Airports to provide rapid COVID tests on-site
Outgoing airline passengers now have access to rapid antigen COVID-19 tests at the Sangster and Norman Manley international airports before boarding flights.
The new feature, which falls under the aegis of Baywest Wellness Clinic and Hospital, will operate from the former Domestic Terminal in the departure hall, serving passengers travelling to the United States, Jamaica’s largest source market.
Baywest is one of seven local facilities approved by the Ministry of Health & Wellness to carry out COVID-19 tests on the island. MBJ Airports Limited Chief Executive Officer Shane Munroe welcomes the move for Sangster.
Munroe said that visitors who do not have access to testing at their hotels now have another option, which he said was critical to making travel as easy as possible.
“Even before booking, travellers are trying to find out how easy it will be to access the testing. If it is a difficult process they are not going to fly, so our idea is to ensure convenience and affordability.”
Effective the second week in February, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will also be available to travellers to the United Kingdom and Canada, which both mandate negative tests on entry into their borders.
The United Kingdom is on lockdown and has no plans to reopen until late February, while Canadian carriers have reduced their frequency between Jamaica and Canada.
PCR tests are considered the gold standard because of their accuracy, but rapid antigen assessments have a faster turnaround time for results, as short as half an hour.
On Tuesday, Sangster’s departure area was scanty, as hundreds of persons had reportedly departed the island a day earlier, ahead of the activation of the new measures. Many rebooked their flights in order not to pay for a COVID-19 test.
The airport CEO acknowledged that a number of US carriers had also revised their slots because of the cancellations in forward booking – an observation that parallels worldwide trends. Munroe also noted that more international airports were facilitating testing arrangements.
in order to get authorisation to enter the country.
Dr Germaine Spencer, in response to Gleaner queries, said that the system offered by Baywest is a digital immune passport, boosted by QuikLab out of California. It uses the QR Code technology, enabling everyone tested to have an expiration date and also to be certified by the local health authority.
“Protecting the health and well-being of employees and customers is essential to getting your business back to work and back to normal. A critical component of this is to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus and to offer the most timely and effective solutions for testing,” said Spencer.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said the idea of building the capacity for both tourists and Jamaicans is critical.
“We regard this as a valuable path which is enabling all travellers to destinations that require a negative test, full access.” He cautioned that the price points must be affordable to locals and visitors.
Opposition Spokesman on Tourism Janice Allen also expressed hope that the new testing system would be efficient and affordable.
“No one wants to take a day out of their vacation to go get tested, so the convenience of having this option in the airport is a winner,” Allen stated.