Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced that all travelers entering Jamaica, both Jamaicans and non-nationals, will now have to present a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country.
The test must be conducted within 72 hours prior to the date of travel.
This was among the series of new measures announced by the Prime Minister at a digital press conference on Sunday, February 28. The new testing requirement will take effect on Thursday, March 4.
Prior to this, only citizens of specific countries Jamaica had classified as high-risk were required to provide a negative test. These countries were the United States, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama.
But on Sunday, Holness announced that all tourists and Jamaican nationals will now be required to present a negative test, given the recent spike in COVID-19 positive cases in the country.
“We had great faith that our Jamaicans coming home would have this very high sense of patriotism and understand the pressure that our system would be under, if they were to behave in deviant ways from what we recommend as socially responsible in the pandemic. It has not always been the case that our travelling Jamaicans do this – certainly in the maintenance of the quarantine and it is having an impact on the numbers,” he said.
The Prime Minister pointed that when the Government first began its controlled re-entry programme for non-Jamaicans where pre-testing was required, it had been contemplated at that time to also test Jamaicans, but they had been exempted due to certain considerations.
“We studied it very carefully and we thought that based upon everything – the legal considerations, the stress it would place on our travelling population – that we would not require them to test,” he said.
He noted however that “given where we are where, it is now a threat to lives…with this new spike…. we think it is now justified in these circumstances to require Jamaicans coming home to present a negative COVID-19 test.”
Turning to business travellers who were always required to present a COVID-negative test, then tested again upon arrival in Jamaica, the Prime Minister informed that they will now be required to pay for that test.
“The Government has to shift this burden because obviously the limited budget that we have, in every area we have to try and save. So, we will shift the burden of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test unto the business traveller,” Mr. Holness explained.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister informed that the Government is continuing to restrict flights coming directly from the United Kingdom (UK), “and this will continue until the 22nd of March 2021.”