NASSAU, BAHAMAS – More than 1,000 people have submitted queries to the government’s COVID-19 Travel Card program for inter-island travel, according to health officials today.
The process to obtain a COVID-19 travel card began on Wednesday, just days after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that health officials will implement a risk assessment that will guide authorization for individuals to travel throughout the country by plane or boat.
Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros joined Inagua, Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay in reopening for commercial activity this week.
Residents on the islands not opened – including Exuma, Eleuthera, San Salvador, and The Berry Islands – have expressed concern that they were not opened for commercial travel though they had no confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis, the government’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said the government has taken a phased approach to the reopening of the Family Islands and continues to monitor the effectiveness of public health measures implemented on the island.
“The ministry will continue to participate in risk assessments to determine the eligibility of the opening of the remaining closed Family Islands,” she said.
When asked to explain the criteria that health officials are utilizing to advise of the opening of islands, Dahl-Regis noted that along with monitoring health measures, they are also taking into consideration “inter-ministerial surveillance to look at traffic flows to the islands” and the “response of the local team”.
She said local health teams on some Family Islands have requested a phased opening because of traffic from pleasure vessels.
“We use that guidance and we are planning that if these measures remain or impact the no new cases for a further period of time, that we would certainly recommend that they will be considered for reopening of commercial activity,” she added.
Pressed on which of the criteria applied on the island not taken off of the restriction list, Dahl-Regis said, “each of those islands, particularly those that receives international direct flights”.
Pointing to San Salvador which receives international flights from France and Italy, she noted, “We know that with surveillance activities, we want not to open those islands to commercial activity because that would certainly be a challenge to monitoring the activities there”.
Individuals wishing to travel from New Providence and Grand Bahama to any of the reopened islands must submit a completed application and consent forms to the Ministry of Health.
Forms are available at covid19.gov.bs or the www.bahamas.gov.bs/health websites and can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hard copies can be collected from the main security booth of the Ministry of Health or any public health clinic and returned to the Ministry of Health.
Applicants are then asked to select an approved physician for the completion of a risk and physical assessment and cooperate with the health team to conduct a home quarantine assessment.
They will then await further instructions via email or phone once the application is completed.
The application process will take up to five working days, and longer for hard copy applications.
Applicants are advised not to make travel arrangements until given official approval and any special requests will be dealt with on a case by case basis.