The United States’ decision to warn Americans against travel to Barbados as a “Level 4” COVID-19 risk nation has been condemned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the foreign ministry maintained that Barbados did not merit the “Do Not Travel” label, amid suggestions that COVID-19 was very prevalent here. The country now joins 129 other nations, about 80 per cent of the world to receive the new label from the US State Department.
Bridgetown said Washington had no evidence to support moving Barbados to Level 4.
The State Department announced that Barbados along with St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines had been given the rating to fall in line with travel health notices from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC).
It maintained that the update did not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country, but rather reflected an adjustment in the department’s travel advisory system to give more weight to the CDC’s existing assessments.
But the foreign ministry rejected the argument.
The statement read: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has the further honour to state that Barbados condemns any travel advisory which, absent of publicly verifiable data, advocates for the prohibition of travel to Barbados on the suggestion that such is inherently dangerous for international travellers.
“While cognisant of the Department of State’s consular responsibility to American citizens and residents overseas, Barbados does not accept that its national conditions merit the assignment of a Level-4 advisory customarily reserved for states in the midst of destabilizing conflict or in which American travellers have been targeted for harm.
“Barbados is not satisfied that the Department of State’s novel decision to conflate its travel advisories with those of the CDC has been adequately explained to US citizens and residents. Moreover, Barbados is concerned that the narrative of the advisory does not give US travellers the opportunity to make an informed decision on travel to the island based on relevant data.”
The Barbados foreign ministry pointed out among other things a consistent decline in the number of new infections and deaths due to COVID-19; adequate hospital beds and treatment facilities for COVID patients, with treatment provided free at the point of delivery for all patients without regard to nationality, while also continuing to vaccinate at population levels well above several countries, with 70,000 or over one-third of its adult population receiving at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The ministry also said Barbados had not identified additional coronavirus variants of concern that would significantly diminish vaccine efficacy and had implemented a triple-test and quarantine requirement for unvaccinated international travellers, well in excess of regional entry protocols, to minimize the possibility of local transmission through imported cases.
The statement added: “Barbados believes that such data compares favourably to the realities in other major tourist destinations and regrets that such nuances can never be captured under a blanket Level 4 advisory. At the same time, Barbados notes that some countries have retained a Level-3 travel advisory from the Department of State, while maintaining a Level-4 CDC advisory as at April 20, 2020. Such disparities only strengthen the Government of Barbados’ call for a dispassionate presentation of the facts concerning the public health situation in each country.
“Barbados, like the United States, remains of the view that economies cannot remain closed indefinitely as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Regrettably, a Level 4 advisory to travellers from the United States will have a chilling effect on tourism, and does not in any way support the Government’s efforts to secure a durable economic recovery.”
The development comes as the US marked a milestone in its coronavirus vaccination programme of getting at least half of all Americans at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna jabs. This as the US also marks a grim point in the pandemic with nearly 570,000 deaths.
Like most of the world’s nations who find themselves on the American exclusion list, Barbados has struggled to gain access to shipments of the vaccine, lagging behind the US in the procurement of jabs, runaway death and infection rates and pockets of strong resistance to even basic hygiene practices like wearing masks.
In a previous advisory earlier this year, the US had listed Barbados as ‘Level 3’ and urged its residents to consider travelling to the island.