TRAVEL RULES TIGHTENED: COVID testing required for fully vaccinated travelers and children as young as 2

TRAVEL RULES TIGHTENED: COVID testing required for fully vaccinated travelers and children as young as 2
(FILE)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Fully vaccinated individuals and children ages two through 11 traveling to The Bahamas must now obtain a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR or rapid test within five days of arriving, according to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

This new policy will take effect on August 6, walking back the travel regime implemented in May that saw fully vaccinated individuals exempted from testing requirements when entering The Bahamas or traveling domestically.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. (BIS/PATRICK HANNA)

According to the OPM, unvaccinated travelers ages 12 and over are still required to obtain a negative RT-PCR test within five days of travel.

As it relates to domestic travel, fully vaccinated individuals will also have to present a negative rapid or RT-PCR COVID test within five days of travel from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini, Exuma, Abaco and North and South Eleuthera.

Children ages two through 12 must also comply with this testing requirement.

However, children under the age of two remain exempt from any testing.

Additionally, travel health visa fees will be waived for all Bahamians and residents for domestic travel.

When Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis previously announced eased restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers, including exemption from RT-PCR testing, Consultant Physicians Staff Association President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler urged the government to reconsider.

She recommended that testing remain a requirement for travel and has renewed the call as cases surged in recent months.

Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler.

She also suggested the government consider incorporating rapid antigen tests in the travel protocol, and subsidizing the PCR test or liaising with labs for cost reduction.

Despite concerns regarding the removal of testing restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals, health officials at the time said the matter of transmission after vaccination was still being reviewed by the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee.

Since then, cases have increased from the low double digits to triple digits.

A total of 334 cases were recorded over the weekend: 162 on Friday, 81 on Saturday and 91 on Sunday.

The Bahamas surpassed 15,000 COVID-19 cases yesterday and saw hospitalizations climb to 102.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said “new science” indicates vaccinated people can spread the COVID-19 delta variant in some cases, and recommended fully vaccinated individuals go back to wearing masks in indoor public places in certain areas.