By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
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 yesterday: “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.
The cost of the tests will be included in the cost of the travel visa. Officials expect test results to be produced within 20 minutes.
“All persons entering The Bahamas, at an approved port of entry, will receive a rapid COVID-19 antigen test,” the ministry said.
“If arriving by air, an approved port of entry will be: Nassau, Freeport, Marsh Harbour, North Eleuthera, George Town (Exuma), Bimini (and Cat Cay) and San Andros (Andros).
“If arriving by sea, an approved port of entry will be: Nassau (Atlantis, Bay Street Marina, Lyford Cay, and Albany); Grand Bahama (West End – Old Bahama Bay and Freeport – Lucaya); Abaco (Marsh Harbour Government Dock); Eleuthera (Spanish Wells Marina); Berry Islands (Chubb Cay Club); Bimini (Big Game Club and Cat Cay Club); Exuma (George Town Government Dock).
“American Airlines has indicated that, beginning in late October, they wish to provide each passenger travelling to The Bahamas from Miami with a rapid COVID-19 antigen test before boarding the plane. These passengers, along with the passengers of any other airlines wishing to provide a similar service, will not be required to complete the rapid test upon arrival in The Bahamas.”
The Ministry of Tourism notes that 96 hours after arrival, all persons who entered The Bahamas and who are staying longer than four nights and five days, will be required to take a second rapid COVID-19 antigen test.
Visitors who leave the country on day five of their stay will not be required to obtain this test.
Children under 10 are exempt from obtaining the RT-PCR test.