Authorities in Barbados are looking at the possibility of implementing a test before departure initiative with the Heathrow Airport that would see travellers coming from London receiving a PCR test for COVID-19 just prior to boarding their flight to Barbados.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins made the disclosure on Wednesday as she addressed the third quarterly general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), via the Zoom online platform.
Cummins opted not to provide details or say what would happen in the case of a positive test, but she said while the initiative could begin with London Heathrow, the idea was to have it offered at airports in other source markets.
Cummins spoke of the plan after one BHTA member raised concern that he was getting cancellations from some of his “luxury clients” who had homes in Barbados who were concerned that despite getting a test 72-hours prior to travel, they would be exposed to the illness since they had to fly in the same aircraft with individuals who did not get a PCR test.
“Is there a reason why every traveller is not mandated to take a PCR test prior to boarding an aircraft to come to Barbados?” he asked.
Cummins gave the assurance that while a more definitive answer would be forthcoming following a meeting on Wednesday with Prime Minister Mia Mottley to “sign off” on new protocols, her ministry has been in discussion with the Ministry of Health on that and other “arrangements”.
Cummins said her ministry has been having regular meetings with airline partners, airport representatives and other stakeholders to find ways of limiting transmission of the COVID-19 illness during travel.
“Aside from the PCR testing and efforts being made here in the ministry, we will be having a meeting either Tuesday or Wednesday with Heathrow International’s leadership. I have reached out to Heathrow International and we have had a good preliminary meeting with their leadership and with their COVID-19 response task force and they are working with us to pilot a model which has already been implemented with the UAE, where they have a facility on site at Heathrow international,” said Cummins.
“You now know that there are airlift coming out of Heathrow on British Airways and we are looking to see if we can collaborate with them to have that rapid testing – if it is so approved by our Ministry of Health and is consistent with the respective World Health Organisation standards, – at the point of origin,” she explained.
Cummins said this would address issues relating to confidence among potential travellers to Barbados.
“If we are able to successfully get this partnership with Heathrow and then roll it out with Gatwick and then simultaneously we are also able to open up opportunities to partner with the other gateways from which visitors are arriving, then we would have hopefully what we expect to be something significant that gives confidence in travel to persons who are flying into Barbados,” she said.