Four Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have from Tuesday put arrangements in place for operating a travel bubble as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong has said.
In a statement, Comissiong said that St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados have all put their arrangements in place and have commenced operating the bubble, which went into effect last week Friday in keeping with a decision made at a special emergency meeting of CARICOM leaders earlier this month.
“The defining feature of a COVID-19 travel bubble is that persons entitled to participate in the travel bubble are not required to take COVID-19 tests nor to undergo a period of quarantine in order to travel to countries that are within the bubble,” Comissiong said.
“Our CARICOM Heads of Government took a major step towards resuscitating the COVID-19 challenged travel and tourism sectors, with their agreement to institute a travel bubble among CARICOM member states and associate members which meet the agreed criteria,” he added.
He said the regional leaders took the decision after they acknowledged that the past six months have been a very challenging period globally and regionally, as countries have struggled to cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus.
“They noted that for CARICOM, it has been particularly difficult, given the high dependence in most of the economies on the travel and tourism sectors,” Comissiong said, noting that in agreeing to establish the bubble, the regional leaders were guided by a comprehensive report from the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) which provided recommendations on how the bubble would operate, and laid out the eligibility criteria for countries to participate.
He said the recommendations included that countries would be categorised ranging from those with no cases to those which had low, medium, high and very high risk with respect to the rate of positive cases over a 14-day period; the level of risk would be determined by the number of positive cases per 100,000 of the population within a 14-day period.
“Only those countries with no cases and those in the low-risk category would be allowed to participate in the bubble; and CARPHA will assess relevant data to advise on participation in the bubble,” he said, adding that the leaders had also agreed that travellers from countries within the bubble would be allowed entry without being subjected to PCR testing prior to arrival and would also not have to undergo quarantine restrictions.
“Travellers may, however, have to be subjected to screening on arrival. Such travellers should, however, have been resident in a bubble country (or should not have travelled to a country outside of the bubble) at least 14 days prior to the date of travel”.
Comissiong said that it was agreed initially that apart from the four countries that have started the bubble,
Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts- Nevis and St Lucia would have been part of the bubble “as they presently meet the criteria.
Comissiong gave no reasons why these countries were not now part of the bubble.