View of the door of Norman Manley Airport

Jamaica Airports Will No Longer Test All Arriving Passengers

As of July 10, 2020, Jamaica had just over 13,000 people under at home quarantine. The country has a population of 2.7 million, and has recently opened its borders to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic that still rages on in the United States. Hotspots like Florida, Texas, and New York are popular departure sites for Jamaica within the United States.

Beginning July 15, all non-business travellers 12 years of age and over, from Arizona, Florida, New York and Texas in the USA will be required to upload a negative COVID-19 PCR test result from a College of American Pathologists (CAP) accredited medical laboratory. The date of the test must be within 10 days of the arrival date in order to obtain a Travel Authorization.

Via the Travel Authorization page for non-residents.

Given the number of people under quarantine, the nation has had a surprisingly low number of positive coronavirus tests. In the July 10th report, 27,836 samples had been tested, and 27,022 were negative. The Ministry of Health reports that 119 (16%) active cases are under observation within Jamaica, 19 cases have been “repatriated to their countries of origin,” and there are no moderately or critically ill persons among the active cases (source).

For up to date information, the JamCOVID19 website is very informative –

The Ministry of Health held a press conference on Thursday, July 9th, to discuss the state of the pandemic in Jamaica, and to explain the rationale behind suspending COVID-19 testing at the airport.

Related: The Bahamas Closes Its Borders to Americans Amid COVID-19 Resurgence in the US

There have been many reports of the rigorous disinfection, testing, surveillance, and contact tracing procedures that were implemented in Jamaica. Their efforts have been praised as a model of how countries can keep the infection rate low while still welcoming visitors.

Safety protocols effective June 15, 2020, are being relaxed as the nation moves forward and welcomes more visitors.

The press conference included remarks from Dr. Christopher Tufton, the Minister of Health and Wellness, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Mr. Dunston Bryan, and the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie.

In the 24 hours prior to the press conference, there were two positive COVID-19 cases. One was a visitor (44) who was sent back to their home country, and one was a local man (54). There has been some controversy as to whether cases should be sent back to their home countries, or held to quarantine in the country where they test positive so that they can reduce the number of people that they come in contact with.

Related: The WHO’s Top Five Priorities in the Fight Against COVID-19

The permanent secretary shared the expenditures for COVID-19 as of July 6th. He stated that so far about 4 billion dollars (28.4 million USD) has been spent on COVID-19, with the majority of the money being transferred to regional health authorities. He says that 577 million dollars (4.1 million USD) was spent on medical equipment and PPE, and another 956 million dollars (6.8 million USD) was spent on drugs and other “sundries.” for quarantine and isolation activities, the government has spent about 500 million dollars (3.5 million USD). He reports that 82% of the budget has been used for COVID-19. He also stated that Jamaica is still within the epidemic phase with a very low death rate compared to what is happening internationally.

It’s important that we balance the need for the public to operate within the protocols and framework of protecting themselves, the population at large, and the links between that and the cost to treat. The more we breach the rules, as some persons are, the homestay/home quarantine, the more you likely will get infected or spread to others, and the greater the cost as it relates to hospital care. And that’s very important that that link be made so we have to take a sort of holistic approach to delivering that message…

Dr. Christopher Tufton, the Minister of Health and Wellness, July 9, 2020 – Press Conference

The Minister of Health and Wellness pointed out that the more people comply with the directives, the less the government will have to spend on treatment. There have been pleas made to the public to continue washing their hands and wearing face coverings.

Watch this short PSA – “KIP YUH DISTANCE”

…it is in the coming and the going of Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans that contagious diseases can spread and so we need to review that process and enhance that process…

Dr. Christopher Tufton, the Minister of Health and Wellness, July 9, 2020 – Press Conference

…we’re also faced with capacity issues in terms of supplies, because as the number of cases grew worldwide, the demand by the manufacturers of these supplies, in terms including swabs and testing reagents, it becomes harder for us to get the continued amount of supplies that we need to continue testing…

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie, July 9, 2020 – Press Conference

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie, shared several reasons that testing would not continue as it was done at the start of the reopening of the borders, including the low rate of positive tests, the 14 day incubation period, and the lack of staff and resources to continue processing the tests in a timely manner. They plan to refocus their efforts on those who have symptoms but will still spot test certain flights in order to keep track of how many people are coming in who are positive for COVID-19.

Are you planning to travel to Jamaica? Here are some resources that you will need.

How do you feel about the lifting of restrictions for those coming into Jamaica? Let’s chat on Facebook.