As Dominica prepares for the return of the cruise ships which officials say will commence in June 2021, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has announced that his government will amend the certification criteria to include vaccination for those involved in the sector.
According to the Prime Minister, these measures need to be implemented for the safety of both visitors and locals and to grow the economy back to the place it once was.
“Similar to how the food handlers license is done, that you have to go and do a tuberculosis test etc, before you can get the food handlers license and for good reason… if you want our bank account to start receiving income in the manner in which we were receiving it in 2019.”
The Prime Minister also stated that along with the new protocols which will be put in place for tourism and hospitality workers, adjustments will also be made for cruise passengers wishing to explore the island.
“You cannot be a tour guide and not want to get vaccinated, because the person who is going to want you to take them to Titou Gorge and Trafalgar Falls and the boiling lake, they are going to want to know that you are vaccinated because they are going to want to protect themselves,” he reasoned. “And they are going to demand that they will only go on a tour with people who are vaccinated and the person would have a right to demand so.”
Skerrit further noted that vendors who will be in daily contact with visitors would need that added “amour of defence with the vaccine” and further emphasized the importance of those in the hospitality and tourism sector getting vaccinated.
“So, it is important for us to recognize that we have to set aside all these things we read on YouTube and Facebook and all these social media platforms. It is important for us to read those things, but we need to understand what we are reading to comprehend what we are reading and to understand what is in our best interest,” the prime minister said.
Skerrit admitted that this comes with risks, “but we have to recognize the need for us to get back to a state of normalcy.”
But he gave the assurance that his government had not taken the decision lightly and had done so in consultation with the cruise lines, regional counterparts and stakeholders in Dominica.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Dominica Air and Seaport Authority (DASPA) Benoit Bardouille, has outlined the new measures that will be put in place for the arrival of cruise passengers to the island this summer.
“During the summer when we will be getting ships from June, we will have to do a couple of things, we will have a new health screening area on the pier, when the people come off the vessel, they will be screened, only persons that are going on pre-sold tours.” Bardouille said on the DBS Radio Talking Point programme last week.
The DASPA CEO explained that in the past, passengers could walk off the ships and go into the city on their own journeys but now, only those with pre-sold tours or organized tours will be allowed to go on tours to COVID-certified areas.
According to Bardouille, cruise passengers will be allowed to come off the vessels at scheduled times based on the tours that they are taking and they will have to be screened by health officials.
He said those who don’t meet the requirements, will be ordered to return to the ship.
Bardouille went on to say that the port will establish a safe zone so that people who come off the ship and are not able to go on the pre-sold tours, will be allowed to remain within that zone.
“So, on the Bayfront [Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard], we are going to establish a safe zone so that vendors, braiders will be allowed to operate their businesses within those areas with certain guidelines…the whole setting is going to be different,” he stated.
He said there will be restrictions on taxi drivers as well, as the only individuals who will be taking visitors on tours are pre-sold tours and described as “a thing of the past,” the practice by some taxi drivers of of visiting the port, and hanging around in the hope of getting a tour from a visitor who wanders off.
He made it clear that the only individuals that would be taking visitors on tours are pre-sold tours.
Prime Minister Skerrit has also said that his government will be announcing a number of protocols for fully vaccinated visitors and citizens.
“There is the expectation that we will reduce the quarantine period for people who are fully vaccinated.”
Meanwhile the prime minister has reiterated a call to members of the public to get vaccinated.
“Let us get vaccinated, that is an important armour in our defense against Covid-19,” he encouraged. “Where the cruise ship industry is concerned, we need to ensure that we get vaccinated.”
He said he is confident that together, the people of Dominica can make it work, “and we can continue to make the right decisions as we have done in the past year to keep our families, our communities and country safe.”
Dominica is expected to welcome its first cruise ship on June 6, 2021, since the restriction imposed because of COVID-19.