The long-anticipated CARICOM Travel Bubble is now in operation! It went into effect on Friday, September 18, 2020, in keeping with a decision made at a Special Emergency CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting one week previously.
The defining feature of a COVID-19 Travel Bubble is that persons entitled to participate in the travel bubble are not required to take COVID-19 tests nor to undergo a period of quarantine in order to travel to countries that are within the bubble.
Our CARICOM Heads of Government took a major step towards resuscitating the COVID-19 challenged travel and tourism sectors, with their agreement to institute a travel bubble among CARICOM member states and associate members which meet the agreed criteria from Friday, September 18, 2020.
The heads took the decision at a Special Emergency Session on Friday, September 11, 2020, at which they acknowledged that the past six months have been a very challenging period globally and regionally, as countries have struggled to cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus. They noted that for CARICOM, it has been particularly difficult, given the high dependence in most of the economies on the travel and tourism sectors.
In agreeing to establish the bubble, the heads were guided by a comprehensive report from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which provided recommendations on how the bubble would operate, and laid out the eligibility criteria for countries to participate.
The recommendations included that countries would be categorised, ranging from those with no cases to those which had low, medium, high and very high risk with respect to the rate of positive cases over a 14-day period; the level of risk would be determined by the number of positive cases per 100,000 of the population within a 14-day period; only those countries with no cases and those in the low risk category would be allowed to participate in the bubble; and CARPHA will assess relevant data to advise on participation in the bubble.
Heads of Government agreed that travellers from countries within the bubble would be allowed entry without being subjected to PCR testing prior to arrival, and would also not have to undergo quarantine restrictions. Travellers may, however, have to be subjected to screening on arrival. Such travellers should, however, have been resident in a bubble country (or should not have travelled to a country outside of the bubble) at least 14 days prior to the date of travel!
It is agreed that initially, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines will be in the bubble, as they presently meet the criteria. Other member states and associate members will be allowed to participate when they meet the criteria.
It has been definitively confirmed that as of yesterday – Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados have all put their arrangements in place and have commenced operating the travel bubble.
David Comissiong is Barbados’ ambassador to CARICOM.