Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D'Aguilar.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE government has scrapped the idea of COVID-19 antigen testing for travelers upon arrival in the country beginning November 1.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar made the announcement on Saturday at a Ministry of Tourism press conference conducted via Zoom.
As previously announced, he also said that effective Sunday tourists and returning residents/citizens will no longer need to quarantine or “vacation in place” for 14 days upon arrival into The Bahamas.
“Effective tomorrow, Sunday 1 November, The Bahamas will be removing the mandatory 14-day quarantine as promised,” Mr D’Aguilar said. “Foreign visitors will be welcomed to our country, to stay at our hotels, to go to our beaches, to enjoy some of our world famous excursions and activities and, most importantly, to abide by our health and safety protocols. As such, the emergency orders will be revised to reflect that change.”
The minister said when the country closed its borders earlier this year to protect its citizenry from COVID-19, no one would imagine seven months later the impact of the virus would remain so severe.
All people entering the country will have to present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test no older than five days and have an approved Bahamas health travel visa to enter the country.
For the duration of the visit, those entering the country must complete a daily online health questionnaire for symptom tracking purposes.
Travelers will also have to take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test on day five of the visit (unless departing on day five).
Rules for allowing travelers in the country have shifted continuously throughout the pandemic.
Several weeks ago, Mr D’Aguilar announced that tourists and returning residents would be mandated to take antigen tests upon arrival in the country and then five days later, beginning November 1.
On Saturday, he said the decision to scrap antigen testing on arrival was due to the logistics behind such a roll out, given the number of entry points the country has.
“The use of the rapid antigen tests as an effective screening tool was not supported by the available research,” he also said. “As a result, effective tomorrow, there will be no tests conducted on arrival.
“The test on your fifth day, however, will remain in place.”
Travelers are advised to also always wear a mask and always social distance in public places.
In addition, beginning November 14 all visitors will be required to opt-in to mandatory COVID-19 health insurance when applying for their health travel visa. The insurance will cover travelers for the duration of their stay in The Bahamas.
Children 10 and under as well as pilots and crew of commercial airlines who remain overnight in The Bahamas are exempt from taking the PCR test.
Officials said any visitor who exhibits COVID symptoms at any time during their stay will be required to take a rapid antigen test and receive a negative result before being permitted to continue with their vacation.
If a person tests positive while in the country, they will be required to follow up with a COVID-19 RT-PCR swab test.
“The rapid tests are easy, quick and will yield results in 60 minutes or less with results being provided electronically via SMS text message and email,” officials said in a release.
“Hotel properties will provide relevant information on testing arrangements, while others will facilitate the required rapid test for their guests. All persons on yachts and other pleasure craft will be able to make arrangements for their required rapid tests at the port of entry or via the relevant website. All other visitors, returning residents and citizens will be able to make arrangements for their required rapid tests at the port of entry or via the relevant website.”