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Tourism Covid19 protocols being developed

Tourism Covid19 protocols being developed
DR SIMONE KEIZER-BEACHE, the Chief Medical Officer( CMO)

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With the cruise season quickly approaching, local officials have begun to craft specific cruise ship COVID19 protocols to make it possible for tourists to be able to visit these shores.

The tail end of the cruise season came to an abrupt halt at the beginning of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic began its rapid spread in North America and to the Caribbean.

No ships have visited St Vincent and the Grenadines since then.

But Chief Medical Officer, Dr Simone Keizer-Beache said last Sunday that the Ministry of Health has been working closely with the Ministry of Tourism to develop these cruise ship protocols.

The CMO, who was speaking on WE FM’s radio programme, ‘Issues at Hand’, said a committee has been formed which includes Medical Officer of Health, Dr Roger Duncan; Epidemiologist, Tamara Bobb; the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and several other stakeholders.

“So, generally, as you would realise in St Lucia and for CARICOM and world-wide, there’s the emphasis on vaccinated passengers,” she said, as she noted some of the conditions being considered.

Keizer-Beache added that there’s also an interest by cruise ships for persons meeting and interacting with the travellers on land to also be fully vaccinated against COVID19.

“So it is that sort of a bubble which extends from the cruise ship, on land…it’s not that they’re going to be interacting with the general public to say it’s in conflict with what happens at the airport, but rather to say that anybody who’s in contact with the people coming off the cruise ship will be protected by themselves being vaccinated…,” she explained.

Consideration is also being given to specially designated sites for cruise passengers to access and meet and purchase items from local crafts vendors.

But these vendors will also have to consider whether they will make the choice of being vaccinated in order to be able to interact with passengers.

Efforts have also been made to engage taxi operators as it relates to vaccines and COVID19 protocols for the tourism sector.

The CMO again noted that there is an increased interest by visitors by air, to be transported only by vaccinated taxi operators.

She was at the time responding to concerns raised by callers and questions from the panellists on Sunday’s programme.

“Guests are requesting that staff at hotels be fully vaccinated, also that the taxi that brings them to the hotel be fully vaccinated. That is something that is happening already,” Keizer-Beache said.

She revealed that at this point, there is not a sufficient number of taxi operators at the airport who are vaccinated so this may pose a logistical challenge to have only vaccinated drivers transporting visitors.

However, the CMO said that operators at the airport are all approved by the SVG Tourism Authority, which is in the process of developing “some sort of designation between the vaccinated taxi drivers and the unvaccinated taxi drivers so that people can choose”.

Keizer-Beache added that prior to vaccines coming on stream, taxi operators were trained to transport persons safely without there being a spread of the virus.

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