State of Emergency Continues in Jamaica

UK FCO travel advice for Jamaica includes notice of high levels of crime including Kingston
jamaicans in a boat
Caribbean (Vax Before Travel)

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice for Jamaica was recently updated regarding ‘high levels of crime and violence, particularly in the capital Kingston.’

On October 24, 2019, the UK’s FCO website published clarifications regarding the Jamaican Government’s States of Emergency (SOE) declaration for certain areas of this Caribbean island.

During these SOE periods, Jamaican security forces have been given increased rights to conduct searches, seizures, and detain persons of interest. Security operations include curfews, which could occur with little or no notice.

Also, the UK FCO says ‘most hotels and resorts are well guarded, but robberies can occur and you should report suspicious activity. If you are in residential accommodation, consider employing a guard and fitting a house alarm.’

Despite 7 of 19 Jamaican police divisions being under an SOE, murders and shootings are said to be higher this year than for the corresponding period in 2018, reported Stabroek News on October 19, 2019.

The Jamaican Government has also put in place a number of Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs), which are currently active in Denham Town in Kingston and Mount Salem in Montego Bay.

Furthermore, the Government says it is planning to extend its ZOSOs in western Jamaica as soon as possible.

Both the SOE and ZOSO measures allow the military to support the police in joint security operations in response to recent violence and shooting incidents.

On October 21st, the Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis, ‘appealed to residents to give the security forces the necessary assistance in the ongoing fight against crime and violence.’

“Let us not forget that our parish and city are still under a state of emergency,” the Mayor noted in a press release.

Furthermore, public transportation is not safe due to high levels of crime and overcrowding. And, when driving between Norman Manley International Airport and Kingston, take the South Camp Road rather than Mountain View Avenue, to mitigate your risks. 

Previously, the U.S. Department of State updated a Level 2 Travel Advisory for Jamaica during April 2019. Within this ‘Exercise Increased Caution’ Advisory, the State Department said ‘Do Not Travel’ to certain areas in Kingston, Montego Bay, and Spanish Town due to crime.

Additionally, U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling to those areas as well as from using public buses, and from driving outside of prescribed areas of Kingston at night. 

This is unfortunate news since the Jamaica Tourist Board reported a record 4.3 million tourists visited Jamaica in 2017. This data represents a 12 percent increase over arrivals in 2016.

With 2.9 million residents, Jamaica is the 4th most populous country in the Caribbean. Kingston is the country's capital and largest city.

Jamaica is located south of Cuba, east of Belize, and west of Haiti.

If Americans do visit Jamaica, the State Departments suggests the following safety measures:

  • Avoid walking or driving at night, public buses, and secluded places.
  • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations, such as this Traveler’s Checklist.
  • The U.S. Embassy Kingston is located at 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6, Jamaica, West Indies Telephone +(876) 702-6000.

From a health perspective, UK health authorities have classified Jamaica as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. This means pregnant women should consider avoiding travel to this country until after the pregnancy.

On September 13, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for Americans planning to visit Jamaica. The CDC says travelers should ensure they are up-to-date on Routine Vaccinations, which include the MMR vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella vaccine, polio vaccine, and yearly flu shot.

Previously, Jamaica was included in a CDC Dengue Fever Virus outbreak alert.

Additionally, U.S. Ambassador Donald Tapia, along with CDC Caribbean Regional Office Director Varough Deyde, celebrated the opening of the expanded space for HIV treatment with officials from Jamaica’s Ministry of Health on September 23, 2019. 

“The new facilities complement the direct technical assistance already provided and will fill the gaps identified during the initial needs assessment at facilities in Hanover, Trelawny, and Manchester Health Centers,” said Ambassador Tapia in a press release.

In total, the U.S. has provided $220,000 USD through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to support the retrofitting project. 

Overall, the U.S.-Caribbean 2020 project is a multi-year strategy to increase the security, prosperity, and well-being of the people of the United States and the Caribbean.

Travel vaccinations and related medications can be found at most travel pharmacies located in the USA.

Travel news is published by Vax-Before-Travel.


Article by
Dani Reiter