NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government’s decision to allow visitors to quarantine at hotels was intended to “give some life” to the tourism industry, according to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
D’Aguilar acknowledged confusion over the government’s decision to reverse its policy on commercial flights from the United States last week, opting instead to impose a 14 day quarantine that would ‘no doubt’ impact foreign visitor arrivals.
Speaking ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, D’Aguilar said: “It was a certain element of confusion last week with sudden changes in our borders.A you know we closed the country to U.S. flights and then we opened the country to all flights, then we imposed a 14 day quarantine and then we had the lockdown.
“Obviously the government was reacting to the changing state of affairs as it relates to COVID on the ground so we’re in the midst of surge number two. We fixed surge number one and the govt is now trying to address surge two.”
He said: “There is no doubt that by imposing the 14 day quarantine has had a significant impact on foreign visitors coming to the country. So what we learned was that the reason for surge number two was the fact that persons were going out of the country or going into the country and some may have had a COVID test and some may not have had a COVID test.
“A critical feature was those who were required to quarantine weren’t quarantining and were going into the community and causing the spread that we have, most noticeably in Grand Bahama. We really have to fix the quarantining and to make sure that people understand the importance of that and that there is sufficient enforcement.”
D’Aguilar noted many countries are imposing a 14-day quarantine, like Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
He explained that there are four ways to quarantine.
“You can quarantine at home, an AirBnB type property, a government mandated facility and the fourth one, what we’re trying to do is give some life to tourism and allow you to quarantine inside a hotel,” he said.
“The 14-day quarantine makes leisure tourism very, very difficult to sell but obviously its a critical component of preventing a surge number three so we’re trying to work out situations where we can prevent a surge and allow some semblance of tourism to happen.
‘The 14 day quarantine makes it very, very, difficult for you to have leisure tourism. As our entire economy or most of our economy is dependent on tourism, we’re trying to work through how you can operate a tourism sector in this pandemic.”
D’Aguilar also noted that up to this point there hasn’t been any cases of hotel workers getting infected with COVID-19.
“We feel that if you come into the country, have your COVID test, go into a hotel and stay on that property, the staff practice all of health protocols that we’ve laid out, so that we can get that to work. We’re trying to brainstorm on how to allow some tourism to coexist with COVID-19,” said D’Aguilar who noted that boaters are also subject to quarantine protocols.