JHTA calls for strict enforcement of COVID protocols amid lifting of UK travel ban
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
With the lifting of the ban on flights from the United Kingdom to Jamaica, tourism stakeholders are calling for the Government to maintain strict enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines for all travellers from that country.
They say they are not prepared to let down their guards.
The call comes 24 hours after the first flight out of the UK to Jamaica, four months after the ban was first imposed in December 2020 against the background of the mounting COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, the president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Clifton Reader stated that while the ban has expired, his association is keen on ensuring that there is a clear and concise policy immediately enforced to maintain Jamaica's safety.
“We are happy to welcome visitors and returning residents to Jamaica, but we want to balance increased occupancy with the safety of our employees and families and Jamaicans as a whole,” said Reader.
Noting that he had received reports that over 50 per cent of UK residents have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the JHTA head was quick to point out that the UK is the European gateway to the world.
This means that many non-residents transit through UK airports to access other countries such as Jamaica.
“We, therefore, urge the Government to ensure that persons are fully vaccinated and/or present evidence of a recent negative PCR test before traveling from the UK to Jamaica,” Reader said.
He also used the opportunity to stress the need for incoming returning residents and visitors to continue to follow the existing safety protocols including mask-wearing, physical distancing, and sanitising.
He empathised the need for Jamaica to continue an aggressive vaccination programme with stakeholders working with the Government to enforce new and existing protocols in order to prevent a third wave of the coronavirus.
A number of countries are experiencing a third wave of the coronavirus with India and Turkey ravaged by the disease which has claimed millions of lives.
In India, some 19.6 million cases have been confirmed and 216,000 deaths, while Turkey has recorded 152 million cases and 3.19 million deaths.
The UK is one of Jamaica's largest source markets and the island's tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, has welcomed the lifting of the ban, stating that this will enable the critical gateways of Heathrow and Gatwick airports to have transit for passengers coming through and who are fully compliant with health and safety protocols required for international travel.
He said Jamaica's position at this time is critical in relation to the opening up of the summer tourist season and, in fact, the importance of enabling the Diaspora, particularly the strong British clientele that have always come to the island.
Since reopening its borders last June, Jamaica has welcomed approximately 1.5 million visitors under the island's robust health and safety protocols, said a press release from the Jamaica Tourist Board.
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