By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Cabinet minister yesterday argued that The Bahamas' relatively low COVID-19 infection numbers warrant a further easing of health-related travel warnings by the US authorities.
Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, speaking outside the Cabinet Office, said the tourism industry would receive a further badly-needed boost if the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moved The Bahamas from 'Level Three' with "high" COVID-19 infection levels to 'Level Two' with "moderate" levels.
He said: “So we were at 'Level Four', we moved to three, and we certainly believe our numbers are there and justified to move us to a 'Level Two'. Every movement for those travellers that check that stuff, that's very important.”
“It was great when we moved from four to three, and it would be even better if we move from three to two. That will be a difficult task to accomplish, but we're fighting for it every day.”
The Prime Minister on Monday suggested there is a likelihood that the CDC will do just that, and Mr D’Aguilar added: “We're keeping our COVID numbers down. You can't have any tourism with bad COVID numbers, and we're doing a good job of doing that.
"So we have an excellent foundation. We just now have to encourage people to travel despite the impediments, and therein lies the conundrum.”
Mr D’Aguilar added: “The government has always held fast to the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, which is Nassau is the potential hotspot and we don't want COVID to spread to the Family Islands. It is unnecessarily harsh, but we think at this time it's better to have low numbers in the Family Islands and to keep whatever COVID we have in the country situated here in Nassau.”
The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) president previously hailed the first US health travel advisory easing on The Bahamas as “a big boost” for the economy’s largest industry.
Robert Sands told Tribune Business that the CDC's move to upgrade The Bahamas from a 'Level Four' to 'Level 3' status “removes a major deterrent” for potential tourists wanting to travel to this destination.
“That is an extremely important move for The Bahamas,” he said. “It’s in keeping with the fact that The Bahamas has demonstrated it has certainly since Thanksgiving kept its COVID-19 numbers under some control.
“That is a big boost. However, the industry will not be happy until that ‘Level Three' gets to a ‘Level Two’, which is a good indication that our management of COVID-19 has kept the virus under control. It’s certainly headed in the right direction, and the BHTA welcomes this because it removes a major deterrent for the public who are wanting to travel and come to the destination. It’s very much welcome news.”