Tue | Jul 7, 2020

Tourists not tested for COVID-19 should not be given entry - Medical Association of Jamaica opposes Government’s decision not to test non-Jamaicans entering the island

Published:Monday | June 8, 2020 | 12:10 AM

The Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) has added their voice to the ongoing debate on the reopening of the economy, saying that the process must be done in a manner that includes the adherence to sound public health principles. In a release sent to The Gleaner, it said the association notes with grave concern the recent announcement by the prime minister that tourists and other non-nationals coming to Jamaica as of June 15, 2020, will not be required to be tested for COVID-19.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, after being asked to clarify his position on the matter, announced that there will be mandatory COVID-19 screening for all passengers arriving in Jamaica this month. He did, however, list countries as being in a ‘travel bubble’ and so passengers coming from these countries would not be subjected to mandatory testing due to these countries’ management of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Screening is not optional,” Holness told the Parliament on Tuesday night, noting that it will have two elements. The first element is the temperature check and the observation for symptoms, and the second element a risk-based screening, which includes the interrogation of passengers about their travel history.

The MAJ says the relatively low number of cases currently in Jamaica is a result of much hard work and expenditure of resources by the Government of Jamaica and the sacrifices made by all Jamaicans in every sphere of life.

“All of these heroic efforts were based on sound public health principles, and the abandonment of these principles now will likely result in a reversal of the gains made in the last three months,” the MAJ said.

LEAD TO THE SPREAD

The body contends, though, that for tourism to become viable, from an economic standpoint, full flights must be arriving, which would mean passengers must be in proximity to one another, and these conditions can potentially lead to the spread of the disease to many persons.

MAJ said, “If an asymptomatic COVID-19 person is preparing to board a flight, it would be in the best interest of the airline to know this status. Not to mention the peace of mind of the persons having to travel on that plane, and the peace of mind of the hotel workers who are going to receive these guests.”

With regard to the risk-based screening, Holness said it is not a process where the Government is allowing people to travel freely, arguing that these are the control measures that have been in place not just for COVID, but for almost all other diseases that we have faced.

The MAJ, however, wants testing points to be established.

“…if the persons test negative, they can then be issued with a ‘COVID-19 travel passport’, which would be vetted by airline personnel prior to the boarding of the plane”, the medical body said.

The MAJ says Jamaica, from a tourism marketing standpoint, should aim to be relatively free of the disease rather than being identified by whether the destination has experienced a surge in cases.

It categorically stated that the medical body is opposed to tourists coming to our shores without mandatory testing.

The MAJ said, “We advise the Government to revisit this issue and to stay on a path that incorporates sound medical principles.”