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Jamaica: Tourist Pretesting Back On Agenda – Tufton Admits Island’s COVID-19 Response Buckling Under Pressure

The Jamaican Government is reconsidering the imposition of COVID-19 pretesting of arriving tourists as the coronavirus response architecture at the island’s airports has been overwhelmed by passenger traffic, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton admitted on Sunday.

“The numbers are growing, and we just don’t have the physical capacity to deal with the increase. The people (medical personnel) are burnt out and stretched while the equipment goes on down time,” Tufton said in response to queries that some visitors complained of waiting for up to 11 days before receiving their test results.

The health and wellness minister said that a more targeted approach was needed and that the Government might reopen the door to the pretesting of visitors, a recommendation made by the Medical Association of Jamaica.

About 5,000 tourists have arrived in the island since June 15. Jamaica had closed its ports to incoming passengers on March 24.

At least three Caribbean countries have announced pretesting for all visitors to their shores – Barbados and The Bahamas, which will reopen their borders this week, and Antigua and Barbuda.

On Saturday, Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne made an about-turn in favour of pretesting after lawsuit threats by tourists who tested positive and refused isolation.

Tufton said, in the meantime, that provisions were being made to hire more people while private laboratories were being tapped for sample collections. He said at least one lab was accredited.

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