NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government has shifted its position on a commercial travel ban, opting instead to introduce a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming travelers as reflected in the emergency orders tabled on Wednesday.
During his national address on Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the closure of the country’s borders to all incoming international commercial flights, except from Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union – to take effect on July 22.
Attorney General Carl Bethel told Eyewitness News today that the government has instead adopted a “universal standard” that will fit all countries.
He did not comment on speculation the move was due to concerted pushback from the United States.
“Commercial travel at present is permitted,” he said.
“We are not banning any country like that, we are not banning individual countries, we are setting one standard for all international persons who want to come and visit The Bahamas.
“We are placing them into mandatory quarantine enforced by police and Royal Bahamas Defence Force to ensure it is not broken. After which they will have to take a COVID-19 test, and if found to be negative and have had no symptoms, then they will be (released).”
He continued: “We’re shifting from designating countries because that can become quite burdensome. It is better to have a one-size fits all approach. So that we are not constantly having to update lists, remove countries, put countries on.
“The idea is to have a smooth uniform standard in accordance that best fit principles of the Chicago convention – which governs international aviation matters, and it allows countries to take specific measures to protect themselves from plague and epidemics, and in this case COVID-19.”
According to the Emergency Powers (Covid 19 Pandemic) (No 2) Order, 2020, Bahamians, legal residents, and visitors will be placed in mandatory government quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to the country, and at their own expense.
The traveler will then be required to undergo a RTPCR COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test at the end of the quarantine period, at their own expense.
Bahamians and residents can choose to undergo the diagnostic test while still under quarantine.
If negative, that individual can be released from quarantine and submit to mandatory monitoring using the Hubbcat platform.
According to the order, the prime minister may exempt diplomatic personnel, a person or a class of persons, from the requirement for mandatory quarantine.
The order does not include a requirement for all incoming travelers to get a COVID-19 test and health visa within 10 days prior to arrival.
Yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield told Eyewitness News the proposed travel ban would not have an impact on the geopolitical relationship between the two countries.
“I know that the Americans appreciate what we are dealing with,” Henfield told reporters outside Parliament.
“I spoke with them, my ambassador in Washington spoke with them, and they understand that we are doing all that we can to keep Bahamians safe and in doing so we are going to keep Americans safe because we are strong strategic partners and neighbors who interact with each other on a daily basis as we have been doing so for many many years.”