If a traveller tests positive for COVID-19 while in the Caribbean, his or her quarantine time should be reduced to seven days from 14, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is arguing.
The CHTA is asking regional governments in the Caribbean to reduce isolation periods for travellers so they are aligned with those of the United Kingdom and the United States in order to avoid reversing the region’s tourism recovery.
In a letter to prime minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, outgoing chairman of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), CHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig called for a reduced quarantine period for COVID-positive travellers.
The data, Madden-Greig wrote, "no longer substantiates" a 14-day quarantine period, as it presents "unnecessary financial and personal hardship to residents, visitors, destinations and companies" and "increasingly will deter travel.”
The revised U.S. protocol allows for five days and the U.K. allows for seven, which the CHTA is recommending.
On the highly-contagious Omicron variant, the CHTA’s president said it has caused only a “low level of severe illness requiring hospitalization, and a low death rate and has proven to be particularly less virulent for those who are vaccinated.”
She added: “Accordingly, the faster recovery rates justified moves by the British and American governments to reduce the isolation periods.”
“Government policies coupled with the efforts of health and tourism officials to enforce health safety protocols have resulted in the restoration of employment and airlift to near pre-pandemic levels, higher vaccination rates for tourism-related employees, and low positivity test result rates for travellers, preventing massive business failures which would be detrimental to our long-term recovery.”
Furthermore, there is "continued confusion" in the marketplace due to the various travel requirements put in place by Caribbean governments, which Madden-Greig said deters travellers.
Citing the cost and availability of COVID-19 PCR tests, which can add US$600 to travel costs for a family of four, CHTA recommended that antigen tests approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) be accepted for entry.
The Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Jamaica and the U.S. Virgin Islands accept antigen tests and have not reported higher infection rates among tourists, the CHTA says.
To help reduce the high cost of PCR tests, the CHTA recommended greater flexibility in sourcing the test as local health authorities work with suppliers to reduce the cost.