Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Hotspot expats to be barred if pretest positive for COVID-19

Published:Monday | July 6, 2020 | 12:29 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaican nationals who are permanent residents of the states of New York, Florida, Texas, and Arizona who want to travel home will be barred from returning if they do not have proof of testing negative for COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie made the announcement last Thursday during an online press conference that was streamed from the offices of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

She said that all non-residents, including Jamaican expatriates, oftentimes referred to in tourism as visiting friends and relatives (VFRs), coming from locations designated as high-risk will be required to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test prior to their intended date of travel to Jamaica.

“For non-residents, that is, Jamaicans who are travelling for visit in Jamaica for tourism purposes and staying within the Resilient Corridor on the north coast, the pretesting requirement is applicable to persons in this category if they are residents of a location designated high-risk by the Jamaican health authorities,” Bisasor-McKenzie said.

“So anybody that is coming from any of those places that we have designated, we would have expected them to come in with the pretest done, and we would have been able to look on the website, and they would have gotten an authorisation only if they would have had a negative test," she added.

Bisasor-McKenzie cautioned, however, that a negative test result would not exempt VFRs from health assessment upon arrival as asymptomatic travellers may test negative during the virus’ incubation period.

VFRs will remain in their hotels until they get their results. If declared positive, arrangements for isolation will be made.

She said that VFRs staying outside the Resilient Corridor at family homes or other places of abode will have to undergo pretesting and a health assessment and will be isolated if they present with symptoms. Such persons would have to stay in home quarantine for two weeks.

QUARANTINE ORDER

With the number of flights set to quadruple from the early June intake, the CMO reiterated that all travellers will still receive a stay-at-home or stay-in-zone quarantine order.

“It is tremendous utilisation of resources, and we have to remember that we are a small country, and we don’t have the ability to continue with the numbers that are coming, so our surveillance measures have to kick in, and they have to be sufficient if it is that we are going to protect our country,” she said.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, who also addressed the press conference, issued a warning for Jamaicans who are seeking to travel outside the island for short periods and expect favourable treatment upon their return.

“The threat of a Jamaican versus a non-Jamaican returning from a high-risk destination such as Florida, in this instance – for now, anyway – is no different. It doesn’t matter whether you went up for three days, five days, two weeks, or you were there coming down,” he said.

Florida recorded 11,500 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, representing five per cent of the 200,000 toll this year.

US coronavirus cases are nearing three million, and deaths have topped 132,000.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com