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Five-day COVID isolation protocol activates today after delay

JHTA boss calls new regulation a game changer for tourism sector

Published:Tuesday | January 4, 2022 | 12:10 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer


The halving of the isolation period for COVID-19 positive patients from 10 to five days is being hailed by president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, as a game changer.

The new regulation, recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kicks in today, five days after being announced by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton.

The health and wellness minister confirmed the start date to The Gleaner last evening. The delay was caused by the fact the change had not been ratified by Parliament.

“People will be able to quarantine for [fewer] days, and once they test out of quarantine with a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) negative test, they’re free to fly,” Reader told The Gleaner during a presentation of 5,000 COVID-19 self-testing kits to tourism workers by the health ministry last Thursday.

The PCR is widely hailed as the gold-standard test.

Several tourists to the island, mainly Canadians, have been complaining about the long isolation period. Many are convinced that because they have no symptoms, they could not be carrying the virus.

All travellers departing the island must present a negative COVID-19 test in order board any airline, including those in and out of Canada.

Fit-to-travel letter

In addition, reports are that the airlines have been telling passengers that all they need to do is quarantine for five days, then get a fit-to-travel letter from a medical doctor to fly.

Quarantine days have come from a high of 14 to 10 before falling to five today, unless the negative test reduces the time span.

“Jamaica has put in an extra layer, so if you continue to test positive, you will be quarantine,” explained Reader.

He argued that 90 per cent of the people testing positive were not showing any symptoms, and believed they were fine and should not be in quarantine.

The shortening of the days, he says, will also benefit his staff, as it will allow them to do better in terms of earning.

“It’s a win-win situation, when you combine guest satisfaction and staff earnings,” stated Reader.

Dr Sherridene Lee, who operates three testing sites under her i-doc Wellness Concierge Services brand, agreed with Reader that this could be a game changer for the sector, once the health ministry guidelines are strictly adhered to.

“I was initially concerned with the CDC new quarantine guidelines and what the implications were if implemented in Jamaica. However, I was grateful and relieved when the health minister announced a protective layer, by adding the need for a negative PCR test,” she told The Gleaner.