Isolated areas guarded by security guards: hotels in the Dominican Republic have transformed part of their facilities for their Covid-19 positive customers and protect a tourist industry vital to the economy, recovering from the shock of the pandemic.
The country, with its paradisiacal beaches and hotel complexes, the destination of millions of tourists and cruise ships from all over the world, is one of the few countries to have kept its borders open since the start of the pandemic.
Almost 5 million travelers visited the Dominican Republic in 2021, twice as many as in 2020.
The destination has thus found more than three-quarters (77%) of visitors in 2019 (6.4 million visitors) and welcomed 728,000 tourists in December, a figure described as “historic” by the authorities.
A policy that the country intends to pursue despite the appearance of the Omicron variant and an exploding number of cases. On Friday, the country recorded 5,968 positives, a record, while a month ago, the number of cases per day was around 300. In total, the country of 11 million inhabitants has recorded 444,985 cases since the start of the pandemic. The authorities stress that the number of deaths remains low.
In the province of La Altagracia, which includes the famous resort of Punta Cana, the number of cases is exploding. “My five-year-old son was positive, we notified the hotel and they transferred us to an area for confinement,” a Chilean tourist in his forties staying on condition of anonymity told AFP. in a five star hotel.
At first, only one building was reserved for positive cases but over the days another block was opened, he said. “The rooms are guarded by guards. We think they had a lot of people” infected with the virus, he said.
– “Complaisant” ? –
The authorities and hotels refuse to communicate on the subject, no doubt for fear of negatively affecting the sector. And it is impossible to know how many tourists are confined to these areas. The only confidence of a large hotel chain, the prices charged are “ridiculous”.
Dominican President Luis Abinader does not seem to want to change his mind. “Going back is impossible. We are taking all measures to ensure that we can have a country with secure health,” he said Thursday, stressing that he intended to be able to preserve the economy at the same time.
“We have managed to recover and take care of tourism, economy, jobs, currencies and hope, reaching a record number of tourists and more than 250,000 jobs in the tourism sector”, he congratulated himself during a press conference.
However, criticisms appear. The president of the Dominican College of Physicians, Senen Caba, criticized the state for being “permissive” and “very complacent”.
The Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution asking the Health Ministry to require PCR tests and proof of vaccination from everyone visiting the country.
“We cannot receive all those who wish it without any type of protocol,” said Senator Yvan Lorenzo in the hemicycle.
Joel Santos, businessman, hotelier and tourist advisor, assures on the contrary that it is the measures taken by the government which allowed the announced growth.
For example, a cruise ship docked this week in Puerto Plata (north) with 146 infected, mostly crew members. The authorities assured that no sick would get off the ship, according to the local press.
For Mr. Santos, “tourism is the confidence transmitted (…) to countries that send tourists who have found that the Dominican Republic takes its process seriously.”