US quarantine’s ‘door slam’ on Abaco rebuild


Ken Hutton

• Chamber chief fears hit for Dorian reconstruction

• Argues island ‘can’t catch a break’ since storm

• Urges govt clarity on A/C, mattress tax breaks


Tribune Business Editor


Abaco’s Chamber of Commerce president yesterday voiced fears that the new US quarantine policy will “slam the door again” on the island’s post-Dorian reconstruction, adding: “We can’t catch a break.”

Ken Hutton told Tribune Business that the latest US COVID-19 protocols, including the requirement that all returning travellers must produce a negative virus test taken within three days of their trip, are already deterring the second homeowners that comprise Abaco’s economic core from returning to rebuild their hurricane-devastated properties.

Besides the impact on US citizens, he added that the “blanket” implementation of a quarantine on all foreign travellers would likely prevent Abaco residents from visiting the US to buy essential materials and other supplies vital to the restoration of their homes and businesses. This becomes critical given the deadlines imposed by the government for accessing Dorian-related tax breaks.

While much attention has been placed on the potential tourism fall-out from the Biden administration’s quarantine move, Mr Hutton acknowledged that it also threatens to inflict further disruption on Dorian recovery efforts - which have already been interrupted by COVID-19 - with another hurricane season less than six months away.

“We’ve already seen that,” he told this newspaper of the impact from the proposed US protocols. “We’ve had second homeowners that were here that started the rebuilding process and left before the 26th. They left before that. They cut the amount of time they had short because of that. We’ve already seen a serious deterrent effect here because of that.”

The requirement for all incoming international travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test, including US citizens, had been scheduled to take effect from yesterday, although the Biden administration’s executive order last week placed this and the potential quarantine on a 14-day review.

“It’s so frustrating, because after the New Year we were starting to see the second homeowners come back and rebuild, and with this it’s like slamming the door again. We can’t win,” Mr Hutton added of the US move. “We’re not very happy about it. It’s certainly not an ideal thing.

“I thought we were rounding the corner on this thing. Abaco was seeing a really good trend line on infections, and anybody coming to Abaco had to have a negative test. I don’t think it’s a potential death blow; we’re well past that, but it’s something that is going to have a serious negative effect on our rebuilding efforts again. Again. We can’t catch a break.”

Mr Hutton said he was also aware of Bahamians postponing, or rushing forward, essential travel to the US in a bid to either beat or avoid the Biden administration’s measures to crack down on surging COVID-19 infection and death rates that are effectively out of control.

“I know of people putting off serious medical operations because they don’t have time to quarantine,” the Chamber chief added, while expressing hope that The Bahamas could be exempted from the quarantine and other, stricter requirements based on its present low COVID-19 infection rates.

“I’m hoping that there will be some tweaks to this blanket policy the US government has put out based on the risk factor any particular country poses,” he added. “I’m hopeful of that. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world. Mr Hutton thus echoed Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, who has also argued that The Bahamas can make the case for an exemption.

The Bahamas is presently in the middle of a nervous 14-day wait to see how the Biden administration plans to implement the potential quarantine, especially the details of how it will be applied and rolled-out.

The US president’s executive order reads: “It is the policy of my administration that, to the extent feasible, travellers seeking to enter the United States from a foreign country shall be required to produce proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test prior to entry, and required to comply with other applicable CDC guidelines concerning international travel, including recommended periods of self-quarantine or self-isolation after entry into the United States.”

It adds that this assessment will examine “the feasibility of implementing alternative and sufficiently protective public health measures, such as testing, self-quarantine and self-isolation on arrival, for travellers entering the US from countries where COVID-19 tests are inaccessible”.....

Some have interpreted this as meaning the new administration will spend 14 days assessing present regulations to determine if quarantine or some other measure is an appropriate alternative for travellers coming from countries that have inadequate COVID-19 testing.

The Bahamas, with its present five-day rapid antigen testing infrastructure, could avoid falling into this category, which means that quarantine would then not be required for travellers returning to the US from this nation. If that comes true, they would only need the negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of travelling.

Mr Hutton, meanwhile, said Abaco residents and businesses still “need more clarity” around the Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) tax breaks as he voiced disappointment that the Government had yet to respond to a Chamber letter suggesting more tariff headings that should be included under the VAT and import tariff exemptions.

“The announcement said building materials, furniture, fixtures and equipment were included,” the Chamber president said. “But that doesn’t include mattresses and air conditioners, apparently. What house in The Bahamas doesn’t have air conditioning? Who builds a home without a mattress? I’m trying to work out what part of furniture and fixtures doesn’t include that. We’ve had people ringing us up about that.”

In response, and after consultation with Chamber members and customs brokers, Mr Hutton said a letter containing “one-and-a-half pages” of tariff headings that the private sector believes should be included in the ongoing Dorian tax breaks was submitted to Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for finance; Gaynell Rolle, acting head of Inland Revenue, and Dr Geannine Moss, Customs comptroller, last week.

He added that it was “very disappointing” that the Chamber’s letter had yet to be even acknowledged, especially since its approach was non-confrontational and only aiming to “make things easier for everyone” by ensuring all sides have agreed what the Dorian tax breaks cover.

Arguing that it was critical to prevent “miscommunication and abuse”, and allowing Customs officers to use their “discretion” over who and what the tax exemptions apply to, Mr Hutton said: “Let’s put it on the table. People need to know exactly what they’re able to bring in, and aren’t able to bring in, duty and VAT free.”

The Chamber president, though, did praise the Government for easing COVID-19 restrictions on Abaco to the extent that it permitted the reconstruction effort to continue over the past year.


John 3 years, 5 months ago

TAKE HEED: after months and months of having hardly no new corona cases and no deaths several countries, including Barbados, Cuba, Nigeria and Haiti, are seeing new surges. In fact Barbados is currently under a 15 day lockdown after seeing surges since December where new cases (and deaths) have now surpassed the total numbers since the corona began in March. Take heed Bahamas. Extend the curfews, especially on Sundays, and whilst the US has its restrictions in place. Avoid having to lockdown in a few weeks. PS: Do not make this about personalities and politics.

tribanon 3 years, 5 months ago

Poppycock. The word has been out for many months now among the more honourable and reputable scientific community that there's no running away from, hiding or otherwise escaping the Red China Virus and its rapidly evolving mutations. There is now general agreement that not even the costly vaccines, which have been so quickly developed by the greedy big pharma companies and mostly paid for by taxpayers around the world, will prove effective at stopping the rapidly mutating strains of the original virus the end of the day. And just think, the rapidly mutating Red China Virus was very deliberately engineered by the sinister Communist Chinese Party with the help of their friends like Fauci and Gates, who have been deeply involved in promoting the most evil kinds of virology research for decades. It's all about demented and very evil global deep state actors wanting to creat biological tools for controlling the numbers of elder and sickly in the global population as well as the mobility and other freedoms of the vast majority of mankind. This all suits 'their' agenda of global domination.

OrdinaryMan 3 years, 5 months ago

...um....Mr. tribanon - your ranting about pandemic conspiracies is unusual for the Tribune242 readership....are you, perhaps, a Russian 'bot, or a QAnon follower? I mean, you sure sound like one.

But really....Dr. Fauci and Bill Gates teaming up with China to enslave us all? Ho-ho-ho - good one - except, that kinda of dangerous b.s. is what had mental idiots storming the U.S. Capitol building. Time for you pay attention to real news, Sir

Clamshell 3 years, 5 months ago

Agreed. Not only is Tribanon nuts, but anybody who pays 2 cents worth of attention to him/her is equally nuts. One thing about Covid ... it certainly has brought the nutballs out of their closets.

tribanon 3 years, 5 months ago

Are you a paid troll of the very sinister and evil Communist Chinese Party (CCP)? God knows there are many of them everywhere spreading misinformation, no doubt including this website. The Confucius indoctrinators in our country have been working overtime in recent years to portray Red China as the most important friend and saviour of the Bahamas. And too many of our corrupt politicians have been handsomely compensated to ensure as many Bahamians as possible swallow their propaganda, hook, line and sinker.

Clamshell 3 years, 5 months ago

Blah, blah, blah ... on the up-side, as your conspiracy mindset drives you to refuse the vaccine, it will make one more dose available to somebody who deserves to live.

tribanon 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm only too happy for you to take my 'jab' of the Red China made vaccine our government buys on the cheap through the Red China controlled WHO and its affiliate the PAHO. You fully deserve a double-dose. LOL

Proguing 3 years, 5 months ago

Looks like everyone is suffering from the new Robinette Biden measures

benniesun 3 years, 5 months ago

Gaia has precipitated Abaco's demise. Abaco is cursed and thankfully in its death throes.

DDK 3 years, 5 months ago

Hopefully the brothers and sisters in THE CAPITAL will never need help from the FAMILY Islands!!!!

TalRussell 3 years, 5 months ago

Abaco chamber's Comrade Ken, you need to zipper-up your comments. What is there yet emerge about available data COVID that still hasn't yet scared the livin' hell out you and your chamber's business members?
The single objective's focus until such time as the vaccine(s) are readily available on the ground for *280,000 colony's PopoulacesOrdinary at large POAL has been injected into arms 70% POAL with the required doses, the borders shall remain restrictive* to both entry and exit by POAL.
What is your chamber's business members doing
to reach out globally assist in securing sources of the vaccines for your own Abacoians? Shakehead a quick once for Upyeahvote, twice for Not?

benniesun 3 years, 5 months ago

@OrdinaryMan and @Clamshell A quote from The Sacred Theory of the Earth by Thomas Burnet.

...Contemplation of the works of Nature, and the Providence that governs them, there is no temper or Genius, in my mind, so improper for it, as that which we call a mean and narrow Spirit; and which the Greeks call Littleness of Soul. This is a defect in the first make of some Men's minds, which cannot ever be corrected afterwards, either by Learning or Age. And as Souls that are made little and incapacious cannot enlarge their thoughts to take in any great compass of Times or Things; so what is beyond their compass, or above their reach, they are apt to look upon as Fantastical, or at least would willingly have it pass for such in the World.

tribanon 3 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like one of those 'Confucius Say' proverbs. lol

Clamshell 3 years, 5 months ago

@benniesun: “ ... so sayeth the guy who believeth that Abaco is cursed and hopes it shall die.” ... 🤣🤣🤣

benniesun 3 years, 5 months ago

@Clamshell - your comment has proven my point. Not many are perceptive to spiritual matters. Research how many leaders consult with obeah men or witch doctors. Remember deception, inversion and chaos are the rule not the exceptions. Abaco is under judgement and is getting what it justly deserves.

Clamshell 3 years, 5 months ago

Under judgment from ... whom? You? That’s some awesome perception there, bennie.

DDK 3 years, 5 months ago

Benniesun may or may not be aware that Abaco is, even now, putting BREAD in the mouths of MANY Nassau families.

benniesun 3 years, 5 months ago

What matters to me is that the evil elitist powers that be in Abaco are getting their comeuppance. And like I said before - Abaco will be abandoned in my lifetime. As children we were warned that there were certain people that you just do not fool with - well they have done themselves in.

tribanon 3 years, 5 months ago

It's ashame that as children we were never warned not to fool with or allow ourselves to be bribed by the Communist Chinese.

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