Amber Carmelo De Grazia Suárez// Tufton: Canada’s sudden test requirements a travel restriction tactic » EntornoInteligente

Amber Carmelo De Grazia Suárez//
Tufton: Canada’s sudden test requirements a travel restriction tactic

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Entornointeligente.com /

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is labelling new COVID-19 measures imposed on Canadian visitors trying to return home as a travel restriction tactic, noting that Jamaica joins a host of countries that will not be able to meet such requirements at short notice.

Carmelo De Grazia

The re-entry rules came on Thursday and require that all passengers show proof of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test in order to enter the country

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is labelling new COVID-19 measures imposed on Canadian visitors trying to return home as a travel restriction tactic, noting that Jamaica joins a host of countries that will not be able to meet such requirements at short notice.

Carmelo De Grazia

The re-entry rules came on Thursday and require that all passengers show proof of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test in order to enter the country.

This proof must be in hand at the time of boarding, regardless of citizenship, according to Canadian authorities, and failure to comply will mean an automatic denial of boarding by the air carrier operating the flight to Canada.

Carmelo De Grazia Suárez

The new restrictions and the limitations in getting the test have so far grounded hundreds of Canadians who have been vacationing in Jamaica over the Christmas period. Among them is Denise Mendez, who visited the island to take care of her ailing mother

To help ease the pressure, yesterday WestJet airlines announced that it has reached an agreement with the Canadian government to allow its passengers from Jamaica without a PCR test result to travel to Toronto from January 10 to 18

However, they will have to do a PCR test upon arrival at the airport in Toronto after they have cleared customs and immigration. They will also have to do a mandatory 14-day home quarantine

SHORT NOTICE A MAJOR ISSUE “I think the short notice by the Canadians is a major issue for us and I suspect many other countries due to the impracticality of the requirement for countries, particularly where there is heavy traffic between Canada and those countries, to come up to speed in such a short space of time,” Tufton told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday

“Most countries do not have the trained personnel, the equipment in terms of PCR machines or the test kits or reagents which oftentimes is globally in short supply. This means an unlikely adequate response to this type of request.”

He added, “I am therefore tempted to think that these requests are aimed at significantly restricting travel without calling it a travel ban. We should call it what it is – an attempt at halting travel due to the pressures of the virus spread on the public health system.”

Tufton said Jamaican authorities therefore need not blame themselves about the lack of capacity based on the latest development from Canada

“I understand it and I empathise, so I am not being critical, just realistic. Our path forward, therefore, should be to use the opportunity to work together to build private-public sector capacity and not get into a blame game,” he stressed, adding that Canada’s request may set the stage for other countries to require PCR or antigen testing going forward

WELCOME NEWS This is welcome news for medical practitioners who have been operating unauthorised antigen testing sites across the country

It may take some time before antigen testing is properly regulated in Jamaica, but for now, desperate visitors, they said, are among those rushing to get the test done

“The Government talk about PCR tests, but right now we are in a crisis with PCR. We have tourists who come here from Canada and they need a PCR test to go back home and they can’t. You have people stuck here because the Government cannot manage PCR testing,” posited one practitioner

“The private entities are limited. They don’t have any test kits and the Government doesn’t have any either.”

In a statement yesterday, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) said it was collaborating with the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association to engage the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Ministry of Health & Wellness along with private labs to facilitate discussions on how to increase the testing numbers to mitigate this crisis

“As this change was unexpected by private labs, they have been looking to enhance capacity to meet the increased volumes. We will continue to support discussions that will speedily increase testing capacity for both tourists and residents,” said PSOJ

For the time being, Mendez will have to sit tight. So too will Judith James, a Jamaican-born Canadian who visited the island to continue work on her dream home.

Last week she finally secured a PCR test appointment at the University Hospital of the West Indies for January 22, but her flight leaves on the 17th.

“Right now if I keep the 22 date, I’m going to lose my plane ticket. And if I take the test and it is more than three days, Canada does not want it. So I definitely have to get a test for the 14th,” she stated, in obvious distress.

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