Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Cabinet minister has warned there will be "consequences" for visitors and residents who fail to adhere to the new COVID-19 testing regime, adding: "Why would you not comply?"
Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, told Tribune Business that the Government is "appealing" to all tourist entrants to The Bahamas from November 1 onwards to comply with the requirement to obtain a COVID-19 antigen test on the fifth day of their stay should they remain that long.
Asked whether the Government has sufficient resources and infrastructure to track such visitors, especially those staying in Airbnb-style rental accommodation, Mr D'Aguilar said they would have to provide their address, e-mail and cell phone contact details to the authorities to obtain their Bahamas health visas - a requirement to enter the country.
Those who failed to meet the five-day antigen testing deadline will be "flagged", and contacted to comply, with a further refusal resulting in the matter being turned over to COVID-19 enforcement. "They'll do what they have to do," Mr D'Aguilar said.
"Why not comply? Why would you not comply and endanger people around you by not complying? If you don't comply there needs to be consequences, but we're appealing to everyone to comply. Make an effort. Why not? We're making the test as accessible and least costly as possible. There's nothing to be gained by non-compliance.
"Understand the complexities of what we're trying to do, but it's better than a 14-day quarantine. It's not perfect, it's not easy to roll-out, but we are attempting to open the destination. The science supports this programme to mitigate the chances of you coming into the country and testing COVID-positive. It's not going to eliminate; it's going to mitigate."
Doctor's Hospital last night said it had teamed with the Government to provide rapid antigen test screening on all international arrivals at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), Jet Aviation and Odyssey Aviation from November 1 as The Bahamas seeks to re-open its tourism industry.
Along the walk from the jet-bridge at LPIA, Doctors Hospital's specimen collectors and testers will engage all passengers in a process that begins with a barcode swipe registration, specimen collection, specimen processing, sample reading and results uploaded into a data bank.
Passengers will then proceed to Immigration and Customs. They will be allowed to register into their hotel accommodation, by which time that hotel and the passenger would have received digital notification of the COVID-19 antigen test results.
After four nights in The Bahamas, the arrival-issued health visa will expire and visitors staying beyond that time will require an additional rapid antigen test which will be provided through the major hotels or at a Doctors Hospital drive-through testing location.
The BISX-listed healthcare provider said it has hired 100 persons, out of almost 2,000 applicants to its EMT-basic training programme, to act as specimen collection and testing associates.
“This is yet another way that Doctors Hospital continues to assist in this fight against COVID-19 in the Bahamas,” said Doctors Hospital's chief executive, Charles Sealy.
“Providing a source of income for 100 Bahamians in this time of declining employment is the responsibility of healthcare delivery organisations like Doctors Hospital who have seen increased revenue with the ramp-up of COVID care added to the non-COVID conditions.”