NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced this morning the government will facilitate the return of more than 200 Bahamians, who have been stuck abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I advise all those individuals who want to travel home that they should contact the consul general in Miami so as they can be informed as to when they would be brought home,” Minnis told Parliament.
“And Mr. Speaker, I will speak more about the protocols at a later time, but I would say at this time that all those individuals would be quarantined in designated facility and that facility will be guarded and protected by the defence force. And any individual who breaches the boundaries of the defence force will be fined up to $20,000 or five years imprisonment or both.
“So Mr. Speaker, I can say we are bringing people home.”
On March 27, the government announced a nationwide shutdown, closing the country to all incoming passengers in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in The Bahamas.
Since the closure of the borders, the government has repeatedly indicated that it does not plan to send emergency flights to pick up Bahamians stranded abroad.
However, empty flights have been able to come into the country under strict guidelines to pick up passengers and leave.
As of today, for example, a private shared charter flight was available from Exuma to Fort Lauderdale.
Earlier this month, 45 British visitors, short-term residents and their direct dependents were flown home from The Bahamas, along with 150 others from the Cayman Islands.
Last month, the government chartered a plane to Jamaica to bring back 61 Bahamian students studying in the region.
In late March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised all Bahamians living abroad who were either in distress or seeking to return home to contact the respective embassy, high commission or honorary consulate office.
After significant pushback, another 14 Bahamian students stuck in Barbados were able to board a Bahamasair flight from St. Lucia, which transported Cuban medical professionals to the country to assist in the delivery of care.
When the Chinese government locked down Wuhan — the once epicentre of the virus — on January 23, the Bahamian government did not charter flights to bring over the 100 Bahamians in the city, back to The Bahamas.
Those who did return, did so on their own volition and were quarantined for 14-days.
There have been 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Nearly 800 people remain in quarantine.
Twenty-two people have recovered.
Another nine people have died.
The statement of emergency, 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdowns remain in effect until May 30.