Caribbean countries have taken this pandemic seriously from the get-go, even as their border closings in mid-March foretold a grim couple of seasons or longer without tourists, conferences, revenues and jobs.
Go down the list of entry requirements for each island and you'll find that most are lengthy and detailed, and some are quite formidable and challenging. But several destinations have demonstrated flexibility in these requirements over these past eight months of (what seems like) the longest year ever.
The Bahamas, for example, is dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement, effective Nov. 1. The Dominican Republic totally eliminated the entry requirement for proof of a negative test upon entry, substituting a rapid Breathalyzer-style test performed on randomly selected travelers upon arrival.
Now Jamaica is planning to launch a new element to add to its entry protocols. The country plans to ramp up its health protection measures for visitors with the introduction of a mandatory comprehensive health insurance program, come Nov. 1, according to Edmund Bartlett, the minister of tourism.
Speaking at the recent reopening of the Zoetry Montego Bay resort, Bartlett said that the new tourist-insurance program would provide a competitive edge for Jamaica by adding another layer of protection for visitors during the pandemic.
"In the process, for a small [tax] on their ticket, they will be able to come to Jamaica and whatever health requirements are needed while they are here on island will be covered," the minister said. That includes a medical evacuation by air if necessary back to the visitor's home country.
Although the announcement was short on specific details, such as cost of the program, coverage and the dates the plan will be in effect, Bartlett described the plan as one "that gives confidence to the new generation of travelers who require health security, safety and destination assurance so that they are confident when they leave home and come to us that they will have a safe, secure and seamless destination experience."
Some destinations, such as Anguilla, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos, require travelers to submit proof of travel insurance that covers Covid-19-related treatment, while the Dominican Republic includes free health and travel insurance coverage through Dec. 31 for its visitors.
The insurance aspect also is embraced by Sandals and Beaches resorts' Travel Protection Plan, which is free to its guests and covers any medical expenses in the Caribbean incurred as part of treatment for illness, including Covid-19.
Jamaica's current entry requirements include submission of an online Travel Authorization, which approves visitors for travel to the island and proof of a negative Covid test result or an antigen result taken 10 days before arrival (the antigen-test option took effect Oct. 10).
Visitors stay in Covid-19 Protocol Compliant Approved accommodations numbering in the hundreds between hotels, villas and guest houses within the Resilient Corridors on the north and south coasts.
It's taken creativity, hours of work, days of training and testing and many, many people on each island to get all these procedures, protocols, sanitization and cleaning measures in place to protect residents and visitors. I applaud them and hope to soon be able to support their efforts by thanking them in person behind my face mask.