Dominica Travel | Covid Process Suggestions
During the pandemic, the Commonwealth of Dominica has had a low number of COVID-19 cases. At the time of writing, there are 5 cases. Each individual is recovering at a government-managed facility. The low numbers are due to strict protocol to protect the country, by requiring visitors to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test and a 7-day quarantine.
This document is a reflection of my process and observations while traveling to Dominica on January 1st, 2021.
Below is a visual summary of what should be done based on my experience when planning your travel to Dominica from a high-risk country. Further details are available via Dominica Travel Protocol Document.
Prior to Dominica…
1. Questionnaire — Traveling from a high-risk country, a questionnaire was required to be submitted prior to departure. The questionnaire required identification information as well as test results. Within 24 hours, a confirmation response was received indicating approval to travel to Dominica.
2. Flight Gate Agent Filter / Dominicans Denied Travel — In Puerto Rico, the flight agent requested the confirmation email as proof of authorization to travel to Dominica. Some Dominicans who were unable to provide travel authorization proof to the agent had to remain in Puerto Rico. Additionally, because it was a holiday, they were unable to get in touch with anyone in Dominica who would be able to provide them with the appropriate authorization. Visitors were stuck outside of Dominica and forced to spend money in those territories instead of spending that money in Dominica.
Suggestion: In order to facilitate last-minute requests, health approval staff should be available on call as long as flights are scheduled to arrive in Dominica. This should include weekends and holidays. In order to allow this to happen, staff should be placed on rotation and a process that allows for remote operations should be defined.
Alternate Suggestion: Visitors should be able to get to Dominica without being stuck in Puerto Rico or other countries. In the event there are missing documents, the visitor should be allowed to get to Dominica first, then sent to a government facility or approved hotel.
1. Health Facility / Staff — All the health professionals at the airport were professional and respectful. They required hand sanitization and temperature checks prior to entry into the airport facility.
2. Document Verification — We were asked to queue with 6ft separation to first perform a document verification step. This involved providing proof of your COVID-19 test results and the name and address of the quarantine hotel or guest house. Based on the information provided, it was determined whether a PCR test or a rapid test was required.
Suggestion: As identification information and COVID-19 results are collected prior to arrival, a visitor should not be required to provide the same information again. This information should be made available to health professionals at the airport facility. In the ideal situation, a visitor should provide proof of identification and the health care professional would be able to lookup the visitor’s information that was previously submitted through the questionnaire.
3. Arrival Tests — As my PCR test was 4 days old instead of 3, I was required to take another PCR test onsite. The PCR test was a nasal/throat test and went without any issue. Others with COVID-19 test results within 3 days were required to take the rapid test.
Suggestion: Approval emails should provide information that helps the visitor make the right decision. Since the questionnaires required the date of arrival and COVID-19 test date and results, the visitor should be informed of whether their COVID-19 result would be considered expired or valid upon arrival. The date verification can be automated. In its current form, the approval email gives a false impression that all is well. It is an unnecessary expense to a visitor. Additionally, the resources used to perform the COVID-19 tests could be conserved.
4. Airport Facility Internet — In order to provide proof of test results, a few visitors needed internet access. However, the internet available at the facility would not work for iOS devices, only Android. Due to this situation, a visiting Dominican was required to take another PCR test although he submitted his test results a day prior to traveling and had received email approval.
Suggestion: At public facilities, internet connectivity should work for all devices at all times.
5. Transportation — There are two forms of transportation based on whether you’re traveling to a government-managed facility or a government-approved facility. I am in quarantine at a hotel, therefore I took a taxi to the hotel. Taxi drivers follow strict COVID-19 protocol. Masks and hand sanitization was required as well as luggage sanitization.
6. Five Day Test — After 5 days a PCR test is required. Previously, a health care professional would perform test at your quarantine location. However, this was changed. In my situation, I was required to hire a certified taxi to transport me to the Portsmouth hospital in order to take the test. While waiting at the hospital, there were visitors who did not practice social distancing. In this situation, one may test negative from the fifth-day test; however may become infected by waiting in line at the testing facility by an infected person. The fifth day test result would give the false impression that all is clear which would lead to community spread.
Suggestion: Visitors should not be allowed to leave their quarantine location. It increases the potential exposure of an infected person to others.
How can I help?
There are a few suggestions raised which can be solved with technology. I am willing to use this opportunity to mentor a team of recent Dominica State College Computer Science graduates to build an end-to-end solution to solve some of the issues raised. This would be an opportunity for them to apply and learn new skills that will improve a process to benefit Dominica.
If you know the right persons to speak to, please connect me to them.