In the absence of an accurate COVID-19 rapid test Government will take all precautions before reopening the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
That is according to Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds, who has maintained that even though there is increased interest from airlines to travel to Barbados, the safety of Barbadians and travellers remains of utmost importance.
Speaking during a Zoom press conference today to formally launch the Tourism Recovery Task Force and Barbados Together Continuous E-learning programme, Symmonds gave the assurance that Government was taking no chances in welcoming visitors to the island.
He said a date had not been set for the re-opening because data was being used to determine the best time to do so.
“We have taken a clear position that we are not going to be date-driven on the basis of our re-opening the sector but rather, data-driven. The Prime Minister is very clear that that is the way it must be and that there are some criteria we are looking at with regard to the data.
“The first one would be ideally to have a rapid test which could be done at either the point of departure to Barbados or on arrival in Barbados and if it were practical and cost effective, both, because you can’t be too sure.
“But the reality is until we have a test which can give us a satisfactory degree of certainty that its performance is going to be such that you are now pretty much at the level of certainty that you now have with the test we use in Barbados for the testing of COVID-19 where you have a 99.9 per cent degree of accuracy…
“Until when we can get to something approximating that, then it is going to really be about managing risks as best as possible,” Symmonds said.
“Ideally, therefore, we would want to be able to identify a rapid test and this is a discussion being had across the region. In the absence of that we are going to have to be relying heavily on the airlines to be very robust partners in the context of that which they do to make sure that there is a contaminant-free corridor between when you leave JFK for example, and when you arrive in Barbados.
“We want to make sure that temperature testing is done, that the travel history has been done and that as best as possible those people who are exhibiting symptoms are being sifted one. Once you arrive here there has to be provision made in terms of protocols for us to have appropriate levels of quarantine space in the event that someone comes here and is discovered to have the symptoms arising,” he added.
Symmonds pointed out that airlines were already expressing interest in coming to Barbados once the airport re-opens for business.
“The good news is that there is still a lot of demand. There is a lot of pent up desire to travel… Barbados is not in a category of being less attractive at present. Despite our small size, we are one of the most attractive.”
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