NASSAU BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday announced travel restrictions on incoming commercial flights and vessels, with the exceptions of the United Kingdom, Canada and the bloc of countries that comprise the European Union.
All incoming international commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers outside of those exempted countries will be prohibited from entering The Bahamas as of July 22.
This means commercial flights from the United States, which has the most cases in the world with over 3.8 million confirmed cases, will be prohibited from entering The Bahamas.
Countries including Russia, India, China, Japan and a host of other Asian countries, as well as the continent of Africa, among other jurisdictions, also join that travel ban list.
However, private international flights and charters, as well as private pleasure craft and yachts from all countries may still to enter The Bahamas.
During a national address, the prime minister empathized with the sacrifice made by Bahamians and residents to date, but said the latest restrictions were to save The Bahamas from a “deadlier price later”.
“I understand the frustration and the disappointment of many Bahamians and residents that may ensue as we reimplement certain restrictions, But as a country we have to do what is right and necessary,” Minnis said.
“If we do not take these measures now, we will pay a higher and deadlier price later.
“At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic we acted early to prevent widespread sickness and death. We must do so once again.”
To accommodate visitors scheduled to leave after Wednesday, outgoing commercial flights will be permitted, according to Minnis, who said private international flights and charters for Bahamians, residents and visitors, as well as pleasure craft and yachts will also be permitted.
“All returning Bahamians, residents and visitors by air or sea from overseas will require a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result from an accredited lab, said Minnis, noting that without a accredited negative test within 10 days of travel returning Bahamians and residents will have to quarantine for 14 days and be monitored by Hubbcat.
Those who refuse to be monitored by the geofencing application, will be required to quarantine in a government-identified facility at their own expense.
Minnis also announced Bahamasair will cease outgoing flights to the US, effective immediately.
The prime minister’s insistence of prioritizing the lives of Bahamians were in contrast to US President Donald Trump, who said in an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace that many cases in the US were “sniffles” that should not be considered real coronavirus cases.
The interview aired Sunday.
The Bahamas’ neighbor to the northwest recorded more than 65,000 new infections on Saturday.
Florida alone reported more than 10,000 new cases on Saturday and 90 additional deaths, bringing the death toll in the state to just over 5,000 and total confirmed cases to well over 315,000.
The Bahamas also follows suit with a decision made by the EU in late June as Florida, Arizona and Texas became COVID hotspots, and what were widely considered new emerging epicenters for the virus.
The EU bloc allowed visitors from 15 countries when it jointly opened the borders in July.
The list of nations approved included Australia, Canada New Zealand, and China, if the country reciprocated, among others.
The Bahamas was not among the approved countries, however.
In the last 24-hours, the UK has had 27 COVID-19-related deaths and an additional 700-plus new infections.
Gyms, pools and other sports facilities remain closed until July 25.
The total death toll stood at over 45,000 on Saturday, while the total infections since the outset of the pandemic climbed to just under 300,000.
As of Sunday, Canada had over 110,000 confirmed cases, of which over 4,400 remain active; and fewer than 9,000 deaths.
In a 24-hour period, the country saw 339 new infections and four deaths.
The travel restrictions will come into effect as of Wednesday, July 22 at midnight.