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Tourism Minister says decision to reduce Covid isolation period must be regionally unanimous

By Orville Williams

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In response to a call for the isolation period for Covid-19 positive travellers to be reduced across the region, Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez said any decision on the matter must be made unanimously.

The Caribbean Hotels and Tourism Association (CHTA) made that call earlier this week, positing that making the move – in alignment with the US and the UK – would help to avoid “reversing the progress” made to revitalise the tourism sector following the impact of the pandemic.

According to the CHTA, the revised protocol in the US allows for five days’ isolation, while the UK currently allows for seven days. These rules pale in comparison to some Caribbean jurisdictions, the CHTA noted, that require Covid-positive individuals to spend as many as 14 days in isolation.

Antigua and Barbuda is one of the many regional territories that require the two-week isolation period.

There have been instances when some countries make decisions based on their individual circumstances, rather than a collective move. Antigua and Barbuda, for example, was one of the first countries to reopen its borders to international travel after the initial pandemic lockdown.

Fernandez noted, however, that that approach should not be taken in this case, based on the logistical challenge it could pose for air carriers and cruise operators.

“What I would say is that I believe we should try as much as possible within the region to harmonise our protocols.

“It is very difficult for an airline to come to the Caribbean [when] they go into one island and it’s one set of protocols, they then go and land in another island and it’s a different set of protocols. That creates an anomaly for them and I think that is a problem for the Caribbean, in terms of these carriers coming into the region.

“[It doesn’t just affect] the airlines, but also cruise lines, so I think – in spite of everything else – whatever is agreed to should be done in harmony throughout the islands,” Fernandez said.

CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig said the body is recommending a reduced seven-day isolation period for the region, while commending the regional governments for choosing not to close borders and restrict travel amid the threat of the Omicron variant.

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