Jamaica bans travel to and from China over coronavirus fears


Christopher Tufton

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaica Government has imposed a travel ban on all flights to and from China, and citizens have also been strongly advised not to travel to that country.

The ban comes in the wake of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the new Coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province, as a global health emergency. Currently, more than 17,400 people – mostly in China – have been infected by the virus which has also killed at least 362 people.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, in announcing the travel ban, said people entering the island from China will be subject to immediate quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.

“Quarantine facilities for these persons will be provided by the Government of Jamaica and they will be required to adhere to all restrictions, in line with the provisions under the Quarantine Act. Individuals returning from China who have been granted landing privileges and who show any symptom of Coronavirus will be put into immediate isolation,” he disclosed, adding that quarantine facilities at all public hospitals are operational, with a specialist facility at the National Chest Hospital, in Kingston.

Dr Christopher Tufton tours isolation room

Dr Tufton said he recognized the inconveniences the ban posed, but appealed to Jamaicans in China who may be affected for understanding.

“Our first and foremost objective is to secure the safety of the Jamaican people,” the Health Minister said.

“We certainly hope that those who have been affected will appreciate why this decision had to be taken. The Government of Jamaica, through my own Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of National Security and other Ministries have been monitoring the situation as it relates to the Coronavirus.”

Dr Tufton said the virus poses a clear and present danger, and is spreading rapidly in terms of countries that are being affected.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, said the Government continues to be in dialogue with Jamaicans residing in China.

“We are doing our very best to support them as best as possible. Every Jamaican overseas, their welfare and wellbeing is of importance and interest to the Jamaican government. Our students, our teachers and other persons living and working in China are at the forefront of our thoughts now, recognising the great concern that is being experienced because of this outbreak,” she said, adding that her Ministry has also moved to further verify the number of Jamaicans living and working in China.

“We have created an online Jamaican form, which is now on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade’s website. We have shared it through the embassy in Beijing and through the community there. We have, since this week, over 400 registrations by Jamaicans who are across China. We know that the number of persons in Wuhan is about 29 and these are students, teachers and family members of those students and teachers.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister said she is aware of requests from Jamaicans to return home from China, but the Government is faced with several challenges, including logistics and restrictions of movement in that country.