US visitors may be delayed

Persons hoping to visit Barbados from the United States of America may have to wait a little longer if the North American country continues to record Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections at the current alarmingly high rates.

Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds on Sunday revealed that instead of late July, commercial flights from the U.S could be postponed until “early” September.

While speaking with Government’s official information arm on Sunday after the arrival of Air Canada Flight AC966, Symmonds stressed that despite removing mandatory testing and quarantine for visitors from low-risk jurisdictions, authorities were continuing to “closely watch” COVID-19 hotbeds like the US.

“In instances like the United States of American market when that reopens, I must say we are watching that one closely and we do not believe that we will resume commercial flights from the United States until perhaps the first week in September,” Symmonds disclosed.

“But right now the protocol is that If you come from that destination, you will be submitted to a test after seven days so as to be doubly sure that we exercise every precaution of catching anything that might arise.

“Of course, all passengers, regardless of who you are or where you are coming from, are subject to being tested on arrival if Port Health officials feel for any reason that they have to step in and intervene, and we have made it clear,” he added.

Efforts to reach the Tourism Minister and/or Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Best for further explanation were unsuccessful. JetBlue – one of two carriers which fly between Barbados and the US is scheduled to resume service on July 25.

An official from the New York-based carrier acknowledged that “rapidly evolving” restrictions on international travel have resulted in the need for close monitoring and adjustments when necessary.

The US Embassy in Bridgetown has advised its citizens that the JetBlue service will resume on July 25, while American Airlines service would restart on August 5.

On Monday, US news network CNN reported that coronavirus cases were continuing to surge “uncontrolled” with increases recorded in 35 states including a record in Florida where 15,300 cases were recorded in one day.

Currently, visitors arriving from “low-risk” jurisdictions are required to present a negative test taken within 72 hours of arriving here, while those from medium to high-risk jurisdictions for COVID-19 including the United States of America will be screened after seven days of self-quarantine.

Travellers within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are not required to be tested or quarantined, but the protocols are subject to change based on the progress of the COVID-19 situation among those countries.

Minister Symmonds also stressed that the dreaded virus is no “respecter of persons” and as such, there would be no special arrangements made for anyone, regardless of their background or economic standing.

He added that in “a little while”, visitors would be given access to an online app that would improve the ability of health officials to track them.

“That is being worked on as we speak, and that will assist public health officials with contact tracing as we go forward, and it really assists everyone. Once we go that route, we will know how we can go back in time and establish all the different points of contact that have been made,” Symmonds explained.