I had the printout of my negative result in my hand with my passport. I was sent to the left; those without or with a stale dated or non-PCR test went to the right. My plane had been full, because it was the last flight into Barbados from Canada where you could board without showing a negative test.
Canada was a medium-risk country when I arrived, so with my negative test I only needed to self monitor for two weeks, sending in my temperature daily on WhatsApp. Scott, being from the States, had to go to a quarantine hotel and was not free to leave his room until he had his second negative test, 5 days later. He had landed a month earlier than me, in part because we knew he’d need to quarantine but mostly because we were afraid that Barbados would close their border to Americans, as the Bahamas had done the month before. The stringent COVID-19 protocols were one of the reasons we chose Barbados.
It is a delicate balancing act for Barbados. Their tourism based economy has been devastated. When I arrived, tourism was down 90%, less than a quarter of hotels were open at all, and many stores, restaurants and businesses had been shut since March. There were no commercial flights onto the island until mid July.
By shutting down hard, they stopped community spread, and by requiring testing before or on arrival and again in 5 days they caught imported cases. Now, however, like most countries, they are trying to balance risk against the economy. They need the tourists, but they have seen cases climb in other vacation destinations when they have opened up.
When cases started to spike this month in the United Kingdom, source of 40% of their visitors, it pushed that country from medium to high risk. Barbados adjusted their requirements so that the second test could be taken 5 days after the first, meaning that tourists would only need to quarantine for 2 or 3 days after arrival. But locals wondered if this was enough, especially after a community cluster started when a UK part-time resident infected her housekeeper, who spread it to 6 members of her family, including two school-aged children. Vigorous test and trace prevented widespread community transfer in this instance, but what about the next time?
Canada is moving next week from medium risk to the high risk category, although there is special dispensation about test timing as we do not have commercial testing and public health will not test asymptomatic people for travel purposes. For most Canadians, however, I suspect the requirement fo a two-week quarantine on returning home and general concern about the risks of travel are much larger considerations.
I have a return ticket for December, but I doubt that I will use it. When I have the choice, why go back to increasing cases and separation from the American man who has become so important to me?
And besides— this is Barbados.