With many countries easing Covid restrictions and opening back up to visitors, travelers constantly have to keep up with ever-changing guidelines. Jamaica is no exception, and the country is currently experiencing its fifth wave of the Covid-19 virus. As a result, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced today (May 20, 2022) that in order to combat the spread of the virus, the Government will be reimplementing the mask mandate in public spaces. He pointed out that the lack of care regarding personal space is one of the main drivers of the positivity rate among the population and the reinstitution of the mask mandate.
“It is going to be a requirement shortly for all of our citizens to wear their masks. After two years, everyone should know how to behave in order to protect themselves from the virus,” Holness said. One thing that remains unclear is when visitors and locals should expect the mandate to take effect. As of now, no date has been announced. As part of his announcement, the Prime Minister encouraged Jamaica’s populace to get their vaccinations in order to protect themselves from the virus.
The announcement has come just one day after the Ministry of Education mandated mask-wearing in schools. Dr. Christopher Tufton, the Health and Wellness Minister, has said that the rising case count is likely due to the Omicron sub-variant BA 2. The sub-variant is estimated to be 1.5 times more infectious than omicron. Luckily, the sub-variant does not seem to be more serious than previous variants and does not have the capability of dodging immune responses from vaccinations or previous infections.
Although the country got rid of all covid requirements on April 16, Holness pointed out that the Jamaican Government never declared that the global pandemic no longer existed. The disease had simply entered into an endemic phase. “We are going to have to learn to live with this thing; it will come over and over and over again,” Holness said. “What is happening now is that we are seeing increased infections being detected as we go back to our full operations, including going back to school. So, we are encouraging all Jamaicans to protect yourself; we know the public health protocols now.”
The Prime Minister encouraged visitors and residents to wear masks, especially if spending time indoors. He stressed the importance of social distancing and asked that the public be aware of the places they are in and the people around them. Sanitization was also mentioned as Holness said that it has been proven to slow transmission of the virus. The Prime Minister also asked those that are ill to stay at home and self-isolate to lower the risk of spread into the community.
Holness made sure to say that trying to cast blame will do nothing to improve the situation the country finds itself in. “In our society, everybody is quick to blame and cast blame. But, one thing is certain, as your Prime Minister, I have been very consistent in preaching social responsibility and how our society must adjust in managing the effects of the pandemic,” he said.
Travelers interested in visiting the island undoubtedly wonder what this announcement will mean for upcoming travel plans. As of now, Jamaica has not announced any other mandates that will affect travelers. Several weeks ago, the country announced that even with the rising number of Covid cases, the country would remain open for tourism without the need for covid testing before arrival.
Whether this remains the case is yet to be seen. However, travelers should feel confident that their future plans may only include wearing masks in public spaces while in Jamaica. The country’s economy took a significant hit during the pandemic. Jamaica will likely do everything they can to keep the tourism industry alive during this temporary 5th wave of Covid cases.
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