NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday announced plans to introduce a penalty of $1,000 or one month in jail for individuals who do not comply with the new policy mandating travelers to the country take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test on the fifth day.
Minnis defended the new international travel policy, telling Eyewitness News the country’s COVID-19 response could not be compared to other islands in the region, like Barbados.
He said he believed the November 1 travel policy will be effective, adding the tourism minister said he was shocked by the level of response yesterday.
“It’s going to be slow, the numbers are going to be slow. Now D’Aguilar sent me a WhatsApp at 5am (Sunday). He said they are shocked at the amount of tourists who are applying to come, who want to come.”
The new international travel policy was announced by Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar on Saturday.
All travelers require a health visa, a negative RT-PCR test (taken within five days), and are required to take a rapid antigen test on the fifth day.
If the antigen test is positive, the individual will be required to follow up with a COVID-19 RT-PCR swab test.
During an interview with Eyewitness News, Minnis said: “Once you come in with the RT PCR then you must have a test done on the fifth day. Now remember the health visa has provisions in it, you would have paid for that test in advance.
“But if you don’t do the test, then the penalty is $1,000 or one month. Now they have not sent the law to me, this is what I told them to put in the law. So I have not seen it yet so that I can sign it, but I’m telling you what I told them. And I’m telling you why that was done, because those who reject your society and your system they will comply, they already paid for it, and the hotel is not going to endanger themselves by having you not do the test.”
He said: “But the Bahamian invariably, though he may have paid the $20, he will disappear. He may not want to come and therefore it is essential for you to protect your society and close all possible windows.”
Minnis explained the 14-day quarantine period is still in effect for anyone that travels from New Providence or has transited on the island for more than 24 hours.
“The one thing I want you to point out there is no discrimination,” he said.
“If you are in transit, be you Bahamian or foreigner, 24 hours transit, then it’s just no quarantine. You do the test on the fifth day in that particular island that you went.”
“The international is completed, the domestic is not completed,” Minnis added.
“There is absolutely no discrimination, an individual in transit (in New Providence) once there is less than 24 hours then they can move on to their destination and they only repeat the test in five days just as if they had stayed in Nassau and there is no quarantine. If they are beyond that then they are subjected to the domestic regulations until it is done.”
The country’s first wave, which spanned between mid-March and the end of June, saw 104 cases.
The borders remained closed during that period and opened on July 1 to international commercial carriers.
As of yesterday, total infections stood at 6,735.
Of those cases, 2,045 remain active, while 4,493 cases or 66 percent have recovered.
The total number of confirmed deaths stands at 146.
Yesterday, Minnis pointed out the country was more like the United States with “multiple states” than Barbados, which has a single landmass.
“We’re not one landmass and therefore we have to write policies for all these different landmass,” he said.
Minnis continued: “The problem is The Bahamas is one of the first countries to go into the second wave. You go and look at the data. Bahamians throw us in the second wave sooner than everybody else, Britain and all of them going in the second wave.
“They are now doing what we have already done. Check and see what they’re doing. Britain, they’re closing all restaurants, no outdoor, they closing all bars, no indoor stores or whatever. Germany the same thing, France the same thing, Ireland the same thing, Spain the same thing, so they are following us. People need to get all of that in their head.
He added: “Now people would say what about Barbados? Barbados is one landmass, it’s easy to control one landmass as opposed to the 50 or so what we have.”
On Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a month-long lockdown as the country passed its 1 millionth COVID-19 case mark.
The UK lockdown begins on Thursday and is set to last until December 2.