Safety a priority as Caribbean weighs reopening of borders – CARICOM Chair

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CARICOM Chair and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, has stated firmly that safety remains the most important issue for Caribbean countries mulling the reopening of borders following COVID-19 lockdown.

Mottley, in a BBC World television interview, said that that even in the face of a crippling impact on the region’s bread-and-butter industry, the Caribbean would not be driven by dates regarding the reopening of countries’ borders.

“We’re not going to be driven by a date; we’re going to be driven by protocols that make us safe because we want to remain safe for our people; we want to remain safe for the people who are visiting us,” Mottley told BBC host Matthew Amroliwala.

Mottley said that though the Region cannot afford to remain closed forever, and while the hope is that regional travel commences within weeks, CARICOM leaders are not prepared to re-open without being fully prepared.

The Barbados Prime Minister added that before CARICOM can re-open regional travel, one of the main matters it must first address is at what stage of travel should COVID-19 tests be administered.

“I think the airlines have been doing a reasonably good job in trying to ensure that the planes can be kept sanitized, certainly far more than they have been, but the big issue is testing,” she said.

“[Will we be] testing before people get on the planes or testing when people arrive. Quite frankly, it’s more practical before people leave and we need access to rapid tests or tests protocols that will allow us to be able to determine what is the risk that we are going to take: if a person is tested 24 hours before, or should the person be tested within a matter of hours before going to check in?”

She noted that all of these issues will have to be ironed out with the involvement of the relevant stakeholders to ensure that Caribbean countries are fully prepared to reopen their ports.

Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and the Eugene Correia International Airport (ECIA) remain closed to international flights until June 3, 2020. It is still not certain as to whether the government would extend the emergency measures.

On March 19, the airports were officially closed to international flights in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The caretaker Government approved humanitarian flights to allow citizens desirous of returning to Guyana as well as facilitated the exit of nationals of countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, Cuba and the United States of America.

Outgoing cargo flights, medivacs and technical stops for aircraft that require fuel have also received approvals.