NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said today that while other countries may have loosened travel restrictions to reopen their economy, The Bahamas is not prepared to go that the extent.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, D’Aguilar unerscored there it is an ongoing discussion between tourism and public health officials over the matter.
Under new policies that go into effect today, the Dominican Republic has eliminated mandatory COVID-19 tests and quarantine for incoming travelers, as part of its new tourism recovery plan.
Similarly, Mexico also does not require a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid test for entry, and quarantine is not required for travelers entering from all countries arriving by air.
“I don’t think that we are prepared to go to the extent that they have to open their economy,” D’Aguilar said.
“We’re working with our public health officials to see what is feasible.
“…We’re trying to figure out how to work through this quarantine to make it a little more palatable to the traveling public and the businesses that are in the tourism sector.”
Asked whether any consideration is currently being made to ease those travel restrictions, the tourism minister said, “That’s an ongoing discussion between tourism, which is motivated to do that, and the public health officials which are motivated to maintain the safety of the Bahamian populous and all that visit here.
“It’s an ongoing back and forth. Hopefully, we come to something that’s a bit more palatable.”
Individuals traveling into The Bahamas are required to have a negative RTPCR COVID-19 test, valid for five days before travel, and quarantine for 14-days.
While the emergency orders now provide for inter-island travel for all islands, every person traveling is required to obtain a travel visa that should be presented to the carrier agent at the point of embarkation and quarantine for 14-days or for the duration of stay, if for a lesser period.
However, a person traveling from New Providence will be required to provide a negative RTPCR COVID-19 test and apply for a travel visa.
Individuals traveling from the Family Islands are not required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test to travel to New Providence but will have to follow the protocol when departing the capital.
D’Aguilar noted yesterday that this continues to be an impediment to tourism but is in place to limit the spread of cases to the Family Islands.
“When you recognize that New Providence is in your grouping of islands, the island that has the most cases, obviously as much as possible you want to stop the spread of what is potentially happening in New Providence, going to another island, because the health facilities on those islands are very limited in most instances,” he explained.
“We are very mindful of not creating a situation that exists here in New Providence in the more remote parts of our Family Islands.
“The public health officials believe that we have to, for the time being, keep those rather rigid restrictions in place.
“I know it’s an impediment to tourism, to domestic tourism, but right now we think that’s probably more important to keep those restrictions in place and to stop the spread to those islands.”
The tourism minister added that while quarantine and mandatory testing continues to be an impediment to the tourism industry, officials are trying to figure out the best way to make vacationing in place/quarantine as palatable for every as possible.