Photo Credit: Photo by Latosha Joseph
This Couple Shares A First-Hand Account Of Traveling To Jamaica After Its Reopening
If you weren’t aware, Jamaica reopened its borders for recreational travel on June 15. New Orleans-based couple Havanah Llewellyn and Takema Robinson, traveled to Kingston to check on their Airbnb properties that had been dormant since the shutdown and to simply get away from the stress of what was happening in the States. They split their time between Jamaica and New Orleans, so they travel to the island often.
Their journey began with a road trip to Florida to drop off their children with their grandparents. After 3 months of quarantine in New Orleans, it was interesting for them to see how other states in the South were handling the pandemic.
“We hunkered down for the last three months here in New Orleans because we were one of the hotspots for the virus,” Takema told Travel Noire. “Our state was pretty much shut down during that time. Except for our weekly trip for groceries or walks outside as a family, we didn’t go anywhere.”
The couple recalls that as they made their way to Florida, there was a complete change in the way that people were handling the pandemic. While stopping at a Starbucks, they describe seeing people not adhering to social distancing rules or even wearing masks.
Once the kids were safe with their grandparents, the couple headed back to New Orleans to prepare for their flight to Jamaica.
“Prior to even getting to the airport, we were required to complete a travel authorization form required for travel into Jamaica,” Havanah said. “The form had to be completed 72-hours before our trip and it asked us a series of questions including where we would be staying while in Jamaica, and if we had been exposed to anyone with COVID. Once approved, we were issued a barcode that we had to present during boarding.”
The authorization was done online and was reviewed instantly by Jamaican officials with an answer on whether or not they were allowed to travel to the island.
While in New Orleans’ airport, the couple said there was about a 70/30 ratio of people wearing masks versus those that weren’t. However, during the layover in Miami, that number dropped to about 50/50 but, once on the flight, everyone wore a mask.
Once they arrived in Jamaica’s airport, the flight was met by medical as well as military personnel. As soon as passengers stepped off of the plane, they were socially distanced one by one while the medical staff went through to take and record each person’s temperature.
“The military staff was there to assist rather than enforce,” Havanah said. “They helped expedite elderly people and those with children through the process.”
Once temperatures were recorded, passengers were then escorted to the first checkpoint where they sat down with a staff member to go over the authorization form they previously submitted and to make sure nothing had changed. The couple was pleased to see the staff take extra precaution in sanitizing all touchpoints during the process while wearing full PPE.
“Everyone we encountered in Jamaica’s airport was dressed in full PPE,” Takema said. “From a face mask and shield, hair covers, shoe covers, as well as clothing covers. It was great to see that they were not only protecting passengers but staff as well.”
The couple went through several checkpoints during the entire process and at each point were either offered or provided with hand sanitizer. At one point they were told to download the island’s newly created app that must be used while in the country. A staff member walked them through the entire app as well as tested it to make sure it worked properly on their devices. They were also notified that they would be required to check-in several times each day on the app and that the app would geo-track them during their visit.
“The app was created by a company in Jamaica and it was built to ensure visitor and resident safety,” Takema said. “We had the opportunity to speak directly with the man who created it. The Prime Minister was very hands-on in getting the app running and the technology has now been sourced by South Africa and other Caribbean countries to use when they reopen. We can view in real-time the island’s COVID statistics by Parrish, and you can request that someone come to test you if you start to exhibit symptoms.”
The last checkpoint was where the couple was tested. They were issued a sealed COVID-19 testing kit, and once cleared through immigration, all passengers were escorted outside of the airport to a mobile testing site to take their test. Tests were administered by doctors and securely placed in sealed bags.
It was only after going through each point that passengers were cleared to receive their bags and proceed to their destination on the island.
“It was just shocking to see that this country, that many consider a third world country, had such advanced safety measures in place compared to the United States,” Takema said. “But, it was shocking in a good way.”
As the couple made their way to Kingston where they would be staying over the next month, they were constantly alerted by the app that they were leaving the quarantine zone initially listed on their info. The app requires that people update their location so that it can update with a specific zone for them to stay within.
For those that travel to the resilient corridor, which includes mostly tourist areas with hotels that have pre-approved to receive guests, you must quarantine for up to 72-hours while you wait for your test results. Once you receive a negative test result, you are able to continue with your trip as planned.
For anyone traveling to more residential areas, like Takema and Havanah, you must automatically quarantine for 14-days whether you receive a negative test or not.
Overall the couple is very pleased with the way Jamaica handled its reopening and all safety measures that are in place. They documented the entire process in a 12-minute video that was initially only supposed to be for family and friends. However, within 24-hours the video had gone viral. It was even shared by Jamaica’s Prime Minister and within the island’s Parliament.
“A lot of locals were happy to hear that their country was handling the pandemic so well, especially compared to other places. We hope that the U.S. can soon implement similar measures.”