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Pre-testing requirement for travel from high-risk states – Holness 

The Jamaican Government has established pre-testing requirements for the coronavirus (COVID-19) for persons travelling to the island from the U.S. states of Florida, New York, Texas and Arizona.

This is while all persons arriving as of July 1 under the controlled entry programme will still be subjected to testing, risk assessment and screening.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement Monday during a digital press conference from Jamaica House.

He said persons travelling to Jamaica from the listed high-risk states are required to register on the visitjamaica website where they must upload a valid PCR test.

The test must not be more than seven days old from the expected travel date. To accommodate the seven-day timeline, the measure will take effect as of July 10.

Three of the four states that have been singled out – Texas, Florida and Arizona have been seeing daily record numbers of new COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks as the south and south-west of the United States battle a resurgence of the virus. New York was previously the epicentre of the coronavirus in that country.

Meanwhile, Holness said business travellers, who are visiting for less than 14 days, will continue to be tested at the airport. As was previously stated, these persons must quarantine at their listed address until the results of their COVID-19 test is known.

The prime minister, in responding to a reporter’s question about why the four states were singled out as opposed to all of the United States, explained that the majority of persons, who entered the country since June 1 when the borders were reopened, came from those states.

He also said the situation will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. Also, the majority of the 82 imported cases of COVID-19 during the month of June were persons who came from New York even though the situation has largely stabilised in that state.

The move to require persons from the U.S. which is considered a hotspot for COVID-19 in the Americas, also come at a time when the number of flights into Jamaica is expected to increase sharply during the month of July when 22 daily flights and 1,680 passengers are expected. This is up from five daily flights and about 418 passengers during the month of June.

Both Holness and health and wellness minister Dr Christopher Tufton who also addressed the press conference pointed out that the health and other personnel manning the two major airports are close to exhaustion. They anticipate that the changes will help to ease the stress on workers.

More than 30 U.S. states are seeing a surge in coronavirus cases and the European Union which previously experienced staggering numbers of infections and deaths has signalled that the United States will not be on the list of countries whose citizens will be allowed into the EU when the border is reopened to foreigners.

In the meantime, Holness disclosed that roughly 14,600 persons arrived in June. Of that number, 9,300 are residents and 5,300 non-residents. An additional 15,000 have been approved to travel including 12,400 residents and 2,600 non-residents. Over 23,000 Jamaicans are waiting to return home.

What is the PCR test?

This test uses a sample of mucus typically taken from a person’s nose or throat. The test may also work on saliva — that’s under investigation. It looks for the genetic material of the coronavirus. The test uses a technology called PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which greatly amplifies the viral genetic material if it is present. That material is detectable when a person is actively infected.