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Businessman Hails End To Covid Travel Permit's 'Nightmare'

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Robert Myers

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Bahamian businessman has hailed the end to the government's COVID-19 travel card "nightmare" that he says cost his corporate group "two weeks' worth of work".

Robert Myers, head of the Caribbean Group of Companies, told Tribune Business that the requirement for workers to be examined by a doctor and given the all-clear before they could travel from New Providence to other Bahamian islands had merely added increased costs and time for his business.

Workers then had to register with the Ministry of Health, but Mr Myers said his companies either failed to get travel approvals/confirmations back from the authorities or workers were denied permission to travel without any explanation.

He added that the revised system introduced by the prime minister on May 31, just one week before inter-island domestic travel resumed on Monday, represented a "breakthrough" because they slashed the previous bureaucracy and red tape by requiring that passengers fill out health and travel forms at the point of departure.

"That was a big problem for commerce," Mr Myers said of the previous COVID-19 "health card". "They've simplified the inter-island travel, and that's a significant benefit to the ease of doing business and commerce.

"The doctor part was expensive and time consuming. But the real problem is that by the time we've got the doctor approvals we weren't getting responses back [from the Ministry of Health] or they were declined without explanation as to why. That was the problem.

"I can't have guys sitting around. We're trying to deploy people back to work, and can't wait around. I don't believe the Ministry of Health had the resources and capacity to properly manage and carry out the procedures and processes they implemented, and only made it more convoluted."

Mr Myers said his group had successfully managed to arrange the return of workers from New Providence to Andros just before the "COVID-19 health card" was unveiled in mid-May, having provided PCR tests for all staff to the island's clinic and nurse, and obtaining permission to travel from the Commissioner of Police.

He described this as "a much better system" than the travel card proposal, something the government appeared to realise a fortnight later when it reduced the requirements to just filling out a travel and health form without the doctor's examination.

"It was a nightmare. The system was impossible to carry out. You've got aviation and health and the private doctors trying to co-ordinate," Mr Myers told Tribune Business. "There was no integrated system for doing it. You can imagine what a mess that will be if aviation was trying to validate health signed off on it, as they won't otherwise let you on the plane.

"It caused us to miss two weeks of business because we couldn't get the approvals; they couldn't get it co-ordinated." Mr Myers said his firm also had work in Abaco and Exuma during that period.

Dr Hubert Minnis, in unveiling the initial COVID-19 health card, said: "This policy and protocol will require individuals to register with the Ministry of Health by emailing covid19travel@bahamas.gov.bs or calling 511. Individuals must also submit to an evaluation by a Ministry of Health authorised physician in the public or private sector.

"The evaluation will include a risk assessment via a questionnaire to determine the individual's level of risk for COVID-19 infection, plus or minus a physical exam to determine the presence of any symptoms consistent with COVID-19."

He continued: "If deemed a low risk and the physical exam does not reveal any symptoms, it is expected that the person will be issued a COVID-19 Authorisation Travel Card that will allow travel to the Family Island. If the individual is deemed a higher risk or has symptoms that may be consistent with COVID-19, the individual will be referred for testing to definitively determine their COVID-19 status."

This was then altered just two weeks later to "completing a standardised travel form and a standardized health form at the time of check-in".

Comments

JokeyJack 4 months, 1 week ago

"...You've got aviation and health and the private doctors trying to co-ordinate," Mr Myers told Tribune Business."

It was indeed a nightmare. A friend of mine told me of his experience when, during a boarding procedure a doctor's stethoscope got tangled up in the propeller. Luckily, as they are loosely hung around the neck, nobody was seriously injured; the doctor only making one revolution before being mercifully released.

The round metal diaphragm of the stethoscope was ripped off and flung by the propeller quite a distance, hitting and causing a minor crack on the window of the control tower. During the flight the rubber tubing of the stethoscope, being caught between the propeller and the shaft, slowly burned giving off a terrible smell and poisonous gases. These gases caused everyone on board to lose consciousness after about 20 minutes into the flight.

It was a good thing the pilot had already set the autopilot and that it was equipped with an auto-landing feature. Once the plane landed safely on Staniel Cay the passengers and crew received oxygen and medical attention and all have fully recovered. Using a Rain-X Windshield Repair Kit, the previously mentioned tower window has also been repaired.

All is well that ends well.

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themessenger 4 months, 1 week ago

Cheif you should change your name to crackhead Jack and share some of the crack around as only someone on drugs could relate to the crap you write.

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Islandgirl 4 months, 1 week ago

Thank God indeed. How did the ministry of health choose and approve these doctors in the first place? What was so special about the chosen ones? Prime minister said almost every doctor was on board with it, but apparently they were hand picked? What were the criteria used? Just in case they have to go this route in the future.

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