Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Minnis administration is still considering whether it will require tourists to produce a negative PCR test result to gain entry into the country but have ruled out visitors being forced into quarantine.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday a 14-day quarantine period is out of the question for visitors. “If you require a 14-day quarantine you’re not in the tourism business so that will no longer become a requirement,” said Mr D’Aguilar.
The Minnis administration is looking to reopen the country on July 1, with international commercial flights expected to resume on that date. But with COVID-19 still impacting countries there is risk tourists will bring the disease here and cause an outbreak. There are inherent difficulties in requiring persons considering a holiday in the Bahamas to get a PCR molecular swab test,” Mr D’Aguilar said.
“Just in the last six weeks of requiring it for returning residents or returning citizens, there have been challenges in people getting those tests.
“If you’re going to restart the economy and you’re looking to make the destination attractive to people to come here for a holiday, you are kinda in a conundrum on what sort of testing there has to be. The PCR test has an enormous limitation. It is a test taken at one point in time. Given the fact that it could take two to three to four days to get this test result, the timing mitigates the risk somewhat but doesn’t provide you with the coverage you want.”
Mr D’Aguilar said “COVID-19 is here for the rest of our lives,” emphasising that the country cannot stay in a cycle of curfews or lockdowns forever or even until a vaccine is created.
“You have to understand we’re not going to eliminate the risk,” he said. “We have to work to mitigate the risk. Mitigation takes many forms, like wear a mask on the plane and while in the destination make sure you social distance; make sure there’s adequate protection in place to diminish the touch points and sanitise points; temperature checking, etc.
“Currently there are no rapid tests which would be ideal to fulfil the requirements for testing if there is one but PCR tests take too long to do and are not proving to be a possible, viable option. COVID-19 is here for the rest of our lives. We all keep holding on for a vaccine but we can’t remain in a situation for lockdown and curfews until a vaccine is developed, that’s not a viable alternative.”
The Bahamas was recently listed among 44 other top holiday destinations that airlines hope abandon the 14-day quarantine rule. The 45-nation list was agreed by British Airways, Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic. The list was sent to ministers in the British government.