Kaieteur News – The government’s explanation relating to persons travelling from Trinidad and Tobago makes no sense at all. It is now being claimed that the government’s decision is based on discussions within CARICOM, concerning the reopening of its borders.
Last week, the government issued a regulation under civil aviation safety provisions. That regulation made it mandatory for adults, travelling from Trinidad and Tobago to Guyana, to show evidence of being fully vaccinated before being allowed entry into Guyana.
The regulation was made under the Civil Aviation Act. It says that passengers travelling from Trinidad and Tobago must be fully vaccinated in order to enter Guyana. It does not state the regulation applies only to Trinidadians.
As worded in the Gazette, the regulation applies to anyone travelling from Trinidad and Tobago and therefore has to apply to passengers en route to Guyana who are in-transit in Trinidad and Tobago. However, another newspaper has reported that the regulation applied to Trinidadians.
CARICOM has not agreed to any uniform COVID-19 entry requirements. At last July’s Heads of Government Conference, Regional Heads agreed that new safety, health and visitor management protocols were needed but it did not agree on any such protocols.
It also agreed to consider the use of a vaccination passport for travellers. But it has not yet made a final decision on this matter. In addition, the regional grouping agreed to consider a regional travel bubble for a pilot period of six months.
Guyana therefore cannot claim that it is acting in accordance with decisions taken within the regional grouping, because there is no decision at the level of CARICOM for only fully vaccinated persons to enter Member States.
So why is Guyana undertaking a piecemeal approach? CARICOM has 15 Member States. Are we therefore to expect that 15 separate regulations will be issued or will one regulation cover the other 14. What about those persons arriving from extra-regional destinations? How will they be treated? Will they enjoy preferential treatment over that of Trinidad and Tobago nationals who must be fully vaccinated before being allowed entry into Guyana?
Is Guyana jumping ahead of itself and of CARICOM in making this new requirement? In May of this year, St. Lucia issued a requirement for all visitors to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test, five days prior to arriving. It made no regulation then for certification of being fully vaccinated.
Barbados requires persons arriving in their country to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test three days prior to arrival, even if they are fully vaccinated. Visitors to Grenada are required to be similarly tested but are also required to quarantine at a facility and on the fifth day to do a PCR test. They are also required to have travel and health insurance to cover COVID-19 related illnesses.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the requirements are tougher. It requires persons travelling from countries deemed very high risk – and Guyana is included in this list – to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test and may be tested on arrival. In addition, they are required to be quarantined in an approved facility and to be transported to that facility in an approved vehicle.
Jamaica requires a negative PCR or antigen test performed three days prior to arrival. The Bahamas is now open to international travel. But effective yesterday, all unvaccinated persons must produce a negative COVID-19 PCR test results for travel from New Providence, Grand Bahama and North and South Eleuthera, including Harbour Island.
The Caribbean, therefore, does not appear to be moving towards uniform COVID-19 entry requirements for travellers. Therefore, it is hard to swallow that Guyana’s recent regulation has anything to do with the direction in which CARICOM is heading.
Is Guyana retaliating against Trinidad? This is the question, which needs addressing.
Earlier this month, Trinidad and Tobago announced that its borders – which had been closed due to the pandemic – would be reopened on July 17, 2021. However, it made it clear that non-nationals who were not vaccinated against COVID-19 would not be allowed entry into that country.
Now up comes Guyana and issues a specific regulation, which requires only that persons travelling from Trinidad and Tobago be fully vaccinated. Is it unreasonable to question whether this requirement is in direct response to the directive issued in Trinidad that non-nationals must be vaccinated to enter that country?
It would appear reasonable to conclude that Guyana’s recent regulation is no coincidence but is in response to the regulations in force in Trinidad and Tobago. But the more important issue is just what Guyana hopes to achieve by this selective regulation at this stage.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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