The Lynden Pindling International Airport.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
SIX flights are due to arrive in the country from the United States when international commercial travels resumes tomorrow, according to officials at Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Despite a serious spike in COVID-19 cases in the US, the country’s borders will fully open this week. Many of the incoming flights originate from cities and states where COVID-19 cases are high. “Current flight projections show a total of six flights arriving from the United States on July 1 starting with Delta Airlines’ inbound service from Atlanta to Nassau at approximately 11.30am,” a statement from LPIA noted.
“Six flights are scheduled for departure on day one. Airlines have scheduled direct service to Nassau from key US gateways such as Charlotte, NC; New York (JFK); Denver; Houston; Baltimore; Newark; Miami and Ft Lauderdale along with service from Toronto, Canada.
“On arrival at LPIA, passengers should expect to have their temperatures taken as we begin to welcome guests. Persons showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be referred to the local health officials at the airport for further testing and evaluation.”
Based on current dashboard statistics, Florida and Houston are seeing a raging spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations. New York and New Jersey, although numbers are still high, have seen a downward turn after governors came together and made a plan to lower the stats. North Carolina is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases and Toronto’s numbers, after being low for a while, are starting to rise again. Colorado’s numbers seem stable.
“As we enter this final reopening phase and welcome visitors to the destination and residents back home, our focus is on ensuring that all airport partners are ready on July 1 to support the additional safety protocols put in place by the government to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Vernice Walkine, president and CEO of Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD).
“From an airport perspective, we anticipate a gradual uptick in arrivals and departures over the next two to three weeks. The phased approached to restarting air service has allowed our team to successfully test new safety protocols in real time. As we move forward in this new normal of operating in a pandemic, we are using the best practices learned to date to guide our plan.”
According to the airport’s statement, passengers traveling to and from Lynden Pindling International Airport can expect new protocols on departure and arrival. All inbound travelers, as of July 1, will be required to complete an electronic health visa prior to travel. And, all visitors, Bahamian citizens and residents will be asked to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test and confirmation of their approved health visa upon entry or return to The Bahamas. The test, the statement said, should be taken no more than ten days prior to the date of travel.
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 aforementioned policy requiring that tests be no later than ten days old, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced on Sunday. He said ten day old tests will be accepted until July 7.
Dr Minnis also 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 added that 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. Without a negative test, travellers in this group will have to quarantine for two weeks upon their return home.
Last week, a top local infectious disease expert said The Bahamas can still manage reopening the country without an explosion of COVID-19 cases if protocols are executed properly.
Dr Nikkiah Forbes, the government’s infectious disease expert, said on Thursday: “When borders are opening and you’re allowing travel during an epidemic, there will be risk of persons traveling with COVID-19. There is no 100 percent way to eliminate risk completely so there has to be steps, including screening, testing, and quarantine if persons are not able to be tested.
“In allowing travellers to come, there will be some degree of risk associated and all you can do is minimise the risk. To be fair, I think these steps by (the Ministry of) Tourism and Aviation in conjunction with (Ministry of) Health, I think these safety measures will considerably reduce the risk.
For more information on testing requirements, visits https://travel.gov.bs/.