The future of Caribbean vacations won’t be the business as usual for a lot longer. As countries around the globe begin to open up travel in recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak, many Caribbean countries remain cautious, devising strategies to protect their population, while trying to restart their economies heavily reliant on tourism.
Antigua and Barbuda have released plans to run rapid tests for all visitors and returnees at the airport before they board the plane to their destination islands. Meanwhile, other Caribbean countries like Haiti and the Bahamas are also contemplating demanding “virus-free” certificates to make sure that tourists, as well as returning citizens, are free of COVID-19 before they enter.
It remains unclear if these measures will prove effective. The World Health Organization says such policies are only a temporary measure while the world still waits for the vaccine. These strategies solutions do not take into account the scientists still know little about the virus. Meanwhile, testing is still very difficult around the world.
Requiring some kind of COVID-19 passport will be very difficult,” says Carlos Espinal, director of the Global Health Consortium at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health at Florida International University.
Nonetheless, the islands are setting their plans in motion. Haiti already launched requirements for all passengers entering the nation to have a negative coronavirus test since March 19.
Yet, these well-meant safety precautions are no guarantee of keeping out infected entrants. Rapid COVID-19 tests at airports, like the ones Antigua proposes, provide no real assurance, as new infections cannot be detected by such tests. They can only show if a person has been exposed to the virus. Infected travelers could have transferred the virus to others during the journey or in the airport. Such fresh infections will not be detected. Plans also propose to confine visitors to the premises of their hotels or beach resorts, not letting them interact with local tourist hubs.
At these hotels, “the local staff will be the younger, healthier ones who would use masks and use proper hygiene etiquette to control the contracting and the spread,” says Antigua’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne. “They will live on the property with the guests to prevent inadvertent community spread in the unlikely event that they contract the virus.”
“It’s not foolproof, but the tests, wearing masks, social distancing, and good hygiene will have to be employed to manage the risks of contracting and spreading the virus, considering it could remain in our midst,” Browne adds.