As one of the Caribbean nations with some of the strictest Covid measures still in place right now, Jamaica seems to be finally ready to move onto a phase where the virus is treated as an endemic disease, tentatively removing existing curbs on social life, including a long-standing curfew.
Ever since Omicron first arrived, other popular tourist hotspots in the Caribbean have been battling a similar spike in infections, with Cancún being one step closer to the highest possible alert level, and American travelers now discouraged from traveling to a hard-hit Dominican Republic.
Prime Minister Offers Hope All Covid Restrictions May Be Lifted Soon
Soon after refuting the reinstatement of lockdowns throughout the busy tourist season, the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness has now indicated the island may be soon relaxing the measures imposed against Omicron. Among them is a nightly curfew targeting mostly hospitality and the events sector.
While the PM is yet to confirm a date for the lifting of such measures, he has urged Jamaicans to take “personal responsibility” in protecting themselves, especially through getting a vaccine, and seems adamant lockdowns are no longer needed to manage Omicron and other more transmissible variants.
When addressing business leaders at the Jamaica Stock Exchange Conference last week, Holness urged fellow Jamaican citizens to accept that the country must “learn to live with the virus” and stop resorting to draconian restrictions such as lockdowns. As he stated, they now have both the “knowledge and the means” to protect themselves.
During his address, Holness also said citizens are now able to assess their own health risks based on access to “reliable information and resources”, shifting the perspective of pandemic management altogether. From the early days of the crisis, a majority of national governments have taken it upon themselves to tackle the health threat.
This two-year old approach seems to be changing now, with Holness conceding Jamaica will soon be scrapping existing Covid measures, as at this point in the pandemic, the government cannot afford further hampering of economic growth, unless there is another massive surge in cases.
The news will surely be welcomed by American and Canadian tourists visiting Jamaica in the near future, with the PM considering it inappropriate to use “crude, blanket measures such as lockdowns” to control the virus. “We will not keep the measures longer than is necessary“, he concluded.
What Is The Epidemiological Scenario In Jamaica?
Even though there are restrictive rules in place, Jamaica still experienced towering infection figures, much like the rest of the Caribbean. Its vaccination rates are also among the lowest in the region, with 78% of the population still to be immunized when several other countries are already focusing on booster campaigns.
According to Reuters, at the current speed it will take 191 more days to vaccinate another 10% of the population, explaining the Prime Minister’s insistence that Jamaicans take up their shots in order to avoid a continuing state of alert.
In his own words, the government “can only help our citizens by providing information and encouraging them to get vaccinated”, but they cannot keep the economy under restrictions.
What Does Traveling To Jamaica Feel Like Right Now?
Currently, there is a nightly curfew from 10pm to 5am the next morning, with small events forbidden, including concerts, parties and festivals. The measures impact visitors directly, as a majority of them fly to Jamaica to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere and experience their world-famous carnival.
Additionally, masks in public are required, beach parties strictly forbidden, and gatherings restricted to 10 people only. Gyms, restaurants, and bars are allowed to operate at half their capacity, although nightclubs and amusement arcades have to shut down in compliance with the curfew. Water attractions must also close at 5pm.
Along with hardened rules at the border, the package of measures distinguishes Jamaica as one of the strictest Caribbean countries for vacationers to visit. Americans traveling to the island must comply with a series of requirements, including:
- Prior to check in, obtain travel authorization from the Visit Jamaica website;
- All travelers aged 12 and over must present a negative molecular test (PCR, NAA, RNA or Antigen), with results issued within 72 hours of traveling;
- Fully vaccinated travelers who, apart from a vaccination card, are also in possession of a negative PCR test result are exempt from self-isolation and any post-arrival testing;
- Those traveling on business are required to submit a negative test prior to boarding their flight or vessel and are subject to pay for further testing on arrival;
- All travelers may be screened for symptoms on arrival, irrespective of vaccination status of negative tests.
Although not a specific requirement for travel to Jamaica, all international travelers are advised to purchase health insurance before flying abroad, especially at a time when there is a higher risk of travel disruption due to Omicron. Americans should also follow CDC guidance for specific countries, as epidemiological scenarios are liable to change at short notice.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com