By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMIANS and residents returning to the country will no longer be mandated to quarantine or self-isolate upon arrival, but will instead be monitored by the health surveillance team “if necessary”, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minster, Dr Minnis noted the move as a part of the government’s efforts to end the self-isolation methods prescribed to returning residents.
This also includes the deactivation of the quarantine facilities in the country.
“Government’s quarantine facility will be disabled on Friday, June 5,” he said. “This applies to facilities in New Providence and Grand Bahama.”
“Returning Bahamians and residents will no longer be required to quarantine on returning home but will be monitored by the Ministry of Health’s Surveillance Unit and Hubbcat monitoring app if necessary.”
He continued: “To date, the Government has facilitated the return of close to 500 Bahamians and residents on Bahamasair. There have been five flights so far. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health are working to arrange more flights as necessary.”
His comments come after Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar revealed that government officials had ruled out a 14-day quarantine period for visitors entering the country when the tourism industry reopens.
At the time, Mr D’Aguilar also said that officials were still considering whether the government will require tourists to produce a negative PCR test result to gain entry into the country.
The matter has sparked public outrage, with many residents questioning why officials are considering allowing visitors entry without producing a COVID-19 test, while they were not given the same consideration.
Responding to those concerns during Thursday’s press conference, Dr Minnis noted that as it stands now, testing is required for all returning visitors.
However, he said officials had not finalised the entry protocols for its targeted July 1 re-opening date as they are still in discussions over the issue.
Speaking on the matter, Dr Minnis said: "The leader of the opposition had made some statement that there was discriminatory practice that we were allowing nonresidents in not requiring tests and Bahamians requiring tests and that is false.
“Both require a COVID-19 testing. If you’re talking about up to July 1, we have not thought that far yet but as far as we’re concerned at this particular time and even when the minister of tourism spoke, those individuals that he spoke about required testing.”
“And all traveling home required testing also. Up to July 1, we cannot speak to that.”
Meanwhile, as it relates to the number of people remaining at the government’s facility, health officials said they could not give a definitive number as the numbers are always changing.
COVID-19 response coordinator Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis said on Thursday: “There are a number left or remaining there and the number is changing.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen added: “(Friday) morning, we started out with 86 individuals in our quarantine facilities and we had an exercise about two weeks ago where we brought individuals into country and they were repatriated.
“And so now that they finished their two weeks, we were allowed to have about 20 leave and in two more days, we will have another 20 or so leave at that time. That was the predication but now that we are relaxing some of those regulations, we will allow people to leave a day earlier.”
However, Dr Dahl-Regis said officials are expecting the facility to be closed in a week’s time.
There were no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with the total remaining at 102.
As the country re-open its borders, Dr Dahl-Regis said health officials are expecting to test more people. She also underscored the need for more healthcare workers to be a part of the ministry’s surveillance team.