Pressure mounts for tourism workers to take coronavirus vaccine

KINGSTON, JAMAICA — Some tourism workers are facing increased pressure to become inoculated against COVID-19 as they stand to face heavy social interaction with visitors amid the burgeoning restart of a most crucial industry.

Jamaican Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett recently called those employed in the sector “frontline workers” and stressed the importance of them taking the shot.

“Tourism workers must always remember that they are valuable frontline workers who have a critical role to play in restoring the national economy and their own state of well-being,” Bartlett said.

“They must, therefore, play their part in helping to overcome the current setback created by the COVID-19 pandemic by taking the vaccine.”

The minister assured that concentrated efforts are being made to secure sufficient vaccine doses for the entirety of the tourism sector’s workforce, noting that he has had discussions with officials in Saudi Arabia and Africa to request “25 million doses for tourism workers in the highly tourism-dependent developing countries of the world”.

But vaccine hesitancy has posed a challenge for several Caribbean nations — including Jamaica, whose government has maintained that vaccination is voluntary. The country has an estimated six percent of its population vaccinated, according to a Reuters COVID-19 Tracker as well as a regional COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker published by British Virgin Islands-based research and consultancy firm MJS & Associates.

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    However, with visitor arrivals anticipated to reach as high as one million by the end of August and a resumption of the cruise industry potentially just around the corner, the need to ensure safety is all the more urgent. More visitors from abroad could mean a greater risk of virus spread, and some local healthcare workers have voiced concern about the more contagious delta strain in particular.

    Bartlett, however, expressed confidence in the “Tourism Resilient Corridors” — specific tourist areas that must comply with certain health protocols under regular scrutiny — established by his ministry to provide some measure of safety.

    “We have to ensure that all our partners and our institutions and our people are responding and responding well to the management protocols that we have established,” Bartlett said.

    “So, it’s a little bit of a risk, there’s no doubt about it, but that’s what we’re managing.”

    The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has additionally offered ongoing panels and advice to tourism workers on how they can comply with the protocols and stay safe as arrivals begin to pour in.

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    Vaccination in the Caribbean

    COVID-19-Resilient Corridor Established For Tourists

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