EDITOR, The Tribune.
Like the rest of the world, I have grown COVID weary with lockdowns, travel restrictions, and curfews. I miss hugging my family and shaking hands when I meet someone. After a year of seeing Bay Street deserted, the novelty of being able to park downtown is wearing off and I’m looking forward to seeing more tourists. In the face of an uncertain job market, homeschooling, and curfews Bahamians push on with stoic optimism.
I will admit that I did not take the summer travel restrictions gracefully. When the airports closed in July 2020 I was bitter, but when food stores closed a couple of weeks later I was outraged. I hadn’t signed up to live under martial law and felt that the government had overreached. Last summer, I endured travel visas, charter flights, COVID-19 PCR testing, and quarantining with significant resentment and frustration. I was downright angry with how restrictive the Bahamian government was.
Yet, in recent months I’ve had to eat some humble pie as the COVID numbers in the Bahamas continue to stay low and the bold action taken by the government in the summer is paying off. Unlike Germany, Brazil, and India whose numbers continue to surge, the Bahamas has the data to justify the removal of the 14-day quarantine for travellers. After a tough year of waiting, the nation can slowly open for tourism and get the economy going again without a dramatic spike in COVID numbers.
Contrast that with the new travel restrictions in Canada. Starting in February, travellers are required to take a COVID-19 molecule test at the border to gain entry into Canada. You are also required to download the ArriveCAN app so your location can be tracked as part of your 14-day quarantine. If you fly into Canada you are required to pay up to $3,000 for a mandatory three-day quarantine at a government-authorized hotel while you wait for your test results. If you test positive you go to a government facility rather than finishing your quarantine at home with another COVID-19 test on day 10. Breaking quarantine or isolation results in a fine of up to $750,000 or up to 6 months in prison. In addition to government regulations, Air Canada and Westjet are refusing to fly to “sun destinations” but the COVID numbers in Canada continue to rise with a spike in January and another in March.
For many years, my husband has patiently listened to me extol the virtues of my Canadian homeland. However, in this case, hands down the Bahamian government instituted more effective travel restrictions that were timely and effective to curb the spread of COVID. The response of the Canadian government is too late and largely ineffective in slowing the rising numbers in Canada. Residents and citizens returning to Canada face the significant financial burden of a hotel stay, which seems like an unnecessary addition to the 14-day quarantine that is already in place. Canadians could learn a thing or two from Bahamians when it comes to compliance with government mandates and how to set effective travel restrictions.
A FREQUENT TRAVELLER
April 6, 2021