Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D'Aguilar.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said the country is moving “full steam ahead” with reopening next month.
“We are definitely opening on the 1st of November,” he told The Tribune yesterday.
His comment came as the Ministry of Tourism announced that a public-private partnership with the Living with COVID Coalition, a not-for-profit coalition with the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), has secured up to three million rapid antigen tests that will be provided by Ports International at a low cost per unit.
Studies suggest the tests – which Mr D’Aguilar said cost between $10 to $15 per unit – are accurate when diagnosing symptomatic patients.
The country recorded 707 COVID-19 cases over the past week. During an appearance last week on Guardian Radio’s “The Hitback” with Nahaja Black, infectious disease expert Dr Nikkiah Forbes said the country is nowhere near prepared to welcome guests next week.
Mr D’Aguilar declined to comment on her statement yesterday. The Tribune understands that some health officials have been pushing for a tougher lockdown even as the country prepares to reopen with relaxed rules for guests.
Starting November 1, tourists and returning residents will not be required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival like they are now.
“The new protocols will require visitors, returning citizens and residents to obtain a RT-PCR (swab) test no more than seven days prior to travelling to The Bahamas,” a ministry statement said yesterday. “A rapid antigen test will then be conducted upon arrival and again five days (96 hours) after their arrival. Simplifying the testing, reporting and case management process is a secure, web-based, end-to-end management system that will allow tourism and health authorities to have real-time visitor and resident data and more effectively manage those with positive test results.
“We are proud to partner with the government of The Bahamas on this nationally significant initiative,” said Thomas Bethel, LWCC head of operations. “COVID-19 will be here for a while and we believe that it is our responsibility as Bahamians to work together, act fast, and present a practical and responsible solution that is simple, easy, rapid and connected. Our diverse membership of concerned Bahamians from the private sector, civil society, academia, labour, politics and religious society are all feeling the strain from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s up to each of us to get tested and follow the health protocols if we want to save our economy.”
Mr Bethel, according to the statement, added that LWCC will be making tests and the management platform available to any lab, doctor’s office, clinic, pharmacy, business, organization or government entity that wishes to join the national platform.
“All those participating have agreed to work at cost or for free,” the statement said.