TORONTO — When the federal government announced on Dec. 30 its new COVID-19 testing requirement for all arriving passengers, countries around the world were left scrambling to accommodate Canadians in destination who suddenly needed a PCR test three days before returning home.
Some countries were already well equipped to handle the surge in testing, while others – already stretched thin in terms of resources and supplies – required more time to adequately test Canadians in addition to their own residents.
Travelweek checked in with top Sun destinations to see how they’re handling the new testing rule and whether they’re equipped to accommodate Canadians travelling abroad. Here’s what they had to say:
ANTIGUA & BARBUDA
Local testing facilities are located at Mount St. John’s Medical Centre, which is centrally located in the capital of St. John’s. Appointments are required (walk-ins not permitted). The Centre advises that travellers should call or email at least seven days prior to their departure date to make an appointment for their test.
Speaking to Travelweek, Colin C. James, CEO at the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority, says that the island destination is ready to accommodate a surge in testing.
“The Ministry of Health has advised that Antigua and Barbuda is prepared to meet increasing demands for RT-PCR testing as a pre-requisite for Canadians returning home,” he says.
Canadians already in Antigua & Barbuda can call Mount St. John’s Medical Centre at (268) 484-2700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment. For more information go to https://www.facebook.com/MSJMC.
Paul Strachan, Sr. Director, Canada at the Bahamas Tourist Office, says that Canadians who are currently visiting the island will be able to arrange their COVID-19 test at various government-approved laboratories and testing facilities. A full list can be found here.
When asked whether the Bahamas is able to accommodate increased testing, Strachan says “yes, particularly in Nassau on New Providence where the highest percentage of Canadians visit.”
Bermuda’s main PCR testing facility is located at the Perot Post Office in the city of Hamilton. Canadians can find more information about testing and testing facilities at https://www.gotobermuda.com/.
According to Glenn Jones, Interim CEO at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Bermuda is considered one of the world’s best-performing countries on COVID-19 testing per capita, ranked as high as fourth globally on Worldometer.com.
“We fully expect the government here to quickly adapt to the new pre-arrival testing protocols Canada has put in place,” he tells Travelweek. “Even before that solution is finalized, travellers can book a private test with an approved medical practitioner to receive their negative COVID-19 result within the required 72 hours turnaround time. We have those on-island testing resources listed on our website.”
Though Cayman Islands’ borders remain closed to commercial leisure travel, the island is still welcoming those who are approved to travel such as permanent residents, homeowners, work permit holders and their families, and approved Global Citizen Concierge Program applicants and their families.
Local testing in the Cayman Islands currently takes place at the internationally-accredited forensic lab at the Health Services Authority (HSA), in partnership with the HSA clinical lab and at Doctors Hospital. Testing for COVID-19 is currently free.
COVID-19 screening is available to all members of the public, including approved travellers such as persons who are part of the island’s Global Citizen Concierge Program. All tests can be arranged via the Health Services Authority appointment website: https://hsa.ky/Appointment/. Appointments must be made at least two days in advance for COVID-19 testing required for travel by certain countries, including Canada. All persons being tested must be pre-registered as the clinic does not accept walk-ins. Results of PCR tests are emailed within 24 hours of each administered test. The clinic currently offers testing Monday-Friday.
“The Cayman Islands is prepared to accommodate heightened testing and has maintained extremely low rates of COVID-19 infection since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Cayman Islands Government Officials. “Cayman offers first-rate medical facilities and we are well equipped to handle COVID-19 testing for visitors and residents. Our testing capacity will be scaled to manage increased capacity as required when commercial travel to the islands resume.”
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The convenience of being tested at a hotel or resort will certainly be an attractive option for Canadians when considering travel at this time.
Cuba has announced PCR testing at participating hotels in Varadero, Cayo Coco, Cayo Santa Maria and Holguin at a cost of US$30.
Guests will be advised upon arrival at their hotel, during the welcome briefing, about on-site testing and how to arrange an appointment with hotel doctors. Those staying in private homes can get tested at all international clinics in Cuba, which are located throughout the country.
Cosette Garcia, Director at the Dominican Republic Tourism Promotion Office in Montreal, tells Travelweek that the Dominican Republic has a “robust healthcare system that has been able to quickly detect cases of COVID-19 in the entire country.” In addition to COVID-19 antibody tests, the D.R. has a range of testing facilities where tests can be ordered at any of their nationwide branches as well as at-home service.
“The D.R. is extremely well equipped when it comes to COVID testing,” says Garcia. “We are able to accommodate testing and help facilitate this new requirement for our Canadian visitors.”
For more information on PCR testing in the Dominican Republic click here.
Ria Murray, Communications Officer at the Grenada Tourism Authority, tells Travelweek that the Ministry of Health is presently working on increasing testing capacity to meet the expected demand. PCR testing facilities in Grenada are located in the parish of St. George in which the tourism belt is also located. Apart from the government testing facility, there are two Ministry of Health designated private clinics.
For private sector options, Canadians can call to book an appointment at the centres to have their tests done. To get tested by the Ministry of Health, the accommodation at which visitors are staying will make contact on their behalf to have the test conducted.
For more information go to https://covid19.gov.gd/ or call 1473 438 4787 (daytime) or 1473 538 4787 (evening).
There are NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) and PCR testing facilities in every county in Hawaii, including Kauai, Oahu, Maui Nui and the Island of Hawaii. All facilities offer a quick response time since counties are also asking for the same 72-hour period that the state is requesting when entering via a trans-Pacific flight and flying inter-county (with the exception of Kauai, which has opted out of Hawaii’s pre-arrival testing program, and Oahu on inter-island flights).
“There are several options that the Department of Health has approved as trusted partners and each one has a different process so we recommend to check the different options and choose the most convenient for each case,” says Lorenzo Campos, Account Director at Hawaii Tourism Canada. “Some of the counties in Hawaii are requesting the NAAT/PCR test when entering so there is a big capacity for testing within the state.”
Campos notes that visitors are recommended to book a testing appointment in advance with whichever lab they have selected.
For more information go to https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/.
Jamaica had been experiencing a shortage of COVID-19 PCR tests, prompting the Canadian government to exempt travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson from the island until Jan. 18, on the condition they agree to take a COVID-19 test immediately upon their arrival at Pearson.
Since then, Jamaica has announced COVID-19 testing for Canadians in destination with a number of private labs, as well as testing at select resorts in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril, which is expected to roll out this week. A complete list of accredited testing labs is available here. Microlabs has built a Canadian Visitor Testing Portal at https://microlabs.limited/canada-visitor-portal for travellers who wish to be tested at their hotel or resort.
Speaking with Travelweek, Angella Bennett, Regional Director-Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) says that since the updated entry requirements were announced in late December, JTB representatives have been in constant communication with airlines and local health authorities to make arrangements for the hundreds of Canadian tourists currently on the island.
“To clarify, Jamaica has not run out of tests,” she says. “The initial influx of test requests from tourists in Jamaica did cause a backlog at local private laboratories, which is why the Canadian government has agreed to delay the pre-flight COVID test requirement for Canadian travellers until after Jan. 18. The Jamaican government continues to work with health officials on the island to increase COVID-19 PCR testing for visitors and to make the process more accessible and streamlined.”
Bennett adds that PCR testing in Jamaica is being prioritized based on departure dates “in order to ensure all Canadians can obtain their required test results prior to their departure.” She also encourages travel agents to join the JTB Agent Facebook group where they can learn of the latest updates and ask questions regarding specific client cases.
QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO
The state of Quintana Roo, which includes 11 of Mexico’s top destinations such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, has a wide network of hospitals and clinical analysis laboratories that perform PCR diagnostic tests. The process, costs and result delivery times vary depending on the facility.
Dario Flota Ocampo, director of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, tells Travelweek that the state has the capacity to perform the tests, “however, travellers should be mindful that results might not be available immediately.” Therefore, it’s important to schedule a test well in advance.
“We recommend that all tourists download the Guest Assist App (from the Ministry of Tourism), which provides assistance to tourists visiting the state of Quintana Roo,” he says, adding that it’s free to download, is available for iOS and Android and has a 24/7 call centre and a specific section with information regarding COVID-19. “Thanks to all the protocols that have been implemented across the Mexican Caribbean’s destinations, tourists can feel safe and assisted when travelling.”
For tourists who cannot board their return flight due to not having performed a test, the Ministry suggests they stay at any of the hotels located in downtown Cancun for ease of transportation to and from the airport and the medical labs in order to perform the requested tests. Those who have a positive PCR test result will have to comply with mandatory isolation.