By Kevon Browne
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The main topic of the Tuesday (October 6) broadcast of Leadership Matters was the reopening of the borders come October 31 and quelling concerns as to the protocols in place to protect the federation’s low-risk status.
Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Hazel Laws, in her remarks during the broadcast stated that appropriate protocols are being developed and confirmed to ensure the safety of residents and the safety of the inbound travelers or tourists.
“By way of background, we have looked at other Caribbean member states that have opened their borders ahead of us and have noted the best practices. Most Caribbean member states require inbound travelers from hotspots to submit a negative COVID-19 PCR pre-arrival test and they must complete some form of quarantine upon arrival.
“…Caribbean member states that are utilizing different models of Quarantine. For example, in Saint Lucia, effective September the 25th, persons from outside the Caribbean bubble must complete 14 days of quarantine at a COVID-19 approved quarantine site. Saint Lucia officially opened its borders on July the 9th, and in that first phase, they only started with two COVID-19 approved all-inclusive hotels. The List of accommodations or hotels was expanded in the subsequent phase.”
Dr. Laws went on the give an overview of the protocols for reopening our borders in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are taking a phased approach and so in phase one, all inbound travelers to the Federation will have to log on to the national website prior to traveling to complete and submit the entry form with required details including evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test done within three days of travel. This PCR test must be done at an accredited laboratory.
All inbound travelers to the Federation will fall into two categories. The first category will involve those travelers coming from a territory within the Caribbean bubble with minimal risk of exposure to the virus. The second category will involve travelers coming from a territory outside the Caribbean bubble with a significant risk of exposure to the virus.”
The first category involves inbound travelers from within the Caribbean bubble referring to a traveler from any of the eight Caribbean member states, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. These islands met an inclusion criterion, having reported less than 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the total population within the past 14 days. The Ministry of Health will continue monitoring the situation in these territories and member states will be removed from the approved list if transmissions of the virus are reported.
“Once you travel directly to the Federation from a Caribbean bubble territory, where they resided for at least 21 days … a negative PCR test must be submitted and the visitor will be subjected to regular … screening upon our arrival at the airports and asked to upload the National COVID-19 mobile application where they will be monitored for the first 14 days .
“… Once without symptoms or once asymptomatic, you will be allowed to integrate into the Federation without a period of confinement or Quarantine. Inbound travelers from the Caribbean bubble can stay at private homes and at the COVID-19 certified non-franchise hotels. Please note that all arriving passengers from within the bubble who have been in transit in a country outside the bubble will be included in the second category.”
In the second category, inbound travelers or tourists and returning Nationals from outside the Caribbean bubble will have the option of staying at several COVID-19 approved accommodations that are pre-approved or certified quarantine or confinement sites with appropriate security facilities. The government designated facilities include; The Ocean Terrace Inn, The Royal Saint Kitts Hotel, Oualie Beach Hotel, and Potworks Estate in Nevis.
Inbound travelers in category two will be required to submit a negative PCR test result done within three days of travel from an accredited laboratory. They will also be subjected to screening at the airport and will be requested to upload the national COVID-19 mobile app.
“Once without symptoms or asymptomatic, the inbound traveler will be allowed entry into the Federation. The inbound international travelers or tourists will then be vacationing in place, at the certified hotel with access to an approved package of services for the first 14 days or for the duration of stay if shorter. The International Traveler on tourists will be required to do serial testing.”
The serial testing will include tourists testing on day seven and on day 14 if still in the Federation. Tourists who receive a negative PCR test on day seven can be granted access to selective excursions or tourist destination sites on the island in a secure bubble.
“All inbound travelers must receive … a PCR test on Day 14 of their vacation, and once the result is negative, the traveler will be allowed to integrate into our society. If the trip or vacation is less than 14 days, the tourists can easily depart the Federation with an exit test.”
Tourists in the second category can only use COVID-19 certified taxis or ground transportation with appropriate partitions to move between the airport and the designated hotels, and to move between the hotels and the COVID-19 certified excursion or tourist sites on the islands.
“As I said before, we are going to take a phased approach and so the second phase will involve an expanded list of hotels certified to accept inbound travelers or tourists, with significant risk from hot spots. Such hotels must submit the appropriate protocols to ensure safe operations and minimal risk of COVID-19 outbreak on property. The second phase will also involve an expanded list of excursions and local tourist destination sites that are COVID-19 certified with the relevant protocols. The second phase more than likely will involve all the changes in the existing protocols based on the surveillance data we would collect and the outcomes observed in the first phase.”