After weeks of closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaica and the Bahamas have begun welcoming back tourists and nationals, with safety protocols in place. The Bahamas is currently in Phase 1 of its reopening plan, which on Monday started allowing international boaters and yachters to enter its waters, and private charters to land.
Miami Herald reports that “Bahamian citizens, legal residents, homeowners qualifying for economic permanent residency and their immediate family members were also allowed to return on commercial flights ahead of a July 1 official reopening for all international tourists.”
At the moment, travelers entering the Bahamas are required to present a negative COVID-19 real-time reverse transcription polymerase-chain-reaction test, taken within 10 days of travel.
This does not apply to citizens returning from a Caribbean Community country, children under the age of two or private pilots who do not deplane, the Miami Herald said. All travelers are, nevertheless, required to complete an electronic health declaration form at travel.gov.bs ahead of their departure and for any inter-island travel within the country.
The form asks questions about the traveler’s departure country, if they have been in contact with the virus, and if they have any symptoms, according to Travel Off Path.
From July 1, no tests or quarantine period will be required of travelers to the Bahamas as long as they have not been exposed to the virus or show any symptoms. However, upon landing at the airport, all travelers will undergo temperature screenings.
“Our top priority has and will always be our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our residents and visitors,” said Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation Director General Joy Jibrilu.
“We are putting an even greater emphasis on making sure The Bahamas is safe and clean for everyone, and look forward to once again providing travelers with the tropical experience our islands are known for.”
The tourism ministry’s comments come on the back of concerns that the Bahamas continue to show active transmissions of COVID-19. Data shows that 25 of the country’s 104 registered cases remain active, but this is even worse for Jamaica, which has 617 COVID-19 infections, with 187 infections that are active.
Jamaica, which began welcoming international travelers on June 15, said it had to open its borders in order to save its economy which could lose $10.3 billion, including $762.8 million in the tourism sector if it remains closed.
“Tourism is our lifeblood, and with the help of international experts and a dedicated task force, we’ve developed protocols that allow us to safely reopen our borders,” said director of tourism Donovan White.
For now, to gain entry into Jamaica, visitors must complete a pre-arrival authorization that asks about their possible exposure to COVID-19. They will also be screened via thermal checks and symptom observation. Any visitor who shows symptoms or is ill is subject to quarantine, reports Travel Weekly.
The health protocols will be revisited every two weeks, according to officials. Jamaica is the largest of the Caribbean’s tourism economies to reopen since it reported its first case of COVID-19 in March. The island’s tourism sector employs about 350,000 workers, contributing more than one-third of the country’s economy.