By YOURI KEMP
THE US has created “an added wrinkle” to already-cumbersome COVID travel protocols with the measure that all returning citizens be tested within the 24 hours before their flight departs.
The Biden administration’s decision to narrow the testing window from 72 hours to 24 kicks-in this week. Bahamian hotels say they are up to the challenge of complying with this requirement, and are thankful that the US did not make PCR-tests mandatory as this would “ruin” tourism for the Christmas and New Year period.
Matthew Brear, general manager of Cape Santa Maria on Long Island, told Tribune Business: “It’s an added wrinkle. But, I mean, we’ve had to be pretty reactive for the last 18 months, and we’ve managed to make it work. So it’s just that the one consistent thing about these protocols and rules is that they keep changing, so we just have to keep changing with them.
“On Long Island, we’ve got a great, great team at the clinic that have been very accommodating. They will come to the resort and do tests, and they have been very accommodating to our guests. We just have to deal with it; we just don’t have any control over these things.”
The COVID-19 testing capacity has improved significantly on Long Island in the last several months. Bonaventure Labs is operating on the island to providing testing services along with the clinics at Deadman’s Cay and Simms.
“With Bonaventure labs just opening up in November here on Long Island, they’ve been able to accommodate the RT-PCR requirements, and then we have great nursing staff and medical staff at the two local clinics with Simms and Deadman’s Cay,” Mr Brear said.
“They have been readily available. If they needed to come in and do emergency tests at all hours first thing in the morning and in the evening, or right before we’re at the airport, I mean, they’ve been amazing.”
Ned Mulford, owner of Cat Island’s Pigeon Cay Club, added: “If it’s a rapid [antigen] test, it won’t be a big deal. If Biden does the PCR, then it would be another issue. He can’t do that anyway because he won’t get the PCR tests back in time.”
RT-PCR tests can take up to four days before people receive their results, but it is seen as the “gold standard” COVID-19 test in terms of results accuracy. Mr Mulford added: “I don’t believe it’s that. I believe it’s going to be the rapid antigen test. Biden didn’t seem clear about that. The RT-PCR would ruin us, but if it was rapid antigen it’s not going to have any effect.”
Medical facilities on Cat Island are sufficiently adequate to turn rapid antigen test results around in 24 hours, providing enough time for travellers to meet the US entry requirements.
Fears of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant have prompted The Bahamas and other countries such as the US to impose travel bans on several countries in Africa.