With Jamaica having received its first cruise ship following a 17-month hiatus forced by the global pandemic, Minister of Tourism Hon. Edmund Bartlett is insisting that the zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 protocols breaches will remain in effect.
Minister Bartlett, who was in Ocho Rios on Monday (August 16) to greet the arrival of the 3,100 passenger and crew Carnival Sunrise cruise vessel, said the police and other state agencies will remain vigilant in providing oversight, and that “anybody” who decides to “act in contrary to what has been agreed to” will have to “deal with the consequences.”
“We are all pleased that cruise shipping has returned to Jamaica. We welcome this resumption as we know that thousands of Jamaicans depend on the cruise shipping industry for their livelihood, and it will have a positive impact on our economy in general,” Minister Bartlett noted.
“I want to, however, inform the public that all cruise calls are being managed in accordance with strict health and safety COVID-19 protocols which are guided by global standards and best practices to ensure the safety and protection of our citizens as well as visitors.”
The Minister added that all cruise vessels are also being managed in alignment with the Conditional Sailing Order for Simulated and Restricted Voyages promulgated by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). He noted that the phased return of the ships “marks a significant milestone in recovery efforts and the resumption of cruise operations, which were suspended in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mr. Bartlett said that it is against the background of the CDC guidelines that it is important that all tourism workers who will, in some way or another, encounter cruise passengers must be vaccinated.”
“We want all workers to be vaccinated and are going to be very strong. We have established a special task force under the co-chairmanship of the permanent secretary, Jennifer Griffith, and the president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, to drive this process,” the Tourism Minister said.”
“No cruise passenger will go to any attraction that is not COVID-certified by TPDCo and the JTB and have licenses to operate as per the amusement license requirements of the local government, industry.”
Chairman of the Tourism Resilient Corridors Committee (TRCC), John Byles, said that with a low 0.6 positivity rate, it is important that the integrity of the protocols on the corridors remain intact.
“What we must ensure is that COVID resilient transportation is taking passengers to COVID resilient places,” Mr. Byles noted. “No matter who…what or where…we can’t afford a breakdown. We also have to understand that it doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, black, white or blue…the virus will spread if there is a breakdown of the protocols.”
Mr. Byles, who is also the vice-president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) in charge of tourism, said it should be remembered that Jamaica only days ago received its one millionth visit since the start of COVID last year and where all of them passed through the corridors…whether to go to the hotels or to the attractions.
He added that it is incumbent on all Jamaicans to follow the rules, warning that the cruise ships will not sail to places where the locals are not complying and where they feel that their passengers will be at risk.
“We have to make up our collective minds as to what we want,” he further argued. “It is no longer business as usual. COVID has changed all of that.”