NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis today begged Bahamians not to travel outside the country at this time as he remarked on the ongoing surge of COVID-19 in North America.
During a communication to Parliament today, Minnis referred to those countries as a “COVID colosseum”.
He suggested Bahamians explore domestic travel instead, adding the domestic travel health visa will be implemented “very soon” for travel from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, mainland Exuma, mainland Eleuthera and Bimini to other islands in the country.
Minnis warned international travel to hotspots poses grave risks to the country’s recovery — particularly the introduction of a third wave of infections.
“It is exceptionally risky to leave The Bahamas at this time. I beg and I plead for all Bahamians to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to travel overseas,” he said.
“Walmart can wait.”
Minnis reiterated that health data indicated the country’s second wave was directly linked to the travel of some 4,224 Bahamians to the country’s “northern neighbors” that were considered hotspots at the time.
“Please, I beg and plead with all Bahamians to stay at home, unless it is absolutely necessary to travel overseas. I know there is COVID fatigue,” he said.
“I know that many people want a break. If someone needs to take a break, they might consider going to one of our Family Islands where travel is permitted, following the public health guidelines.”
Minnis called for Bahamians to spend money locally “with Bahamian businesses that employ Bahamians”.
“They will have a good time and will help our economy,” he said.
“We should be careful and sensible when it comes to where we travel.
“We could have a very difficult third wave if we are lax in our behavior and in our travels. If you have to go overseas because of an emergency, please wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands thoroughly and often.”
The prime minister reiterated that everyone traveling into The Bahamas from the US or any other destination must have a valid negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test.
He noted that the test must be taken no more than five days from the day of travel.
“We are getting many reports of Bahamians having a COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken in The Bahamas prior to their travel overseas and then attempting to use those results for their Travel Health Visa and return to The Bahamas. I wish to be very clear and to remind Bahamians and residents traveling overseas that no COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken in The Bahamas is valid for a Travel Health Visa in order to return to The Bahamas,” said Minnis.
The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tourism have launched a daily online health screening survey.
The mandatory survey is provided through the travel.gov.bs website, and there will be either a $100 penalty/fine for each day the assessment is not done, or one week’s imprisonment.
“All individuals, including citizens, residents and visitors traveling into The Bahamas, will be required to complete this short survey online each day for approximately 14 days,” Minnis said.
“The health screening survey is an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring that The Bahamas is safe for all to enjoy. Participation in this survey is mandatory. Those who fail to comply will be subject to penalties.
“Citizens, residents and visitors who do not complete the survey will be fined $100 per day or one week in prison. For visitors, they will also be deported,” he said.
He noted that the health survey will enable the further monitoring of and response to any possible instances of COVID-19.
The domestic travel health visa will replace the 14-day quarantine requirement for those traveling from New Providence.
“This does not apply to travel between Exuma and its cays and Eleuthera and its surrounding islands,” Minnis said.
The prime minister noted that the domestic travel health visa, like the international travel health visa, will include the same two-pronged approach to fight COVID-19, inclusive of the daily health screening survey and rapid antigen testing on the fifth day.
“This domestic travel health visa must be presented to air and sea carrier operators before boarding an aircraft or marine vessel. If this requirement is breached, the carrier or owner of the vessel is subject to a fine of $2,000 for every passenger traveling without the domestic travel health visa,” he said.
“The passenger will also be subject to a fine of $1,000. I wish also to note that for the time being, a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test is required only for travel from New Providence, Grand Bahama and Exuma.”