Letters & Opinion

The Quarantine Cold War

THE EDITOR: As many countries hasten to find and establish new protocols for reopening their economies and borders, an interesting new dimension is beginning to emerge; one I like to think of as the ‘Quarantine Cold War’.

Already we have seen vast and diverse sets of requirements being touted by different leaders as they try to balance the urgency of getting back to business with the anxiety of protecting citizens against future outbreaks of COVID- 19.

Two tools being bandied about are mandatory 14-day quarantine for persons entering countries, along with the requirement for them to have a certificate of medical clearance.

But here’s where things get intriguing; countries that do not have such requirements are going to be hard pressed to have their citizens go through such trials while traveling without reciprocating. In other words, if the UK or some other country wants to quarantine an American for traveling to do business or for other purposes, then it’s quite likely the US will exact the same requirement from the citizens of those countries entering its borders.

So, where does this now end?

At first glance, it probably means that few if anyone will care to travel at all, and for countries whose economies depend on travel, that’s bad news!

Secondly, the requirement for a medical certificate before you board a plane to travel may encounter a similar predicament. In other words, if an American etc. is travelling to Barbados or Saint Lucia and these islands demand they have a certificate of COVID clearance no more than two or three days old, then it is quite likely that the US will reciprocate, and demand that when persons travel from Barbados or Saint Lucia to the US, then those countries better have a system in place so they are tested before getting on that plane.

Are these countries capable of providing such a service to hundreds or thousands of travelers? And if not, then they might as well just keep their borders closed because no one is going to be traveling in such a situation.

In any event such a requirement seems moot unless that person is tested immediately prior to boarding a plane. A test is a snapshot in time, and because someone was tested two or three days ago does not mean they could not get infected in that window. So, the requirement has a huge hole in it, and so it makes you wonder who came up with that idea in the first place!

But even more than that, who is going to be notifying the travelers of these requirements?

If you want persons to be tested or held in quarantine before they travel to your destination, then are the demanding countries going to market this to the public? I don’t see the airlines bearing that burden or that cost, and I don’t see the accommodation providers doing that either. So, if you don’t market it, are you going to turn passengers away at the gate? I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like something that would endear me to be travelling to your destination, I’d immediately start looking elsewhere.

And in addition to airlines not taking on this burden, many of the legacy carriers have made it clear, they do not intend to deal with a plethora of requirements when flying to the Caribbean, they want a conformity of standards and they want practicality from the various destinations.

These are but two of a whole list of requirements now being discussed.

We have a tendency to want to be heroes in the Caribbean, and that’s all good, but there is a time and place for everything. Caribbean destinations, particularly those dependent on tourism and travel, need to think long and hard about how realistic and how practical their protocols for reopening are, because wanting to get economies back up and running is one thing, being able to actually do it without incurring long term fall out and damage is quite another.

— Ernest Amadoe

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