Jamaica has decided to vaccinate BPO and tourism workers against coronavirus in the second phase of the island’s inoculation program in an attempt to restore normalcy to an island and help bolster the country’s major industries.
The Caribbean country is about to complete the first phase of the inoculation program, under which it has vaccinated health workers, police officers, and people aged more than 60 years.
BPO, tourism, banking, and construction workers will start getting the jab in the second phase, according to Jamaica Observer that cited comments from Jamaica Minister for Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton.
“The vaccine plan for [phase two] had tourism, banking, and a number of sectors that would be given priority as part of restoring economic normality, which is essential in order for us to get back on track. I have been in conversation with Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President Keith Duncan and we have added to that group the BPO sector,” Tufton said.
The move comes just months after Jamaica’s BPO lobby group, the Global Services Association Group of Jamaica (GSAJ), pressed the government to be more flexible on regulation governing working locations for BPO firms located in the island’s Special Economic Zones. According to GSAG President Gloria Henry, the sector employed 36,000 prior to the pandemic while an extra 3,000 jobs were created in the sector since August 2020, a 8.3 percent increase in positions.
The BPO industry is a major area of job generation in a country with a labor force of just under 1.3 million people, according to Jamaica government statistics. Among the BPO names with offices on the island are GO Solutions, itelbpo and ADS Global. The workforce’s native English-language skills, the country’s proximity to North America and cultural affinity to the U.S. are among the reasons for the island’s robust BPO presence.
The tourism sector, which employs 170,000, is another vital source of employment for the island’s people. But unlike the contact center and BPO industry, tourism figures have been unable to rebound due to lockdowns in place around the world and heightened fear of travel from consumers. According to the World Economic Forum, the global tourism industry lost an estimated US$1.3 trillion in export revenue during 2020 and new emerging variants of Covid-19 are tempering re-opening plans. Tourism will not regain its pre-pandemic footing until 2023, WHO reports.
Jamaica’s government is in the process of setting up makeshift facilities for vaccinating people from the private sector ahead of the phase two rollout. The Jamaica Observer reported that industry leaders have backed the initiative with President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Janet Silvera saying that not taking the vaccine would be irresponsible.
Richard Pandohie, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association, has stated that he is confident the economy will rebound quickly once vaccination gets underway. The vaccination will drive out the fear of infection and the economy will start growing at a rapid speed, Pandohie added.
More than 35,000 Jamaicans contracted coronavirus in the past year, with around 500 dying of the disease. The country’s economy took a devastating blow as the pandemic brought the tourism industry to a halt.