Tourism Minister, Hon Edmund Bartlett has lauded local tourism partners for the high level of preparation evident in key sub-sectors of the tourism industry to protect tourism workers and visitors from the threat posed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), ahead of the phased reopening of the sector.
On Wednesday, Minister Bartlett led a team on a tour of the Sangster International Airport, a number of hotels in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, the Coral Cliff and Margaritaville entertainment entities and Hospiten hospital. He said this was the start of a series of inspections of various tourism-related locations to get first-hand knowledge of their level of preparedness and measures for the management of activities that will have to be instituted when the industry is reopened on June 15, 2020.
Given the degree of preparation that was observed, Mr Bartlett expressed that "the resilience that we want to build will enable us, first of all, to manage the risk and then be able to respond to anything unforeseen," making Jamaica, perhaps, "one of the most prepared destinations in the Caribbean area."
At the Sangster International Airport, Chief Executive Officer, Shane Munroe and Chief Operations Officer, Peter Hall highlighted the installation of plexiglass screens at counters as well as cutting-edge electronic devices, including thermal sensor cameras and hands-free equipment that will boost the capacity of public health frontline workers.
Preparations at Hospiten include dedicating a special wing to dealing with COVID-19 related cases. Country Manager, Samuel Diaz said his company was playing a key role in health security and that in addition to the hospital along the Elegant Corridor, there are medical stations located at several hotels as well as at the airport and seaports in Montego Bay and Falmouth. Hospiten's Commercial Manager, Chevoghne Miller assured Minister Bartlett of the hospital's full support in treating with COVID-19 for the safety of Jamaicans and visitors alike.
At the Holiday Inn, Sandals Montego Bay, Deja Resort and Jamaica Inn, protocols ensuring the safety of both tourism workers and guests are being implemented covering all areas, including rooms, restaurants, and beaches. This will include the observance of social distancing and the wearing of masks.
"I am satisfied so far that the entities are buying and preparing the necessary COVID equipment and that the ability to use and manipulate this equipment is being taught and internalized by the workers," said Mr. Bartlett. He added that the examples seen at the locations visited showed that "we are all preparing ourselves with the layer of protection that the industry must provide to ensure that the people of Jamaica will not, in fact, be unduly exposed to the virus."
Noting that "all of Jamaica is not at the same level of readiness," Minister Bartlett said, what he termed, a resilience corridor was being established "that will enable us to better protect our workers, manage the experience of the visitor, better account for the activities and also to be better able to track and trace their movements in order to ensure that there is the highest level of risk management as possible."