Barbados reassures UK visitors over enhanced testing protocols

The government of Barbados has reassured UK visitors over enhanced Covid-19 testing requirements after admitting language used in official guidance and coverage of the change last week may have “scared the market”.

From October 1, rising infection levels means the UK will be classed as high-risk, with visitors required to take a free secondary test shortly after arrival in addition to an already mandatory pre-departure test. They will then be required to stay in their hotel or accommodation until receiving the test result within 24 hours.

Tourism minister Senator Lisa Cummins said the secondary test would be taken five days after the pre-departure test, meaning that most UK visitors would be required to stay in their hotel or villa for only the first day or two of their stay before gaining clearance.

However, she admitted that language used in official protocols combined with subsequent reporting had served to make the process “more onerous and scary” than it was in practice.

She said: “That five-day period begins with three days in the UK (after the pre-departure test), the day of travel and the day after you arrive, but the communication that went out in some parts of the press gave the impression that people are coming in to quarantine and having to be restricted in their movements [for long periods] and this is absolutely incorrect.

“That almost frightened people about ‘government-approved quarantine facilities’ which made it sound like people were leaving their country and their home to go into an institution and that is categorically not the case.”

She added: “The language that came out did not necessarily reflect (the measures and processes in place). It made it seem onerous and scary and in an environment where there is a global pandemic and anxiety levels are already high for all of us, it really was a most unfortunate type of reporting that made people feel more unsafe or uncertain about travel.

“For skittish people, which is all of us right now, if there is anything at all that sounds like a red flag, people are going to step back from it. The use of the language was one thing but the reporting of it and stringing those words together really scared the market and we want to reassure people that is not what the new protocols require at all.”

Cummins confirmed official protocols had now been updated, with user-friendly communications developed to inform potential visitors about the new requirements.

Under the protocols, visitors to will be cleared to travel freely if the second test returns a negative result. If a positive test is returned but they are asymptomatic, they will be asked to self-isolate at their hotel or villa while continuing their holiday, and if they develop symptoms they will be evaluated in person while isolating in case treatment is required.

Cummins said the commitment of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to their Barbados services reflected the strength of demand from the UK market following the resumption of travel.

But she said further funds would be invested in marketing to ensure the new protocols did not put off potential travellers, adding: “When you rattle the market like this, bookings can rapidly translate into cancellations.”

Cheryl Carter, UK director of Barbados Tourism, added: “The message is simple. We want to make sure we have safe guests travelling to a safe destination so that they can have a very safe holiday. We want to ensure Barbados remains safe for all of our guests as well as all of our population.”

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