High-risk travelers will be denied entry

High-risk travelers will be denied entry
Courtesy of Grand Bahama Island Board (file photo)

Multiple levels of screening to minimize risk of resurgence

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Health and tourism authorities yesterday said there are multiple levels of screening to determine the risk of a traveler, who could be restricted from entering the country if determined to be high-risk.

Officials explained the risk stratification as The Bahamas welcomes international travelers, including those from COVID-19 hotspots such as Florida.

A negative PCR test within seven days of travel is required to enter The Bahamas up to July 7.

Thereafter, the negative PCR test result must be obtained within seven days of travel.

While the European Union and other countries, including Canada have restricted Americans from traveling to their countries due to the surge of cases, Dahl-Regis said The Bahamas’ methodology focuses on the individual’s risk and not specifically the country.

Ministry of Health Senior House Officer Dr Cherita Moxey said the introduction of the virus cannot be eliminated, but as much as possible the risk can be reduced.

Ministry of Health PHA Senior House Officer Dr. Cherita Moxey

To this end, travelers, as part of their health assessment are given a risk assessment score.

She said various satisfiers have been identified to rate a traveler as a higher or lower risk level in addition to the negative testing requirement.

These variables include a passenger traveling from a country with high cases of the virus;

“As we look at what is going on in the international space and the global space we take all of that into consideration,” she said.

“But as Director General [Joy] Jibrilu indicated, the mechanism that we have working in the background is quite a robust one that takes in several different variables, several different factors that identify high-risk travelers, who will not receive a health visa; those medium risk travelers and those low-risk travelers.”

Dahl-Regis said the risk level associated with a passenger has also been color coordinated with red, amber, green and purple.

According to officials, purple denotes an exempted Bahamian or resident.

Bahamians, residents and homeowners returning from English-speaking CARICOM countries; children under the age of two; private pilots who do not deplane, and Bahamians and legal residents travelling out of the country for fewer than 72-hours, are exempted from testing.

However, these categories of travelers will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to The Bahamas.

Dahl-Regis said most visitors will not be required to quarantine upon arrival, however, travelers who exhibit symptoms of the virus will be separated from other passengers, assessed by a surveillance nurse, and could be required to quarantine for a period.

She said the “kinks” were still being worked on and within another couple of days, the system, which has experienced a lot of traffic, will be tested widely.

“Our teams at the Ministry of Tourism, actually at the site of Ministry of Tourism. We have teams at the airport, additional resources at the airport to support immigrations and customs should they have some difficultly with interpreting the test results or the risk categorization,” Dahl-Regis said.

Dahl-Regis said notwithstanding the flattening of the curve, The Bahamas is “not out of the woods”.

She encouraged residents to limit non-essential travel unless “absolutely necessary”, advising that popular destinations Bahamians enjoy have become hotspots for the coronavirus.

“The probability of traveling and coming back home with a coronavirus infection is very high,” she said.

As of Thursday, the total number of confirmed cases remain at 104.

However, only four cases remain active.

There has been no new infection in New Providence in 18 days; Grand Bahama in 57 days and Bimini in 47 days.

Smooth incoming

NAD President and Chief Executive Officer said Vernice Walkine said the protocols in place at the airport have been smooth and without issue.

Vernice Walkine, NAD’s president and CEO

Six international flights arrived Wednesday from Bolton, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando, carrying around 350 visitors into The Bahamas.

Nine flights are expected on Friday, and up to 10 flights per day are scheduled to arrive by next Tuesday, with that figure growing to 29 flights per day by August.

“So far, the operation that we have organized is progressing well,” she said.

Tourism Director General Joy Jibrilu said tourism stakeholders are doing all that can be done to ensure the hard work of health officials is not undermined or compromised.

Joy Jibrilu, Director General in the Ministry of Tourism

To this end, the Ministry of Tourism trained over 8,200 industry stakeholders on the health and safety standards and protocols.

Over the next few days, another 5,000 people are expected to receive the same training.