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Jamaica's Minister of Tourism names task force to boost country's COVID-19 testing capacity

Jamaica's Minister of Tourism names task force to boost country's COVID-19 testing capacity
Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett. (File photo)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Jamaica's Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has named a special task force to spearhead efforts to boost Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity, in light of the growing demand for such tests, fuelled by new travel requirements in key tourism source markets.

The task force is led by Minister Bartlett and includes President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader; First Vice President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and former President of the JHTA, Nicola Madden-Greig; Chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), Ian Dear; Deputy Chairman of the Sandals Group and Chairman of the Tourism Linkages Network Council, Adam Stewart; Executive Director of Chukka Caribbean Adventures and Chairman of the COVID-19 resilient corridor management team, John Byles; and Senior Advisor and Strategist in the Ministry of Tourism, Delano Seiveright.

The announcement comes as Minister Bartlett revealed that urgent steps are being taken to ramp up Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity, in light of changes in testing requirements by the United States, Jamaica's largest tourism source market. 

Effective Jan. 26, all air travellers entering the U.S. will be required to get a viral test within 72 hours of their departure flight, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday (Jan. 12). 

Urgent steps are being taken to ramp up Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity.

The news also comes on the heels of Canada's own pre-departure testing requirements for travellers, as well as a temporary easing of rules due to recent limitations in PCR test availability in Jamaica. 

All air passengers entering Canada must now have negative PCR test result 72 hours prior to arrival, and last weekend, Transport Canada made a temporary exemption, allowing those departing from Jamaica to Canada who were unable to obtain a COVID-19 test in advance, to board their flight. 

Travellers participating in this latest exemption, which lasts until Jan. 18, will still have to take a COVID-19 test at the airport upon arrival in Canada. 

Addressing the challenge

"This task force will work along with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and tourism stakeholders, both within the public and private sectors, to boost Jamaica’s capacity to facilitate wide scale COVID-19 testing for visitors to the island. We will also undertake extensive consultation with our local and international tourism partners to develop and introduce innovative solutions to effectively address this challenge," said Minister Bartlett in a release. 

The Minister expressed confidence in this collaborative approach: 

“This unified approach has proven to be very effective in managing the pandemic to date, and has been crucial to our success in introducing our COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols that have been endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council, as well as our COVID-Resilient Corridors. I am therefore confident that working in collaboration with our stakeholders, we will be successful,” he said.

Updates from the Jamaica Tourist Board 

The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) in Canada has been working with the trade to help facilitate and expedite passenger testing in time for their departures.

The JTB is currently promoting a complete list of accredited testing labs at here. Appointments can be made via email or over the phone.

Jamaica's Ministry of Health is working with Microlabs to offer Canadian travellers on-site COVID-19 PCR testing at select hotels located in the main tourism regions of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril.

Microlabs has also built a Canadian Visitor Testing Portal for travellers, available here, for those who wish to request a test at their hotel/resort.

While the initial influx of requests from Canadian tourists in Jamaica caused some backlog, testing is now being "prioritized based on departure date," the JTB told PAX earlier this week, so Canadians can obtain their required test results prior to departure.

Travel agents are encouraged to join the JTB Agent Facebook group as this is where the JTB team shares the latest news and updates from the destination and can answer individual questions regarding specific cases.

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