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June 15, 2024

U.S. Issues Level 2 Travel Advisory for Jamaica Due to Crime and Limited Healthcare

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Jan 31, 2024

The U.S. State Department on January 30th issued a Level 2 travel advisory for Jamaica, urging Americans to reconsider travel to the Caribbean nation due to an uptick in violent crime and limited healthcare availability. This advisory comes just days before an expected visit to the island by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Spike in Violent Crime Prompts Advisory

According to the State Department advisory, violent crime in Jamaica has been increasing since late 2022. There were 65 murders recorded in Jamaica in the first four weeks of 2023, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the same period in 2022.

The uptick in violent crime includes sexual assaults against American citizens. The State Department reported at least two such assaults in resort areas over a three-day period in early January.

Jamaican officials have pledged to increase security in resort areas to protect tourists, but the State Department still recommends heightened caution, especially when visiting areas outside these secured resorts.

Healthcare System Struggles Amid Staff Shortages

The travel advisory also warned that Jamaica’s healthcare system is experiencing staff shortages leading to limited medical services available, especially outside major cities.

There have been several protests throughout Jamaica recently over poor working conditions for nurses and allegations of corruption in the health sector. These protests have disrupted care at some hospitals and clinics.

The State Department warned those with medical conditions planning to visit Jamaica to confirm hospital services are available to treat any emergencies that may arise during their stay. Travel medical insurance covering emergency medical evacuation is highly recommended.

Reactions from Jamaican Leaders

Jamaican government officials pushed back on the travel advisory, claiming crime rates do not justify such warnings.

  • “While we note an increase in criminal activity over the last quarter of 2022, the situation does not warrant this advisory and we are engaging our partners at the US Embassy,” said Jamaican Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith.

Opposition leader Mark Golding also called the advisory “unfortunate” and an “overreaction” given Jamaica’s importance to the U.S. as a strategic partner and tourist destination.

Concerns Over Impact on Tourism Industry

Tourism represents nearly 10% of Jamaica’s GDP, and the country has aggressively marketed itself as a top Caribbean destination. Over 4 million tourists visited in 2022, including around 1.5 million Americans.

Industry leaders worried the travel advisory could deter visitors and undermine Jamaica’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some called for increased security partnerships with the U.S. to address rising crime rather than blanket warnings to reconsider travel.

“Such advisories must be strategic, targeted and not blanket across a destination as large as Jamaica with so many varying communities and levels of security,” said hotel association head Clifton Reader.

Advisory Comes Ahead of Royal Visit

The timing of the U.S. advisory proved sensitive as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prepared to visit Jamaica from February 7-10 to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The trip will include stops outside secured resort areas where violent crime is more prevalent. And Meghan’s pregnancy prevented her from receiving vaccines recommended for Jamaica by UK health agencies.

Despite the advisory, a spokesperson said the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s schedule remains unchanged. “Our team continues to work closely with Jamaica security forces to ensure proper protocols for their Royal Highnesses’ upcoming engagements,” the spokesperson stated.

What Travelers Should Know

While avoiding travel to Jamaica altogether, exercise increased caution if you do decide to go:

  • Stay in secured resort areas and limit trips to major cities like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios
  • Avoid Kingston and Spanish Town which have the highest crime rates
  • Only use regulated taxis or shuttle services organized by your hotel
  • Avoid walking alone, especially at night
  • Don’t physically resist any robbery attempts
  • Monitor local media for any protests or demonstrations
  • Confirm required/recommended vaccines and availability of medications
  • Purchase travel insurance with emergency medical evacuation

The State Department will continue monitoring the situation in Jamaica and provide updates if conditions improve. Travelers should regularly check the Jamaica Travel Advisory Page for the latest information.

What’s Next?

It remains unclear if the U.S. advisory will lead more Americans to avoid travel to Jamaica in the coming weeks and months. The COVID-19 pandemic led to two years of depressed tourism numbers across the Caribbean – Jamaica cannot afford another major decline.

While additional security resources may help curb rising violent crime, rebuilding trust around health and safety could take longer. And if protests continue disrupting care, travelers with medical conditions may still wish to delay any trips.

Much depends on the success of the royal visit. If Prince Harry and Meghan complete their engagements without incident, it may assure some travelers the country remains safe to visit. But any crime-related disturbance could amplify the calls to avoid Jamaica for now.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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