Travel influencer Shakeemah Smith recently returned from Antigua, one of the two main islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which reopened to tourists in early June. Soon, she’s off to Saint Lucia. Smith told Insider that she feels safe traveling to the Caribbean, where there have been far fewer cases of COVID-19 than in the US. At the time of writing, data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center show that Antigua and Barbuda has had 86 cases and three coronavirus-related deaths, while St. Lucia has had 24 confirmed cases and no deaths. Meanwhile, Smith’s home state of New Jersey has had 182,475 total cases and 15,825 confirmed deaths, according to the state’s COVID-19 information hub.
“So actually, where am I safer?” Smith said. “Definitely not in America.”
Smith, who says she’s traveled to 51 countries solo, researched destinations before choosing the Caribbean. After her trip to Antigua, she’s already planning her second trip to the Caribbean, to Saint Lucia.
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Smith — who posts photos of her travels for her 25k followers on her Instagram account, and who teaches a course on how to travel alone safely, as well as on a budget — said she looked for destinations that had low rates of infection and required a negative COVID-19 test from travelers upon landing.
“I focused on the Caribbean first because I looked at the statistics and it looked like Central America and the Caribbean were the least impacted.”
Her doctor initially told her that she would need to wait five days for the results of a COVID-19 test. However, the process was expedited; a copy of her plane ticket made the test a travel requirement. A nasal swab coronavirus test was taken at a drive-thru clinic in New Jersey on June 18, and Smith flew to Antigua on June 21, where she stayed for a week.
Smith chose Antigua given its requirement to come with a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours.
“[That] made me feel like ‘OK, whoever they let in the country has tested negative’.” Now, travelers to Antigua and Barbuda are required to either arrive with a negative COVID-19 test taken within a week of traveling, or take a test at the airport, according to Visit Antigua Barbuda’s travel advisory page, in addition to completing a passenger registration form and traveler accommodation form. A 15-minute test at the airport costs $100 with results ready within 48 to 96 hours; during which time, travelers must “limit their movements,” according to the travel advisory page. Should travelers test positive they will need to quarantine in a government-operated facility, according to Carib Journal.
Traveling from the US to Antigua
En route, Smith experienced a full American Airlines flight with no middle seat blocked. Instead, the biggest difference was the suspension of food and beverages; passengers were handed a paper bag containing a water bottle and a bag of chips upon boarding instead. Most people were sanitizing their seats and the area around them, and wearing masks, which are required on American Airlines flights.
“They even told you before you boarded, they said anybody who refuses to wear a mask will be denied boarding; and, will not be allowed on any future American Airlines flight,” Smith said.
Smith said the only thing she had to do upon her return to JFK was fill out a form that asked, among other things, where travelers have been in the last 14 days. And, whether they’ve been to Texas or Florida. While Smith is aware of these risks, she personally feels safe enough being diligent about wearing her mask and gloves. That is, in addition to washing her hands frequently. Smith says she felt better being in the Caribbean, with significantly lower infection rates than the US.
Read the full article via The Insider here.