PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell.
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell has questioned whether government has the capacity to properly monitor its new travel protocols, which will come into force in about a month.
In an interview with The Tribune Friday, Mr Mitchell further questioned if this latest move by the Ministry of Tourism is driven by science.
He said: “Hotels, as I understand it, had taken the position that unless the government was able to put in place something that allows tourists to come and not feel trapped here, then there is no point in them opening because there would be no market.
“So, I’m saying that is why the government has been forced to do what it’s doing.”
“They’ve gotta get some money into the economy,” Mr Mitchell further said. “The issue is, as with everything they’ve done, it’s whether or not we have the capacity to monitor all of the rules that they put in place.”
“The science should dictate what we do. I’m saying there’s a balance that has to be struck between life on one hand, livelihood on the next.
“It’s the government that has to make the judgement and it’s the government that must ensure that whatever rule they set in place must be properly enforced.”
Tourists and returning residents will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in The Bahamas and again four days later as part of new rules that will take effect on November 1 and eliminate the need for travellers to quarantine.
The tourists and returning residents will need a RT-PCR negative test result that is no older than seven days to qualify for the travel visa, a revision of the current five-day requirement.
In early September, the Ministry of Tourism said it was recommending hotels throughout the country resume full operations and use of beaches on October 15.
At the time, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said visitors would be required to quarantine at their choice of lodging for 14 days or the duration of their stay, which he branded as a “vacation in place” experience.
However, the unwillingness of visitors to visit the country and quarantine sparked the new rules.
The ministry said in a statement Thursday: “While 15 October is still set for the reopening of the tourism sector, until 31 October all incoming visitors must ‘vacation in place’ for 14 days or the duration of stay, whichever is shorter, which means limiting the vacation experience to the grounds and amenities of a traveller’s hotel or accommodations.
“Beginning 1 November, The Bahamas will remove the mandatory ‘vacation in place’ requirement for all visitors, returning citizens and residents, thereby enabling everyone to move about and explore the destination beyond the confines of their hotel or other accommodations.”
All people entering the country will receive rapid antigen tests in The Bahamas which are considered less reliable and less costly than the standard RT-PCR tests.