As Barbados continues to battle a deadly Delta outbreak in the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins is giving the assurance that any changes to protocols at the island’s borders will have the safety of Barbadians at heart first and foremost.
She said travellers were concerned about the possibility of contracting the respiratory virus while vacationing here. Local hotels are reporting significant cancellations in bookings as the variant continues to spread across the island.
Senator Cummins told Barbados TODAY the current protocols at the airport and seaports had been successful in keeping COVID-19 at bay.
However, she acknowledged that protocols also had to be accommodating while keeping visitors safe when traveling in and out of the island
“We have every confidence in our public health officials that they have been assessing and will continue to assess the risks. Our border patrols have been exceptional. They have been restrictive, more restrictive than most places and it is for that reason they have worked. We have had less than one per cent of persons crossing our borders testing positive for COVID and if we have positive cases at the border they are detected at the border and isolated from within the community,” Cummins told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a press conference at the Hilton Resort to mark KLM airlines’ inaugural flight to Barbados.
“They have clearly worked and any changes to the protocols now will also have to be based on that same risk stratification that ensures that we are having a set of protocols that are fit for purpose.”
Senator Cummins said because of the substantial increase in positive cases on the island travellers were raising specific concerns, especially surrounding their safety.
She explained that visitors were less likely to come to Barbados if they felt there was a high risk they could contract COVID-19 or if they believed their vacation could be stressful because of protocols.
“With the increasing numbers that we are seeing here on a daily basis, our visitors are equally concerned. ‘If I become ill overseas will I have to go into a facility or into one of the isolation centers?’ That’s creating some anxiousness on the market and so you see cancellations for that reason.
“You’re also seeing concern among our visitors about the level of vaccinations. Most of our source markets are well past what was previously described as herd immunity. Less than one per cent of the travellers coming into Barbados are unvaccinated and so for them they have been vaccinated in their country of origin,” the minister pointed out.
“They pay sometimes US$150 per person to test prior to arrival, they pay for their air ticket, on arrival in Barbados they are tested and then they are quarantining, sometimes with a family, in a hotel for at least 24 to 48 hours. That becomes very, very expensive for persons and then having done all that they are going into a hotel where the housekeeping staff, the kitchen staff and all of the staff servicing their needs are neither vaccinated nor tested, and what the visitors are saying is that they are not prepared to expose themselves to a level of risk that is higher than it needs to be having gone through all of that.”
The tourism minister said the issue of contact tracing was also worrisome for travellers as it had the potential to ruin their stay on the island.
“Visitors can get on a plane or they can be here and when they are contact traced because they have been in touch or in contact with someone who has tested positive, their vacation is ruined and so you may have five days or seven days for a person who is on the island and then all of a sudden they’re being told they have to isolate for a period of time and that becomes a problem…They don’t want to be in a position where the travel itself becomes a source of stress” Cummins said. [email protected]