By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised this country’s travel warning from level three to level four due to the “very high” level of COVID-19 infections, advising people to avoid travel to The Bahamas.
The country was raised from level two to level three — “reconsider travel” — two weeks ago.
The CDC’s website says people should “avoid travel” to The Bahamas, but added that if they do travel there, they should be fully vaccinated.
“Because of the current situation in The Bahamas, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the CDC notes.
This comes as the Ministry of Health said a combined 526 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on January 16 and 17.
Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper said yesterday the increased rating did not come as a surprise as many countries around the world experienced a surge in cases due to the Omicron variant.
Mr Cooper is also Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation.
“We are aware of the United States Centers for Disease Control issuing a level four travel advisory for The Bahamas,” Mr Cooper said in a statement. “The move was not unexpected given the exponential rise in cases over the past two weeks.
“However, during the latest wave of COVID-19 infections, we have not noticed a dramatic increase in hospitalisations for severe symptoms and deaths have been rare.
“As the Minister of Health has pointed out, we believe we are at or nearing a peak in this wave of COVID-19 infections.”
Despite what appears to be milder symptoms from this variant, the Ministry of Tourism remains vigilant and poised to pivot when needed, he further said.
“Our hotel properties and tourism amenities are following proper protocols and have in place additional measures to make sure the travel experience is a safe one. Our health visa system for visitors remains in place as does our testing regime for all travellers.
“The recently launched free testing system has given us another tool in tracking the spread of COVID-19. In addition, our healthcare system has recently been bolstered by additional nurses and doctors.”
He said officials were hopeful they would see a drop in infection numbers in the coming weeks.
“When this happens, we are confident that the rating will be favourably reviewed. In the meantime, we are satisfied that our health protocols remain strong.
“We are actively engaging the Ministry of Health and our stakeholders to ensure that we strike the appropriate balance to protect public health, maintain robust tourist arrivals and a vibrant economy.”
As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, there are 148 people in hospital.
Of this number 141 are moderately ill and seven are in the Intensive Care Unit.
Seven hundred and nineteen people have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Health.