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As the region’s travel and tourism sectors have taken a massive hit due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caricom Heads of Government have taken a major step towards reviving the sectors.

This has been done with an agreement to institute a Travel Bubble among Caricom Member States and Associate Members which meet on an agreed criteria.

The institution of the Travel bubble started last Friday.

Speaking on the matter in a Caricom forum, chairman of Caricom and Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves said, “We the heads noted that for Caricom, it has been particularly difficult given the dependence in most of our economies on the travel and tourism sectors.”

He continued to note that the heads of government “took a major step towards resuscitating these sectors when we agreed to institute travel bubble among Caricom member States and associate members.”

According to Gonsalves, the heads of government acknowledged that the past 6 months have been a very challenging period globally and regionally – as countries have struggled to cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus.

He said the Heads of Government took the decision at a Special Emergency Session on September 11.

In agreeing to establish the Bubble, the Heads were guided by a comprehensive report from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which provided recommendations on how the Bubble would operate, and laid out the eligibility criteria for countries to participate.

The recommendations included that countries would be categorised ranging from those with no cases to those which had low, medium, high and very high risk with respect to the rate of positive cases over a 14-day period; the level of risk would be determined by the amount of positive cases per 100,000 of the population within a 14-day period.

Gonsalves posited that only those countries with no cases and those in the low-risk category would be allowed to participate in the Bubble and that CARPHA will assess relevant data to advise on participation in the Bubble.

Heads of Government agreed, Gonsalves said that travellers from countries within the Bubble would be allowed entry without being subjected to Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing prior to arrival and would also not have to undergo quarantine restrictions. He added, however, that travellers may however be subjected to screening on arrival.

Gonsalves posited that it was agreed that initially, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines will be in the Bubble as they presently meet the criteria. He said that other Member States and Associate Members will be allowed to participate when they meet the criteria.

Furthermore, Gonsalves remarked that the full requirements and protocols would be made available to the public and would be accessed both locally and regionally through the different media platforms. He said, “Heads of the government look forward to more Caricom countries joining the travel bubble as the region learns to live with this pandemic safely without destroying lives or livelihoods.”