By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday stressed civil servants will only lose vacation time or face unpaid leave if they are required to quarantine upon their return home from abroad without a negative COVID-19 test result.
He was clarifying earlier comments he made about civil servants who may face COVID-19 quarantine.
During his national address on Sunday, Dr Minnis announced a ban on commercial flights and vessels from entering the country, which takes effect today, excluding flights coming from Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
He said returning residents unable to produce a negative accredited COVID-19 test upon arrival will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and will also be monitored via the Hubbcat monitoring.
For public servants, Dr Minnis said the quarantine period will be counted as vacation days. However, if vacation time is not an option, Dr Minnis said the public servant’s salary will be deducted.
While giving a brief address ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Dr Minnis said he wanted to clarify his previous remarks geared towards public servants.
He said: “I noted that the 14-day quarantine period required for Bahamians and residents returning to The Bahamas without a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test would be counted as vacation for public servants.
“I also noted that if vacation time was not an option, the public servant’s salary would be deducted. To be clear, this applies only to those required to quarantine upon return from traveling abroad who do not have the required COVID-19 negative test result.”
He continued: “This applies to those who have travelled into a hotspot area taking on their own responsibility, subsequently becoming infected and coming back to The Bahamas, requiring quarantine. That responsibility had been placed on themselves.
“This does not apply to other circumstances where quarantine may be required by health officials.”
In recent weeks, some in the private sector have adopted similar policies, reminding employees of the consequences that will be taken if workers opt for leisure travel overseas.
This came after the Minnis administration resumed international commercial travel on July 1 in a move officials said would help jumpstart the country’s tourism industry.
Since then, the country has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases, particularly in Grand Bahama.
Dr Minnis linked the surge in cases to the re-opening of the country’s borders, adding that “surveillance teams have traced many of the cases to Bahamians returning to The Bahamas.”
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told reporters on Monday that the government will have to revisit its travel protocols for residents leaving and entering the country when commercial flights resume.
He said: “I don’t think anyone has shown me any evidence at least that it was because of foreign visitors coming into the country that we had a growth in cases, so I think we had that group of protocols working well.
“It’s just that maybe with hindsight we were not strict enough on Bahamians going in and out of the country. We have to rethink our strategy as it relates to visitors, but also to our own citizenry moving in and out of the country.”