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Tourism operators back quarantine replacement

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Hotel and marina operators yesterday urged that more rapid COVID-19 testing and health cards replace the mandatory 14-day quarantine that is “hampering business” for the tourism industry.

Peter Maury, the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) president, told Tribune Business: “We suggested very early on that the rapid test be administered once the vessel has been here, or even the tourist. I think the 14 days is just hampering any development we have, especially in the tourism industry.

"The ABM put forward several proposals for rapid testing for the industry. I think the rapid test is the only way to get people back on the job. I think a lot of people are understanding now that the hospitality industry is what drives this country if we want the hotels, marinas and the attractions to remain profitable.

"We depend so much on tourism that the trickle down for all of the other tours and the like is a direct part on it. We need to bite the bullet and decide on a rapid test and get moving," Mr Maury continued. “Florida opened up yesterday, and people are focused on the infections rather than the long-term morbidity of people not working and all of the issues that come with it. We know there are a lot of psychological issues and what not.

"We are trying to beat the infection down but, in the meanwhile, people are dropping down dead as a result of other issues that are non-COVID. This has ruined people’s lives, and I think rapid testing is the most we can hope for and try to deal with it the best way we can. It is up to the person to take the risk, but there are others who are going to take precautions with pride.”

“The ABM supports the rapid test. Hopefully they can go with it and get rid of this 14-day quarantine. We made a mistake early on and that is easy to fix; we just have to be careful."

Mr Maury spoke out after Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, told this newspaper yesterday that post-arrival COVID-19 testing for tourists may be part of the solution to "easing" the mandatory 14-day quarantine impediment to the industry's revival.

While declining to provide details, and confirming that The Bahamas has no plans to abandon the demand for a negative COVID-19 PCR test from visitors prior to their arrival, the minister cited the likes of Bermuda and Hawaii, which are both conducting COVID-19 testing when visitors arrive and, in the latter's case, during their stay.

The Dominican Republic, too, has shifted to testing for COVID-19 upon arrival, while Barbados, too, is conducting on-site testing of visitors. And international media reports yesterday suggested COVID-19 testing will be made easier by the release of 120m antigen test kits, able to produce on-the-spot results within 15 to 30 minutes, to low and middle income countries.

This may make increased testing of tourists upon arrival to The Bahamas, and during their stay, more feasible and enable the country to ease 14-day quarantine (vacation in place) requirements that have been deemed a turn-off by tourists and the global travel industry.

But, given The Bahamas' existing difficulties with testing and contact tracing involving its own citizens and residents, some observers are likely to be sceptical as to whether on-arrival and in-stay testing, or a combination of both, will adequately mitigate the COVID-19 risks involving tourists. Tracking down those staying in vacation rental accommodation could prove especially challenging.

Matthew Brear, Cape Santa Maria’s general manager, yesterday agreed the 14-day quarantine should be totally eliminated but was unsure what should replace it.

He said: “I do think that COVID tests would still be necessary, and I think people would need to be taking the necessary precautions like we did in July. I don’t think it was the tourists who caused the commotion here in The Bahamas. The problems we are facing wasn’t as a result of a quarantine or anything like that; it was people jumping on the ferry and going to Florida.

"I think we can open safely without a quarantine. I think that we do need to have something to promote the health and safety, and I think maybe a COVID-19 test prior to arriving is something. I think health cards are an important thing also. That’s what we did here in July at the Cape, and we managed to open and had a very successful July without any issues.

"We had a COVID test, and at that time I think it had to be done within seven days of arrival. People managed to do that and we had a great month. We ran at a low occupancy and that further assisted in the social distancing, but this two-week quarantine is crazy to think. The idea of the quarantine is the challenge. People can’t wrap their minds around it.”

Mr Brear added: "The challenge with tourists staying in their hotel room for 14 days is that’s what they do at Atlantis, and that’s what they do at Baha Mar. They go and sit at the pool, maybe go to the beach; they don’t leave the hotel.

"It’s just the idea of having to be stuck in the hotel that I think is discouraging people, but to be honest that’s all that people do anyway. Especially going to Atlantis or Baha Mar, there are 10 restaurants - all of which are great. There is the pool there and there is a beach there, with flamingos in the park. You have everything you want right there.”

Comments

Clamshell 3 years, 8 months ago

Maury is lying through his teeth, as usual. Months ago, in the early days, he and the other wealthy marina operators opposed any Covid restrictions at all, while urging party yachts from Covid-filthy Florida to flock to to our shores. He is such a grand liar that he should run for President of the United States! Liar! Liar!

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proudloudandfnm 3 years, 8 months ago

Testing on arrival will not protect us. This is a dumb idea. Stay the course, only a vaccine can help us stay safe.

I really don't trust this government, these idiots are going to kill more of our people. Again!

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John 3 years, 8 months ago

Dumb post. What will be the effective rate of the vaccine? How do you know if it is effective in an individual if you don’t test? Vaccines at least in the first instance may protect the vaccinated but not the general public . So they may give a false sense of security.

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whogothere 3 years, 8 months ago

Economy needs tourists, tourist don’t want to quarantine. Vaccine that materializes, won’t be here for 7 months, and even if does half the populations won’t trust it let a lone take it...Only way through this is essentially unfortunately what Minnis has defaulted too - open economy, social distancing and masks (Aka Sweden)...the reality is virus is gonna do what it’s gonna do. 99% of people have mild experiences...somewhere between 0.1%-0.3% die from it..it’s airborne, someone sneezes even with a mask on it floats in the air, until someone walks into lovely sneeze cloud...lockdowns haven’t worked, masks haven’t really worked, vaccine is miles a way...meanwhile we have more suicide attempts then any other year. Every week this month children have died because of crime or domestic violence, 100,000 people dependent of food bank support, small business is capitulating, our dollar might soon be devaluated impoverishing our nation, 1000s of students education and life paths are being destroyed because they lack the capacity to ‘go online’ or ‘home school’... Talk about how to make a problem worse...Testing works, testing frequently works, is there false positives - yes - generally less than false negatives...it’s better than not testing, it’s better than quarantine and it’s better than sitting on our behinds waiting for some miracle drug - people got to eat, work and in other words live. The idiots in power biggest mistake is that they don’t know how to calculate risk and let alone gain the trust of nation. They made decisions from panic, egotism, myopia and political popularity rather than science and common sense... They set our economy on fire and danced around the flames, celebrating how they kept people warm and safe, little did they realize it was summer and winter was still to come...(I’ll refrain from the exact GOT idiom)..

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John 3 years, 8 months ago

Apparently the countries (or US states) that did the most severe lockdowns during the first wave seem to be faring the worst during the second wave and or subsequent spikes. Not only with cases but also deaths from the virus. And The Bahamas and Nee York’s figures confirm this. But, on the other hand, Florida’s numbers continue an uninterrupted surge (both ncasrs and deaths) and, apparently, they are now intending to throw the economy wide open and carry on as if the virus does not exist. What will be the long term results of this action?

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whogothere 3 years, 8 months ago

Florida mortality curves were much flatter though. Health system not overwhelmed...and excess death basically flat in comparison to NY. The struck the right balance protect the vulnerable, keeping young working, money coming in and at the same time build immunity. I don't see any evidence that faults this strategy. Killing the economy if doesn't save people is pointless, and arguable kills a lot of other people through other means (delayed diagnostics, suicide, crime and failure to treat critical ailments) and just delays the inevitable...the spread of airborne virus that is a basically unstoppable but fortunately is not that dangerous to the majority of society.

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John 3 years, 8 months ago

Can someone please hurry and develop a virtual tourism product that will allow government to collect taxes.

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Clamshell 3 years, 8 months ago

🤣🤣🤣 ... oh, slam! Good ‘un!

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