NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With increased concerns over some travelers forging health visa-related documents to enter The Bahamas, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis has recommended introducing a mandatory quarantine for all travelers departing from COVID-19 hotspots such as Florida.
The US recorded more than 65,000 new infections on Saturday.
Florida 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.
Davis was responding to questions from Eyewitness News over whether a travel restriction for certain emerging hotspot states such as Florida should be implemented as a possible alternative to a travel ban on the country.
He spoke ahead of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ national address, which announced travel restrictions on all incoming commercial flights and vessels with the exceptions of the United Kingdom, Canada and the bloc of countries that comprise the European Union.
Davis said: “I start from this premise. Until a vaccine or a treatment, an effective treatment, is developed, we are going to have to learn to live with the virus.
“I think we could do so. Even though I (a traveler) may be coming from the epicenter, once we follow the proper protocols — and we know enough about the virus now; even though persons who get a COVID test could be asymptomatic and could be a carrier and transmit it — so, the key with this is testing [and quarantine].”
Davis said similarly to how New York has received travelers from Florida, The Bahamas could require a mandatory quarantine of 14 days for travelers from hotspot area and elsewhere.
He said a hotel could be opened and used for the purpose of long-term quarantine center.
“It’s not that we want to stop them from coming,” the PLP leader said.
“We just have that protocol that makes it so restrictive that it won’t make sense for me to come quickly.
Last week, Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, health consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister, revealed several visitors entering The Bahama and traveling to Grand Bahama had forged documents, including the COVID-19 test to gain entry.
However, it remains unclear whether these visitors were carriers of the virus.
Davis said while there is no perfect system or set of protocols, this ought not happen.
“We should not have that and as I said before what the government should do is; it should have been all part of the plan of reopening,” he said.
“When I keep talking about the reopening wisely, it would have been wise of the government to have named the testing centers, accredited agencies to administer tests and issue them.
“That may not eradicate attempts of forgery, but it certainly will reduce the opportunity because if the test is not issued from the accredited agency — that is accredited because the government has said if you are coming to The Bahamas your COVID test should come from agencies ‘A,B,C,D and E’ in these areas; otherwise you cannot come in. It helps to eliminate that possibility of forging documents.”
Davis also suggested an expanded partnership with US authorities to implemented a pre-clearance system of health visas in the departure country.
“If you set up in Miami for example, a pre-clearance system, they will know whether they can come at the border, before they embark, instead of embarking at then being told when you land that you have to go back.”
Asked about the resources to ensure the additional check, Davis said Bahamian officials could be stationed at the airline counter or with permission from US authorities could establish a kiosk for the pre-clearance to take place.
The ministries of tourism and health, as well as the Department of Immigration provide oversight and ensure travelers submit and present appropriate forms, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Delon Brennen.