US moves Jamaica to its highest risk ‘unsafe’ travel list

The move may signal the downgrading of the island nation to the UK’s red list in the next government travel announcement

Joanna Whitehead
Wednesday 08 September 2021 10:28 BST
An aerial shot of Port Antonio, Jamaica
An aerial shot of Port Antonio, Jamaica (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Soaring Covid-19 delta variant infection rates in Jamaica have prompted US authorities to advise Americans against travelling to the popular holiday destination.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added the tropical island to its Level 4: Do Not Travel category on Tuesday amid surging case numbers.

The health body cautions travellers that “health risks are present, including current disease outbreaks or crises that disrupt a country’s medical infrastructure”.

Sri Lanka and Lebanon also join the Caribbean country in the group of the highest risk countries according to the US.

Rising rates on the island placed Jamaica at risk of being added to the UK’s red list during the government’s last travel announcement on 26 August, although it remained on the amber list.

However, the current situation on the island and its addition to the US’ equivalent of the red list indicate that the UK may well follow suit during next week’s travel announcement, which is expected to come on 15 or 16 September.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) changed its guidance on travel to Jamaica on 30 August, advising UK citizens against travelling to the island, despite its amber status.

The move prompted holiday firm TUI to cancel holidays to the Caribbean destination, throwing UK holidaymakers’ plans into disarray.

Foreign Office travel guidance and the Department for Transport’s traffic light system operate independently of each other, causing confusion amongst holidaymakers and those within the travel industry alike.

The island of three million, which is heavily dependent on tourism, has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett telling Reuters: “We have to double up our efforts to manage. The region is now on alert to deal with visitor hesitancy.”

To date, Jamaica has recorded 71,987 Covid cases and 1,637 deaths.

The latest data shows that 670 infections are reported on average each day. This equates to 95 per cent of the peak - the highest daily average reported so far.

Around 576,590 vaccines have been administered so far, almost 10 per cent of the population.

Vaccine hesitancy, logistical delays and inadequate supplies are just some of the reasons cited for the slow vaccine rollout.

A series of short lockdowns were announced in August in a bid to halt the spread of the virus throughout the country.

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