Caricom adds negative PCR test requirement to travel bubble

Minister of Information Melford Nicholas (File photo)
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By Carlena Knight

A critical change has been made to the recently implemented Caricom travel bubble, which specifically affects testing for regional travellers .

Last month, Caricom announced the start of a travel bubble among some of the member states which had low cases of Covid-19.

It went into effect on September 18 after the Caricom Heads of Government held a Special Emergency Session days earlier, and agreed to institute the travel bubble in an effort to help resuscitate the “Covid-19 challenged travel and tourism sectors” in the Caribbean.

Travellers within each of the participating countries were allowed entry without being subjected to PCR testing prior to arrival, neither would they have to undergo quarantine, but it has now been decided that a negative PCR test will have to be presented.

This was confirmed by Information Minister Melford Nicholas during the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday.

“As the requirement with regards to the ground, various Caribbean states have begun to put stipulations and so we had to do our own deliberation. I think the Cabinet would have considered it and we would have, under the guidance of the minister of health and he, too, was guided by PAHO and CARPHA guidelines. We have settled on the necessity for the PCR test as a prerequisite in the travel bubble, but beyond that there will be no requirement for those persons provided that they would have been residents in the country of origin for no less than 14 days prior to the travel,” said Nicholas.

While these residents will not be required to quarantine, they would have to follow other Covid regulations in the country that they travel to.

“The committee that is headed by the chief medical officer, working with foreign affairs and with tourism, will finalize the articles for the regulation and of course those will then be submitted to the Central Board of Health and WHO in conjunction with the attorney general’s chambers and will publish the regulations in due course. So until that time, we are going to be operating on the basis that the travel bubble would be operating as enunciated by myself just now and that the regulations will follow in the new week,” Nicolas added.

In agreeing to establish the bubble, the heads of government were guided by a comprehensive report from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which provided recommendations on how the bubble would operate, and laid out the eligibility criteria for countries to participate.

Only those member states and associate members with no cases or in the low risk category would be allowed to participate in the bubble. To date, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines are all a part of the bubble.

The Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago as member states did not meet the criteria as the countries are still being impacted greatly by Covid-19 cases.

None of the associate members, namely Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands an Turks and Caicos were listed.

The other member states, once they have met the criteria, will be able to join.

The criteria stipulate that countries would be categorized ranging from those with no cases to those which had low, medium, high and very high risk with respect to the rate of positive cases over a 14-day period. The level of risk would be determined by the amount of positive cases per 100,000 of the population within a 14-day period.

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