NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Betsy Dingman, a Bahamian philanthropist and Lyford Cay resident, returned to The Bahamas last week from California after being stuck in the United States for five weeks.
Dingman, the founder of the Historic Charles Towne, is the wife of the late Michael Dingman, a lifetime achievement award winner, investor and philanthropist.
He died in October 2017 at the age of 86.
Her return to The Bahamas comes amid controversy surrounding former Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands approving several Americans, who are permanent residents of The Bahamas, to disembark a plane last Wednesday, despite the closure of The Bahamas’ borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sands resigned over the matter, accepting he breached protocol.
Today, Dingman made clear she was not among those passengers and her return, which she said followed the “right protocol”, had nothing to do with the matter.
She told Eyewitness News she travelled alone sometime last week.
She was tested in California for COVID-19 before travelling and retested when she arrived in The Bahamas.
Both tests were negative.
Dingman has been in self-quarantine in her Lyford Cay home since returning.
She said she was thankful to return and has strictly adhered to quarantine guidelines.
Dingman did not provide specifics as to her travel route or who specifically approved her return.
“I was grateful that I came home,” she said. “[I] filed the right papers and got the right protocol — went through the chain of command — so, I have nothing to do with that other thing apparently the same day, or the day before or the day after. I don’t know that.”
When pressed about her approval to return to The Bahamas, Dingman said: “It was very much in protocol. I would never do anything out of protocol, ever. I never have my entire life.”
The government announced a nationwide shutdown and closing of the borders on March 27.
Last week Monday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the government will facilitate the return of Bahamians stuck abroad, advising all individuals who wish to travel home to “contact the consul general in Miami so as they can be informed as to when they would be brought home”.
More than 200 Bahamians were stuck in Florida alone.
This week, the prime minister said legal residents of The Bahamas with a home in the country and citizens will be permitted entry via air travel to New Providence of Grand Bahama unless approved otherwise.
Each person is required to obtain a COVID-19 test prior to returning and upon arrival be quarantined for 14 days in either a government facility or self-quarantine.
Today, Captain Charles Beneby, director of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority, said his office has received a number of applications from Bahamians wishing to return home.
He did not provide an exact number or whether any had been approved as yet.
“We’ve had a couple of them,” he told Eyewitness News.
“The general provision is that Bahamians are now to return home, provided that they have had a valid COVID-19 test, not older than seven days, and they would have to undergo some kind of quarantine — a 14-day quarantine.
“Now, whether it is going to be mandatory or whether it is going to be voluntary is still up in the air a little bit, but we are certainly moving towards allowing persons to come in,” said Beneby, adding that returning Bahamians will not travel of commercial flights, which are still unauthorized, but on a charter or private plane.
To date, there have been 89 confirmed cases of the virus in The Bahamas.
Eleven people have died.
Twenty-six people have recovered.
At last report, there were over 800 people in quarantine.
Nearly 1,500 people have been tested.