NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government is seeking a waiver from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a Caribbean-wide exemption from its new travel entry requirement, according to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
The CDC has announced that starting January 26, all air passengers entering the United States will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test.
“We are pushing as much as we can in order to get the US to at least consider a waiver for the Caribbean in general, the English-speaking Caribbean,” D’Aguilar said.
“We have very small populations. We have very low levels of COVID and we are extremely tourism-dependent.
“We are asking them to consider us as a special grouping on countries…in their sphere of influence, that represents very little risks to them.
“We want them to consider the Caribbean as a special case that they will consider giving an exemption to.”
The tourism minister noted that while it is not guaranteed the discussions will yield any results, the government will push the issue.
The new protocol comes as the United States experiences record numbers of cases and deaths related to COVID-19.
Initially, the country had only required travelers from the UK to test negative for the virus prior to arrival, following reports of a new, more contagious COVID variant originating in the UK.
D’Aguilar said if the government’s persuasive efforts fail, “Plan B” will be to utilize the network of clinics and private healthcare providers to provide the required rapid antigen tests to re-enter the US.
“We are well-positioned with 80 healthcare providers to provide that test easily and seamlessly,” he said.
“We had some bumps in the road with the government clinics but certainly, our private sector operators are fulfilling the gaps relatively well.”
He explained, however, that the challenge will come with the lack of healthcare infrastructure on some Family Islands.
“There are some islands that don’t have private healthcare operators, so we will have to liaison with the Ministry of Health to enhance the services that are provided by those clinics in order to meet that demand.”