By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
TRAVELLERS coming to The Bahamas from English-speaking CARICOM member countries will not be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test for entry to this country, according to Tourism Director General Joy Jibrilu.
She said travelLers from those areas will instead be quarantined on arrival because COVID-19 tests are not available in their countries.
The countries this policy affects include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and Turks and Caicos islands.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said Wednesday that the Minnis administration initially intended to end the COVID-19 negative test requirement when commercial travel resumes on July 1, but rising infections in the United States forced a u-turn.
For his part, Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest said requiring traveLlers to produce a COVID-19 test to enter the country will “absolutely” cause the airline to re-examine its fiscal projections for the foreseeable future.
“People will determine how badly they want to come to the Bahamas and if they want to come to the Bahamas and get away from the stress of wherever they are, they will take the test and come, but I don’t know what that number is. There will be others who will say this a hassle and I ain’ fooling with this right now. (Absolutely), this will make us look at our numbers again,” he said.
During several early repatriation flights involving Bahamian residents leaving the United States, people complained about long wait times as a Ministry of Health official assessed their test results. Mr Turnquest said the process implemented since June 15 should ensure no hiccups.
“Persons coming in to the Bahamas will go online and send a copy of their negative test. They get an email that’s generated and sent back to them and they must bring that email along with original COVID-19 test to the airport and we bring them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Medical Association of the Bahamas has said it supports requiring a negative COVID-19 PCR test result for travelers seeking to enter the country.
MAB President Dr Marcus Cooper said medical professionals need robust scrutiny of international travelers.
“PCR tests are readily available in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and are even free in some areas,” he said in a press release this week. “The interval between testing and travel should be determined by the average turn-around time to receive test results in the various jurisdictions. Test results should be presented prior to boarding any vessel whose final destination is The Bahamas. The policy should also take into consideration Bahamian citizens and residents who will be traveling abroad for short periods of time. Test results should also be required for any resort or hotel check-in where further examination may be necessary to verify authenticity of test results. Authorities must also have the ability to translate those test results that are not in English.”
Dr Cooper said for all the country’s success in flattening the epidemic curve of COVID-19, the war against the virus is ongoing.
He said: “Currently in the United States there are reports of a resurgence of new cases in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Arkansas. Prior to the border closure, direct flights were available from multiple airports in Florida, Houston, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina to Lynden Pindling International Airport. The director of the Centres for Disease Control has also warned of a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall that could result “in an even worse peak at the end of the year. History will show that when the US gets a cold, The Bahamas gets pneumonia.”