Dominican Republic releases new safety measures after tourist deaths

The Dominican Republic’s tourism ministry on Thursday announced a series of new programs and increased safety measures for visitors to the Caribbean nation — amid a slew of media reports about American tourist deaths there.

Among the additions is a multilingual emergency center, which is being established in Bávaro, a primary tourist destination in Punta Cana, the country’s Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier García said in a statement.

The center will be staffed by a team of multilingual specialists who will connect tourists and their families with the government entity they’d like to speak with, García said.

On top of that, the country’s hotels will be required to provide inspectors with details on their food-handling protocols as well as comprehensive information on all of their food and beverage suppliers.

The country’s Department of Tourism Services and Companies — under the umbrella of the tourism ministry — will also closely monitor the medical offices within hotels, with a close eye on the qualifications of doctors, nurses, assistants and other staff, according to García.

Pools and other water facilities will also be inspected to ensure that the required certified lifeguards are in place, he said.

Finally, the country is reinforcing its requirement that emergency information — including reminders about the availability of 911 — is clearly posted in every guest room. Hotel staff must review that information with their guests as soon as they check in.

“We have always worked hard to create a safe environment and will continue to be vigilant with comprehensive programs and amplified standards that bolster the well-being of the six million tourists that visit the Dominican Republic each year,” García said in the statement.

One of the first widely reported deaths in the country was Pennsylvania tourist and psychotherapist Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, who collapsed in front of her husband in their room at an all-inclusive resort on May 25.

Less than a week later, engaged Maryland couple Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49, were found dead in their hotel room.

Just last week, it emerged that Tracy Jester Jr., 31, of Forsyth, Georgia, died March 17 after a day of sightseeing in the country. The tourism ministry confirmed this week that he died of natural causes — specifically a form of pneumonia — and his death was “isolated in occurrence.”

The State Department has said that there has not been an increase in tourist fatalities in the country — and García said last month that there is nothing unusual about the recent deaths.

“We want the truth to prevail,” he said. “There is nothing to hide here.”

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