Protocol developed for controlled re-entry of Jamaicans

Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressing the rentry protocol at a press briefing Monday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Cabinet has developed a protocol for the controlled re-entry of Jamaicans into the country.

The island’s airports and seaports, which were ordered closed effective March 2 as part of measures to control transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19), will remain closed until May 31.

“Previously, when we closed the borders, we allowed limited re-entry via a discretionary application to the Minister of National Security and then the approval of Cabinet. Now we will have a protocol in place; the protocol has been established and that protocol will control the re-entry of Jamaicans,” Holness said.

Holness said he is sympathetic towards the thousands of persons who are stranded overseas, including some who are experiencing extreme financial, emotional and psychological hardship, but noted that Jamaica, like several other countries, has to employ strict border control measures to contain the spread of the virus locally.

“It is for good reason… that we have put in place a protocol. It would have to be discussed publicly, obviously. We’ll bring it to Parliament, and as soon as we can we will start to have controlled re-entry,” he noted.

The Prime Minister said that the government has not yet settled on a date for the re-entry of citizens, noting that this will be determined by capacity.

“So, I need to get from the Ministry of Health how soon they can build up their capacity in order to service any mass controlled re-entry of Jamaicans. That will take some time. I can’t say when, and I don’t want to give any date to which I will be held, but we are working as much as we can to get it done,” Holness said.

He noted that the Ministry is expanding capacity “by doing some rapid training at this point”. In the meantime, he said everyone who is allowed re-entry must be tested and quarantined for 14 days, most likely in a State-appointed facility.