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Bartlett smashes UK vaccine traffic lights

Says COVID classification unfair because of jab inequity

Published:Tuesday | May 4, 2021 | 12:13 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's minister of tourism.
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's minister of tourism.


Travel classifications on the basis of national COVID-19 vaccination take-up have been condemned as unfair and shocking by stakeholders in the tourism-dependent Caribbean.

The objection comes in the wake of proposals in the United Kingdom to introduce a traffic-light system, ‘green watchlist’ and travel certification that would see travellers categorised according to destinations they visit.

Placing travellers returning from red countries under greater restrictions, including 10-day quarantines, is among the recommendations from a global task force in that European country.

The UK remains one of Jamaica’s largest source markets, and the country’s minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, has expressed concern against the backdrop of wealthier nations crowding out less developed ones in the race to acquire COVID-19 vaccines.

Coming out of the just-concluded World Travel and Tourism Conference 2021 in Cancun, Mexico, Bartlett said the equity that allows tourism to be inclusive is being threatened by advisories and vaccine diplomacy, rather than how countries have managed the virus individually.

The minister, who also chairs the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, said the Caribbean bloc has managed COVID-19 better than most regions of the world.

The rest of the world has had 140 million cases of the virus and just over three million deaths. The Caribbean has registered 660,000 positive cases and 9,000 deaths.

“The Caribbean shouldn’t be classified among those high-risk countries, and therefore find itself in amber or red, which is likely to happen, because many of us are in red already,” stated Bartlett.

He criticised wealthy countries for garnering a disproportionate supply of vaccines.

According to a Bloomberg vaccination tracker, at the current rate, it would take the world five to seven years to get 75 per cent coverage, while super-rich nations would have achieved normality by October 2021.

“It shows how difficult it is to use vaccination as the standard by which you will allow for travel and access to everybody,” said the tourism minister.

Bartlett said that Jamaica’s main source markets – the United Kingdom and United States - are represented among the most vaccinated populations per capita, which justifies the maintenance of open borders.

Jamaica lifted its more-than-four-month travel ban on inbound passenger traffic from the United Kingdom on May 1.

More than 40 per cent of the UK have had their second dose, while 34 million-plus have received at least one dose.