By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville on Friday said travel health visas are no longer required for inter-island trips, although the government is still working on addressing the “necessary protocols” before it moves into eliminating the international travel health visa.
Mr Darville spoke about a recent amendment to the existing Emergency Powers Order while speaking to reporters following his tour of facilities at the Sandliland’s Rehabilitation Centre.
“In our 10-point plan during the campaign trail and as opposition, we made it clear that we did not see the significance of the travel visa and we said it very clearly, that once the opportunity arose, we would eliminate it,” he said.
“So, we did an assessment with the travel visa inter-island and we found it to be a very cumbersome thing to do and we found a lot of individuals in the Family Islands, particularly those suffering from noncommunicable and chronic diseases (who) needed to travel back and forth to the capital, they were finding difficulty to do so.”
Dr Darville said the elimination of the inter-island travel visa means individuals who are on the Family Islands who need to come to New Providence only need a government approved negative antigen test as they are coming from areas of “low infectivity” for the most part.
He said individuals who are vaccinated and need to travel from New Providence or Grand Bahama can now do so with an antigen test, while those who are not vaccinated will need a PCR test.
“So that travel visa has now been eliminated inter-island,” he said. “When we’re going international, the travel visa will remain in place at this particular time because there are some other issues that we need to deal with and so we’ve decided to do away with inter-island travel visa, while we work on the necessary protocols before we move into eliminating the travel visa internationally.”
In a statement on Friday, Dr Darville noted many residents have been affected by the travel regime established under various Emergency Powers Orders. He said after speaking with health care professionals and receiving approval from Cabinet, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis signed the COVID-19 Pandemic Management and Recovery Order.
The amendment removes the requirement for a travel health visa for inter-island travel. It states that vaccinated persons travelling inter-island from New Providence and Grand Bahama will now only be required to produce a negative result of a rapid antigen test approved by the Ministry of Health, and if unvaccinated, travellers are required to produce a negative PCR result at the point of embarkation to the operator of the airline or vessel on which they are travelling.
For persons travelling inter-island from any other islands of The Bahamas, only a negative result antigen test is required; the requirement for secondary testing for inter-island travellers is now removed.
The travel health visa is still required for Bahamian citizens, residents and visitors entering The Bahamas. The payment of the travel health visa fee is no longer required for Bahamian citizens and residents returning to The Bahamas, the order states.
Dr Darville said his ministry is satisfied that the amendment would “lift a considerable financial burden” off travellers while simultaneously ensuring the health and safety of the general public.