Regional leaders float travel bubble to boost tourism

Premier: ‘It’s not something we are considering at this point’

CARICOM leaders have launched what they are calling a ‘travel bubble’ aimed at rebuilding regional tourism and helping struggling countries to generate income as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“Only those countries with no cases and those in the low-risk category would be allowed to participate in the bubble,” CARICOM chairman St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced last Friday. His announcement followed the 12th Special Meeting of Caribbean Community heads of government.

While eight CARICOM countries have signed on to the initial phase of the initiative, which begins this Friday, 18 Sept., Premier Alden McLaughlin told the Cayman Compass that

Premier Alden McLaughlin – Photo: Alvaro Serey

Cayman has not signed up as it is more focussed right now on the reopening of local borders.

“It is not something we are considering at this point. We are still working hard on developing a way to safely reopen our own borders to tourists,” McLaughlin said.

No quarantine required
Under the CARICOM initiative, travellers from countries within the bubble will be allowed entry into participating countries without taking PCR COVID-19 tests prior to arrival.

Under the agreement, travellers will not have to undergo quarantine restrictions. They may, however, be subjected to screening on arrival.

Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be in the bubble as they meet the criteria, Gonsalves said.

The travel bubble initiative is open to other member states and associate members when they satisfy the requirements, he added.

Cayman is a CARICOM associate member. It is unclear if government will sign on to this initiative at some point.

Cayman is set to initiate its phased border reopening on 1 Oct.

The initial phase is aimed at Caymanians, permanent residents, work-permit holders, people who own property here and those planning to spend an extended amount of time on the island, McLaughlin announced this month. The number of people allowed to enter the Cayman Islands next month has been capped at 800.

Cayman is also looking at introducing a ‘global citizen initiative’ that will allow people to live here and work remotely overseas as ‘digital nomads.’ It allows for a small influx of new long-stay residents.

This plan should also be in place soon, McLaughlin said.

CARPHA backs travel bubble
Gonsalves said the heads of government that signed up for the travel bubble were guided by a comprehensive report from the Caribbean Public Health Agency, which provided recommendations on how the bubble would operate and laid out the eligibility criteria for countries to participate.

“These criteria 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,” he said.

He added that the level of risk would be determined by the number of positive cases per 100,000 of the population within a 14-day period.

Gonsalves said relevant data will be assessed by CARPHA to advise on participation in the bubble.

“Heads of government 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,” he said.

The impact has been particularly hard on CARICOM partners, Gonsalves said, given the high dependence on the travel and tourism sectors in most of the region’s economies.

This, he said, is why the heads of government took “a major step towards resuscitating these sectors” in agreeing to institute a travel bubble among CARICOM member states and associate members.

“Heads of government look forward to more CARICOM countries joining in the travel bubble as the region learns to live with this pandemic safely without destroying lives or livelihoods,” Gonsalves added in his address.

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