Bahamas Consulate General Miami inundated with more than 200 calls per day
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamians in the United States who have been stuck abroad amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will have to be tested before they can board a flight home, according to Consul General in Miami Linda Treco-Mackey.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Monday that the government will facilitate the return of more than 200 Bahamians who remain in the U.S. due to the global spread of COVID-19.
Treco-Mackey told Eyewitness News today that there is currently no confirmed date for when those Bahamians will take a flight to come home.
“The government is not going to take the responsibility of putting anyone on the flight that has not been tested,” she insisted.
“…We are also not doing the rapid tests. We are doing the PCR tests which is a more accurate test and that takes three to four days to get the results.”
Treco-Mackey said the consul has been working with a lab where those Bahamians can be able to get the tests done properly.
They will also have to show proof of a return ticket to The Bahamas in order to qualify, she explained, because the humanitarian flight is only aimed for those who were legitimately stranded.
She said with things continuing to evolve daily, it’s not clear how many people will be able to go on the first flight, given the social distancing protocols being implemented on planes.
“We do know that it will happen, I would say, for sure within the next 10 days,” the consul general continued, “but we have not confirmed the date, we have not confirmed the carrier, there are still a lot of loose ends that have to be tied.”
Mackey noted the consulate is currently dealing with those who are in South Florida and Central Florida, given that that is where the bulk of the people are.
“My list in Florida for those registered when [the prime minister] spoke was already at 240. After he spoke, we are pushing to 400 in just Central and South Florida,” she revealed.
“There are calls coming in everyday. From Monday to now, every day we have an average of 250 to 300 calls a day”.
Mackey explained that most of these include both Bahamians and Bahamian residents who would have recently traveled for vacation or medical reasons.
She noted that there are even calls from a number of Bahamians who have been there since Hurricane Dorian in September.
“Some of the evacuees are now surfacing,” Mackey said.
“So now we are finding that there are more here than we were aware of and they are all trying to capitalize on this and it’s really not for those who were here prior to the shutdown.”
She said the focus and the priority of the humanitarian flights will be those who got caught up in the shutdown and students who are now having to vacate their dorms.
The consul general added that those Bahamians who are outside Florida are not being encouraged to fly into the state to catch the flight back to The Bahamas.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now putting together a policy in terms of how to best address all Bahamians throughout the world, how to address them coming home. That has not been formulated as yet…We are waiting more directives from the ministry”.
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, Bahamians worldwide have continually echoed calls for the government to let them return home.
Some Bahamians told Eyewitness News today that they have been having challenges reaching the Miami Consulate office to try to get on the flight.
However, Mackey noted that since the prime minister’s address they have been inundated with calls from all over.
“Every mission is still responsible to receive their calls and compile their lists and then we will have a collaborative effort with all of the missions later,” she said.
“The problem is we are getting calls from every jurisdiction including Europe, which is not something we can actually possibly handle.
“So we are now having our missions deal with their jurisdictions and then forward the information into headquarters.”
Mackey encouraged Bahamians abroad to reach out to the mission in their state or country first, either through phone call or email.
She once again acknowledged the challenge with getting through via calls, noting that consulate staff are answering calls as best as possible, given the limited staff at each mission.
The government is in the process of securing a designated facility for all those individuals returning home to be quarantine for 14-days. The facility will be guarded and protected by the defence force