PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis urged residents yesterday not to travel overseas for non-essential travel and outlined revised rules for entry to the country.
He said that, beginning July 7, PCR COVID-19 tests that have negative results must be taken no later than seven days prior to the date of arrival, scrapping the previous policy requiring that tests be no later than ten days old. He said ten day old tests will be accepted until July 7.
“We have made the window of time for testing shorter for the protection of Bahamians and residents,” he said during a national address.
He said Bahamians and residents returning to the country from countries where they cannot obtain a PCR test must show that the test is unavailable and will be subjected to mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
He also said Bahamians and residents returning to the country after 72 hours or less are not required to produce a negative test result but can be tested in the country at their own cost. “Because of the difficulty in obtaining a PCR COVID-19 test result within three days, Bahamians and residents returning home from a trip abroad over a period of 72 hours or less are exempted from having to provide a PCR COVID-19 negative test result to re-enter the country. However, these travellers will have to quarantine for two weeks upon their return home. In both instances, the period of quarantine time may be reduced if the traveler opts to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in The Bahamas and the result is negative. The traveler will be responsible for the cost of the test,” he said.
Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis criticised Dr Minnis’ address, saying the country got “self-promotion and puffery, FNM rally talk and politics” instead of an exit strategy from the state of emergency.
Mr Davis said: “Right now (the prime minister) proposes to open this economy with the virus raging in Florida. It is clear that the economy must be opened but it also clear that what is required is an unambiguous plan for fully protecting the Bahamian people when the economy is opened. It appears to us that the prime minister has simply gotten drunk with the power of the proclamations and is enjoying the use of dictatorial powers so much he simply cannot and will not let go.”
Although international travel will resume on Wednesday, attractions and excursion tours can only reopen on July 13 while straw vendors and Jet Ski operators can resume operations on on July 27.
This week’s reopening of the country’s borders comes as the United States continues to see a spike in COVID-19 cases. Cases have surged in Florida for instance, a state where many Bahamians travel for quick getaways. Critics have asked the Minnis administration to reconsider reopening the country’s borders in light of this increased risk.
“We are reopening because we must carefully balance the health, economic and social needs of our people in order to secure our country in the medium and long-term,” Dr Minnis said yesterday, as he touted the country’s success in keeping COVID-19 rates low.
“We have to reopen to get more Bahamians back to work and to get businesses and the economy back to work. Like a number of other countries, we are reopening because we have been successful in arresting the community spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
“Because we acted boldly and firmly, we are able to reopen our society and economy in a safer manner than many other jurisdictions, which are now suffering great loss of life, scores of deaths, hospitalisations and greater uncertainty.”
Even as he outlined policies for reopening of the country’s borders, Dr Minnis strongly urged people not to travel overseas.
“If you are thinking of travelling for non-essential or non-emergency reasons, please, I beg you, stay at home at this time,” he said. “Please stay at home. A number of the cities and areas Bahamians and residents like to frequent in neighbouring countries and cities are experiencing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases. Many of these are hotspots where this very contagious virus is widespread. If you travel to these areas and go to malls, shops, restaurants and other establishments you might catch the virus. You could bring the virus home and community spread could start again. Let me be as clear as I can: your actions can damage the health of others and your actions could help worsen our economy if we have to lockdown again.”
The country’s COVID-19 count stands at 104. A new confirmed case has not been reported for 14 days, Dr Minnis said yesterday, adding that is has been 53 days since a case was recorded on Grand Bahama and 43 days since a case was recorded on Bimini.
There have been 11 COVID-19 related deaths.