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System In Place To Cope With New U.S. Test Policy

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Tribune Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday expressed confidence that The Bahamas has a sound regime in place to satisfy an impending policy change requiring all air passengers entering the United States to have a negative COVID-19 test.

In the meantime, Bahamian officials continue to await word on whether the US will introduce exemptions for this country from the new COVID-19 testing policy, which will come into force on January 26.

However, if the United States’ response is unfavourable, Mr D’Aguilar said there are 80 COVID-19 testing sites across the country to ensure people returning to America can receive results in a timely manner.

Local officials are also exploring options to encourage visitors to adhere to the government’s antigen test requirement for those who have travelled here and are staying more than five days.

Earlier this month, Ministry of Health Senior House Officer Dr Cherita Moxey announced that 46 percent of travellers required to take the rapid antigen test five days after arriving in The Bahamas had not complied with the requirement.

The figure represents 21,000 people.

“In the event that no waiver is forthcoming, The Bahamas feels it is in a relatively good position to fulfil this requirement because in developing our entry protocols one of the requirements was you get a five-day rapid antigen test,” the minister told The Tribune.

“As a result, I think we’ve got about 80 testing sites all over the country that were implemented in order to fulfil this requirement. So, that could conversely be used in order to fulfil the requirement to return to the United States.

“We’re looking at our visa website to see how we can get people to pre-pay for that, for them to purchase the antigen test when they are coming to The Bahamas.

“So, they buy the visa and their test for the fifth day if they are going to be here for five days then they can go ahead and purchase the rapid antigen test so they know that they can have that requirement fulfilled using the normal channels in place to do the five-day antigen test.”

Mr D’Aguilar conceded the new US test requirement is another impediment to travel further affecting markets around the world.

He said people needed to look no further than our own country and the RIU resort which yesterday temporarily furloughed 85 percent of its workers.

He described the situation as “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,”

“In order to maintain our numbers, we have what some people may consider onerous entry requirements. You have to get a visa, a COVID-19 test and there are other destinations out there which are easier to go to, like Mexico and Dominican Republic, which people see as easier places to visit so they are doing very robustly right now.

“I don’t think the Bahamian people are prepared to throw caution to the wind and try to compete with those countries by removing the entry requirements and face a possible spike.

“We are where we are because that is where we want to be.

“The demand given the fact that we just opened it will take a while for that to get out there given the fact that some travellers perceive our entry requirements in comparison to other more open countries to be onerous and now you are going to throw another layer on top of that ... All of that is going to dampen demand even more.

“Even if you’re in the US and taking an international trip you now have to – even if you didn’t get a PCR test go to that country – you now have to contemplate getting a rapid antigen test to come back. Even while it is relatively easy to get that I am sure a lot of countries will swoop into action to first of all build out that infrastructure because it is not only giving the test you have to give a print out of the results.

“It is going to dampen international demand out of the US, I feel, at the outset at least somewhat.

“So, it’s the long way of saying it will take a while for us to build back up the demand and I guess all of the hotels coming on stream at the same time – Atlantis on the 10th (of December 2020) and Baha Mar on the 17th, the Ocean Club, the Hilton, you’ve got the RIU and all of the hotels and all of these available rooms coming on stream. It’s probably created an oversupply based on the level of demand, so a lot of hotels are saying, if not shutter the hotel let’s shutter a wing or tower until it gets out there that the Bahamas is a safe place.

“We have a relatively low level of COVID-19 but we’ll always be navigating, so you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

Comments

bahamianson 1 month, 2 weeks ago

when we filled out the health visa , we automatically gave you our digital information. These people could not hide. it was a complete failure on behalf of the government. you have all the information at your disposal. you know the names of the people, you have their passport information, and where they live . why could the government not track them down and charge them? why is this so difficult? I travelled, got my covid test and my 5 day antigen test as the government requested, simple. The government needs to deal with the non compliant people. You have people whom abide by the law , and people whom do not. The law breakers should be panelized.

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observer2 1 month, 2 weeks ago

No, no. Please leave the 21,000 foreigners lone who broke the law and are subject to fines and imprisonment.

You can't put foreigners in our prisons which have been condemned by Amnesty International and where their Covid protocols and sanitation may not live up to internationally accepted practices.

Do they have flushing toilets at Fox Hill?

Instead lets continue to focus on locking up the young black male selling coconuts on the side of the road trying to make a couple of dollars to buy food for his family.

Also, continue to focus on keeping the country locked down under emergency law. Bahamians are so crushed and broke they can't even fight the system anymore.

All that is left now is for the government to implement income tax to take any profit that the bay street boys may have left.

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Hotelier 1 month, 2 weeks ago

You want to penalize tourists when there is no testing available on the island they are visiting? Don't believe everything you read in the news.

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observer2 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Exactly. The government is already charging $40 for the Travel Visa which includes the cost of the existing Antigen test. All you do is you bring your travel visa to the antigen test site and give it to them and you don't have to pay for the test.

So its a mistake to tell the tourist that they need to pay again for an antigen test they have already paid for. Unless the Antigen test is only free for Bahamians and foreigners need to pay for it.

Lol, you can't make up this bungled signaling. Millions of dollars worth of travel decisions are made not to travel on vacation every time the government opens its mouth.

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bahamianson 1 month, 2 weeks ago

not only tourist, many Bahamians are in that number.

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observer2 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Also have you ever read the fine print on the Health Travel Visa. The penalties are frightening.

Most ppl have read about the poor tourist who got put in jail in Cayman when all the locally connected caymanian avoid the prison because "they are all connected".

So couple with the threat of being put in jail....even if tourist were going to travel to the bahamas they would think twice about jail if they accidentely didn't get an antigen test.

Suppose you accidently don't respond to the travel visa daily questionnaire because you ran out of minutes or your foreign based phone don't work with lousy BTC? $100 a day fine?

Possibly one month in Fox Hell prison? They don't know that we are not enforcing the law. Not one of the 21,000 breaking the protocol is charged.Maybe they will find some poor bahamian to put in jail....but poor bahamian ain going to miami right now because they can't afford the $150 Covid test in miami or the 40 travel visa. So i guess dey ain ga charge no body.

And then they warn you. If you can't get on the plane back home because the less than accurate antigen test came out with a false positive....you better have enough money to go back to the hotel at over $500 a day for da next 2 weeks!

Good luck restarting the tourist industry.

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observer2 1 month, 2 weeks ago

"The Minnis Government really has no plan to revive and restore the local economy." Bahama Press, 1.18.21.

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proudloudandfnm 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Lol. System in place. Yeah sure. Uh huh. Ok then...

Bunch of jokers. I wonder if Dinisio will ever be able to speak truth again after 5 years of lies...

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bahamianson 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Tourists and Bahamians have violated the 5 day Antigen test requirement. I actually didn't put tourists in the equation. Many Bahamians have not taken the % day Antigen test and have not filled out the two week survey. I went away, filled out the survey for two weeks , and took my 5 day Antigen test on the 5th day. I am sorry, when I was in school , I was told to follow instruction or face the consequences. parents backed up the teachers, so my goose was cooked.

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TalRussell 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Listening to Dioniso James, em's killing it. Is One."Hella Good." song and dance routine of a crown minister. Shakehead a quick once for upyeahvote cannot just be making such nonsense up. Shake twice for not?

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