JHTA doesn’t expect major fallout from China COVID spike

MONTEGO BAY, St James — President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Robin Russell does not anticipate any major fallout within the local tourism sector once China lifts travel restrictions next week.

He is convinced that safety protocols put in place by other countries through which passengers from China must travel before getting to Jamaica will be enough of a buffer.

“We don’t have direct flights from China so any travellers from that space coming in would have to go through other countries; and I’ve seen where other countries have put restrictions on persons travelling,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.

After three years of a zero-COVID policy, China’s leadership is moving to ease restrictions and the number of cases has spiked nationally. Citing concerns about the veracity of data from China which makes it hard to get a true picture of the prevalence of the disease within its population, some countries in the West have said they will require passengers from the Asian country to undergo tests for COVID-19 before boarding flights to leave.

On Wednesday, Russell made it clear that he is not saying there is no need for Jamaica to exercise caution.

“There is always need for concern when something comes up new but I don’t think there is any need for… any panic as yet,” he insisted.

His position is influenced by the fact that, while efforts are under way to boost the number of visitors from China, it is still not among the major markets Jamaica depends upon for a vibrant tourism sector.

The JHTA head believes Jamaica’s ongoing efforts to control the spread of the virus will be an important factor going forward.

“I think we are in a good place. I don’t think COVID has gone away but I think we have better managed it…It’s not as deadly as it was when it first came out. So I don’t see the need for panic,” he added.

In Jamaica, a little under 3,500 people have so far died from COVID-19 and 153,000 cases were reported. At the height of the pandemic, the Government introduced a variety of measures to counter the spread of the virus that has claimed the lives of almost eight million across the world.

“I don’t think we’re going to see us going back to lockdowns and serious protocols like we had before. I’m not seeing anything major. Like I said, China is not a big tourism market for us, so hopefully it won’t affect the winter season,” said Russell.

“I think where we are with COVID now, is that it is your personal responsibility whether to sanitise or to wear a mask, I think that is where we are now. If you know you are at risk, you should continue to wear your mask and sanitise when you can,” he added.

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