As Caribbean countries look to create safe conditions for inbound tourism, experts warn that the region’s own COVID-19 vaccination rollout is a condition for recovery, even if travellers are already themselves vaccinated.
While at least one country hopes to secure enough supply to vaccinate visitors, for most Caribbean nations, vaccinations are going far slower than necessary for a strong economic recovery.
“It’s going to be another difficult two years ahead,” said Therese Turner-Jones, general manager of the Caribbean Country Department for the Inter-American Development Bank, according to Skift. “Absent a healthy environment, there is not much you are going to do that will get back to (travel) business as usual.”
A handful of Caribbean countries are suffering their worst outbreaks since the start of the pandemic. The number of total confirmed cases almost doubled in the first two months of the year in Jamaica and rose nearly fourfold in Cuba, eightfold in Barbados and tenfold in Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, reported Skift.
To combat the spread, many Caribbean nations have reimposed stronger health restrictions – such as lockdowns, hotel quarantines and mandatory virus testing – that could further delay a revival of their fragile economies.
While some of the region’s countries have started inoculating their citizens, widespread coverage still looks far off.
The Caribbean is turning to India, China and Russia for vaccines at a time when global supplies are strained. Caribbean leaders are warning about difficulty accessing vaccines and hoarding by rich nations amid a slow rollout of vaccines by the United Nations-backed COVAX alliance created to ensure poor countries across the world are not left behind, Skift reports.
Cuba, the only Caribbean country developing its own vaccines, is launching late phase trials of two vaccine candidates this month and could present “a ray of light” for the region, according to Skift.
Jamaica, a population of nearly 3 million, will get just 64,400 vaccine doses within the next two weeks, CTV News reports, but expects 1.8 million by APR via the African Medical Supply Platform, a non-profit initiative by the African Union.
Other nations within the region have been sharing doses with each other in a show of regional solidarity such as Dominica helping Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis. Meanwhile, Barbados has donated doses to Trinidad and Tobago.
India also has helped the Dominican Republic and Antigua and Barbuda, but the region remains far short of what is needed to achieve herd immunity for the over 18 million people that live in the Caribbean Community trade bloc.
At the same time, the Government of Barbados has said it intends to obtain enough vaccine doses to not only protect its own citizens, but to offer injections to visitors by the end of APR or early MAY 2021.
One report said that travellers to the island who have not been vaccinated would be able to receive one or more doses, although it’s not know if the scheme might prioritize long-term stays or older visitors.