Saturday 26 September, 2020

Government makes about-turn on COVID-19 testing of tourists

Dr Christopher Tufton (file photo)

Dr Christopher Tufton (file photo)

All persons, including tourists, entering the country as of June 15 are to be tested for the coronavirus (COVID-19), Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, has announced.

The policy decision is a reversal of the earlier positions of the Government, which had previously stated that tourists would be tested on a voluntary basis. That position was changed when the Administration announced that all non-nationals who arrive on the island after June the 15 would be screened, and those whose screening attracted a red flag would be tested for the coronavirus.

The reversal also comes after both the Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (JMDA) and the Nurses’ Association of Jamaica (NAJ) expressed concern that not testing visitors for COVID-19 could lead to a spike in cases on the island while putting Jamaicans, including healthcare and tourism workers, at risk.

Questions were also raised about the anomaly in which Jamaicans who began arriving in the island as of June 1 are tested for COVID-19 when they arrive at the airports, yet non-nationals would not have been similarly treated.

But Tufton seemingly did not view the changes in that clear-cut a manner, stating: "I don't think anything has changed”.

In addressing a COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, Tufton said the testing of visitors is to be done to understand and manage the risk profile of that group of persons.

“I know that there has been some speculation or utterances that suggest that we were going to take a particular route, but I think based on the advice and the assessment, the decision has been to appreciate the risk a little more and then from there to make some more concrete decisions based on information,” Tufton said.

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