally designated Level 4 advisory owing to the COVID-19 crisis.

Level 3 advises Americans to ‘reconsider travel due to health and safety measures as well as COVID-19-related conditions’, to not just Jamaica, but countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and St Kitts and Nevis.

A number of the countries listed are not as tourism-dependent as Jamaica.

The CDC’s new advisory caused initial shock among Jamaicans as US COVID-19 deaths have topped 160,000, dwarfing the island’s 13. Infections in the US have soared past five million. Jamaica has 987.

Safety for all

Admitting concern, too, the JHTA sought to assure the country in a press statement issued late Friday that the tourism players were doing their part to secure the safety of staff, communities, and visitors.

Senior adviser and strategist in the Ministry of Tourism, Delano Seiveright, told The Gleaner Friday morning that Jamaica’s very strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including a designated Resilient Corridor for tourists, were well regarded, leading to the country to being recognised by the prestigious World Travel & Tourism Council with its ‘Safe Travels’ stamp.

He said that Level 4 is still in place for the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Belize, Mexico, Haiti, and Peru, among others, while countries such as Taiwan and Macau are at Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions) and New Zealand and Thailand are at Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution).

Seiveright said, too, that American travellers often do not take advisories into consideration when booking travel.

In the meantime, JHTA President Omar Robinson said that he was concerned about increased numbers of COVID-19 positive results in Jamaica, which have prompted quarantines in two parishes. News of a 13th death and 29 new infections on Friday add to that worry.

“The tourism sector is doing its part. We’re observing strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols in our properties to keep staff and, by extension, their families, communities and guests safe,” he said.

Robinson added that he expects to see more new cases during the summer holidays when there is a traditional influx of Jamaicans returning home to visit friends and family.

He is appealing to everyone to be careful and observe the 14-day self-quarantine rules and safety protocols to limit the virus’ spread.

“Our country and all our livelihoods depend on us all behaving in a disciplined and responsible,” Robinson said.