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G’da to accept rapid antigen tests as part of efforts to simplify health clearance at MBIA

Health Minister Nickolas Steele - rapid antigen tests will be accepted once taken within 24 hours before travel

Having reported a significant increase in the number of travel applications received over the last few months, the Keith Mitchell-led administration is now moving to simplify the health declaration forms required for clearance upon arrival at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).

The Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday approved a Resolution to amend the Quarantine COVID-19 Regulations to further ease the hassle of travel amid reduced COVID-19 risks being realised on the global front.

According to Health Minister, Nickolas Steele, who introduced the proposed amendments before the House of Representatives, the health declaration form will now require less information on travel history, quarantine arrangements, and the use of rapid antigen tests, which will now be accepted for clearance once taken within 24 hours before travel.

“We have moved to a simpler form because our assessed risk globally is much lower, and as such we are varying the health declaration form on two (2) major aspects. The first aspect is that it is going to ask for simple traveler details” such as “name, passport number, date of arrival and age, and citizenship,” explained Min. Steele.

He also told Parliament that visitors will no longer be required to present a health declaration before boarding a flight to Grenada.

However, he said, completed health declaration forms must be presented upon arrival at the airport to receive health clearance.

The second aspect, the Health Minister added, will require visitors to “declare their vaccination status and the appropriate COVID-19 tests,” as the Resolution now makes provisions for the acceptance of rapid antigen tests taken within 24 hours of travel.

He alluded to instances where persons wishing to travel to Grenada did experience challenges in other countries to obtain a PCR test, which was previously the only COVID-19 test being accepted once taken within 72 hours before traveling to the island.

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The senior government minister explained that this specific COVID-19 testing measure “has become necessary for us to allow the second type of test to facilitate visitors, knowing someone’s status before they enter Grenada or before they board a flight.”

“…What we have found is that many other countries, the United States in particular, where many of our citizens’ visit (and) members of our Diaspora are coming back from, and our tourism market seeks to capture visitors from, it is extremely difficult for them to get a PCR test even within three (3) days of travel while here, we are able to provide PCR test results within 24 hours,” he said.

Tourism Minister Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen also expressed strong support for the further easing of restrictions for travelers at the MBIA, and is optimistic that this will enhance the island’s competitiveness as it presents an opportunity to “woo visitors to our shores.”

“Every country is a serious competitor in the tourism industry, and the tourists would want to go wherever the protocols are most lenient, where they seem to be most reasonable (and) easily understood…I support this motion because I believe that it is going to make us as competitive as the other countries,” she told the House.

The Resolution, which is now due to go before the next sitting of the Upper House of Parliament for approval, comes weeks after Parliament approved a motion under the Quarantine Act, to increase the penalty for breaches in COVID-19 entry requirements, amid reports of an increase in non-compliance to the PCR testing requirement, and false documents presented by incoming travellers.

Fines have been increased from EC$550.00 to EC$2, 500.00 or US$1, 000.00, for non-compliance, while someone who commits fraud by intentionally falsifying documents can face a fine of up to $10, 000.00 under the Quarantine COVID-19 Regulations 2021.

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