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Editorial: We're Wearing Our Sharpest Suit But With Empty Pockets

THE Bahamas has made its pitch for how to reopen to tourism.

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has thrown his weight behind a plan to reopen in October, and is urging hotels to resume full operations on October 15.

With a bold attempt at marketing, he is trying to do away with the “Q” word. It won’t be a quarantine for the visiting tourists, but those arriving will be required to stay in their hotel for 14 days.

A compulsory all-hotel experience might sound a good deal prettier than a mandatory quarantine, but we’re not sure tourists will be fooled. As Shakespeare might say, a rose by any other name…

Still, less words, more action – what else is on the checklist for reopening?

Well, hotels will need an approved quarantine facility for one, a strong recommendation – not a requirement – for all hotel staff to be tested prior to resuming work and as needed afterwards. We should note this test can be the less accurate CDC approved test rather than the PCR test. The reason? Cost. The PCR test costs more than $200. Mr D’Aguilar expresses confidence in the cheaper tests, saying they are “in striking range” of the PCR test for accuracy. However, these cheaper results will not be included in the official COVID-19 statistics, which at the very least doesn’t inspire confidence. Visitors, however, will be required to have the PCR test, and one no older than five days.

Mr D’Aguilar exudes the air of a man eager to get on with the job. “We’ve got to pull the trigger,” he says, of the need to reopen the tourism industry. We must hope, of course, that in pulling the trigger, no one ends up dead.

We suspect another national consideration in the need to ramp up tourism again in October is that the temporary furlough scheme’s clock is running out. The government set up the furlough scheme in an effort to keep people employed – at the end of this month, companies have to decide whether to permanently terminate workers or bring them back. The end of September is also when budgeted assistance for individuals and businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic will run out.

So here we are, putting on our sharpest suit but with empty pockets.

We do not, however, stand alone.

We are not the only country wrestling with the dilemma of how to reopen. Far from it. Around the world, people are getting to grips with the question of how to welcome tourists again, but in the safest manner possible.

Over in Europe, a number of schemes are being explored. In the UK, there are plans to reduce the amount of time people spend in quarantine – sorry, there’s that Q word, Mr D’Aguilar – by ensuring holidaymakers are tested 48 hours before arriving in the UK, and then given a second test five days after landing. Those proposals are being driven in consultation with the tourism industry – and are gaining support from UK scientific advisors.

As we try to attract people from around the globe, so too must we think global in looking at solutions being considered elsewhere.

Let’s face it – most people travel so they can see a place. Few are going to be enticed by the prospect of coming to stay in one complex for 14 days and not being able to venture out of the door.

Mr D’Aguilar talks of excursions being able to start up too in mid-October, and while that plan needs more details, one presumes it would effectively see excursions operating exclusively to a particular resort to ensure no risk of cross-contamination.

We applaud the drive to get the country reopened – and while we have our doubts about a number of the aspects, the truth is that it is now September 8 and we have a little over a month to keep working on this to get it right.

Mr D’Aguilar knows the importance of that. “We really have to get this right this time,” he said.

He’s not wrong.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 1 month, 1 week ago

"Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has thrown his weight behind a plan to reopen in October, and is urging hotels to resume full operations on October 15"

Seems we are making the July 1 mistake all over again. Set COVID timelines based on..."time".

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Bluenoser 1 month, 1 week ago

I hope the details and process will allow us to return back to Eleuthera this fall. With a Nassau terminal specific to American travel, procedures for those flights could be and perhaps should be different. Canadian planes are scheduled to resume flights next month. In Nova Scotia, a province of 1 million we have had about 1,100 cases and 65 deaths (60+ in long term care). Currently we have three active cases, yes 3. A short example next door to us from the state of Maine. A population of 1.5 million and infection rate is 3X with 4,700 cases (134 deaths most over 60). The difference...there are 500 active cases. We want to return to our southern home but currently we have no means to be tested for Covid. Tests are not provided here without symptoms and our test is not the correct acceptable test. We don’t want to be forced to stay over in Florida in order to get tested before arriving in The Bahamas. Much safer to go directly from Toronto to Nassau. We would gladly be tested in Eleuthera upon arrival. Home owners may be the only visitors Eleuthera gets this year. I can’t see how all those folks visiting Harbour Island (home owners and their guests) will deal with the 14 day VIP treatment.

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KapunkleUp 1 month, 1 week ago

The simple but painful truth is that life must go on. Open up but be smart about it. Enforce strict rules across the board to cut down on the risk of infection.

  1. Everyone MUST wear a mask while outside their home.
  2. All commercial businesses must have hand sanitizers stations at the entrance.
  3. Restaurants operate at 50% capacity and place tables 6 feet apart.
  4. Supermarkets operate at 50% maximum occupancy and enforce 6 feet distancing at all checkout lines.
  5. Restrict driving on certain days of the week. Plates ending in 0 & 1 cannot drive Mondays, 2 & 3 cannot drive Tuesdays, etc… Saturdays only even numbers, Sundays only odd numbers.
  6. Enforce social distancing of 6 feet to all businesses. Use appointments if required.
  7. Ban all large group gatherings.
  8. Zero tolerance for anyone breaking the rules.
  9. Free testing stations.

Life must go on. The economy must go on. This is all COMMON SENSE folks!

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tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

Nothing you say here is going to persuade large numbers of tourists to start coming to the Bahamas anytime soon.....and I'm talking years, not months. You only have to look at some of the smartest stock market plays since February to understand that North Americans will not be boarding planes or ships in great numbers for a long long time.

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KapunkleUp 1 month, 1 week ago

You are absolutely right. Only a working vaccine will fix that problem. However, keeping the virus under control in the meantime must be the top priority - without killing the economy with ineffective lockdowns. What good is a vaccine, when it comes, if the infection rate has already increased by orders of magnitude?

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