Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) Craig Hinds says that a “misunderstanding” over the COVID-19 test required to enter Barbados and avoid a four-day quarantine has been cleared up.
This, after confusion among travellers who were entering the island with one kind of PCR test only to be told it did not meet Barbados’ requirements and they will have to go into a four-day quarantine.
Additionally, a concern has been raised about a “discrepancy” related to the mobile app and colour-coded armband system, which was recently increased from four to six for tourists.
According to some tourism industry leaders, the kind of COVID-19 test required by local health officials had not been clear for some travellers, some of whom arrived armed with results from a test that was not accepted by local officials.
One hotelier indicated that last Friday a guest was tested three times at the Grantley Adams International Airport because “her test was not recognised “a proper” PCR test.
“But they then got confirmation from the doctor in the UK that it was,” the hotelier added.
Another industry operator said when he arrived on island last Friday he was “pulled aside” and told that his PCR test done in Miami was not recognized by the Ministry of Health here, despite being given the assurance in Miami that his test was the one to enter Barbados.
Omar Juman, General Manager of the Coral Mist Beach Hotel, added that the PCR tests of some 30 people on that flight alone were “rejected”.
Worried about the “bad experience”, which resulted in several of the visitors immediately leaving the island, he warned authorities to ensure a clear and cohesive message as the island prepares for an influx of visitors.
“To me, that is disturbing,” he said.
He said there was also a need to urgently “fine-tune” the BIMSafe app that is being used to ensure guests are staying in quarantine.
Juman said after arriving on the island around 5 p.m. Friday and receiving the armband and downloading the app, it was not activated until midday on Saturday, which meant he could have easily ventured anywhere on island and return to the quarantine facility without officials knowing.
“I think that is a fault. It should be activated the same time you leave the airport,” he suggested.
One industry official also raised concern that the children of one family who arrived on island a week before their parents were allowed through without being subjected to the four-day quarantine period but the parents were not, despite them having the same PCR tests.
The official said those repeat visitors decided not to remain in the island.
The issues were raised during the general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) on Wednesday.
However, tourism officials gave the assurance that the muddle has since been corrected after it was recently brought to the attention of the BTMI.
In fact, the BTMI acting CEO said they have sought to “clarify the language” on the travel protocol site relating to the type of PCR test required.
Describing the confusion over the PCR test required as nothing but a “misunderstanding”, he insisted that it should now be clear that it is “the standard PCR test” that is required.
“Also, we had to clarify the administration of those tests. What we found was that persons were actually doing nasal swabs and self-administered tests that were being refused here. But I think we now have clear language on the travel protocol site,” assured Hinds.
According to the official website,
www.vistibarbados.org, a negative Standard COVID-19 PCR test result is required. Such a test requires that the specimen be a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab, or both, taken by a health care provider.
The sample must be taken within three days prior to arrival and the laboratory performing the test must be an accredited, certified or recognised facility.
Hinds disclosed that the BTMI was exploring the possibility of having airlines assist with ensuring that individuals have the correct type of PCR tests before they board their flights to Barbados.
“So that is certainly what we are trying to do to avoid those issues being dealt with here,” said Hinds.
In relation to the colour-coded armband system, two colours have been added – blue and purple.
The blue arm bands are for those who are fully vaccinated and tested at an approved quarantine facility. As with the green armband holders, they are able to move around the property subject to the protocols there.
The purple arm band is for those who have travelled from or through a country of interest to health officials. They are required to remain in their rooms for seven days at a government facility or the designated Sugar Cane Club, The Sands or Sunbay Hotel.
Those with the purple arm band will be required to take a second PCR test on day 8 after their arrival. (MM)