Commercial travel to resume July 1
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar announced today the government will require a negative COVID-19 test for all people entering the country after July 1, when the country reopens to international travelers.
D’Aguilar noted the government has decided to maintain the status quo, amid concerns over visitors entering the country without testing and the possibility of a resurgence of infections in The Bahamas.
“What we mean by that is the government which now requires a COVID-19 test to enter the country up to July 1 will also require a COVID-19 test after July 1,” he said during his 2020/2021 budget communication.
“When we made our initial decision evidence supported the opening of the tourism sector without the test. We had the full support of the tourism sector but things have changed, the situation has become unclear and ever changing so a prudent government must reassess and readjust all decisions related to this virus as the situation evolves on the ground.”
D’Aguilar told Parliament the government is “facing a dilemma for which there is no easy decision”.
He noted the government can open the country’s borders and face a potential spike in COVID-19 cases and possible deaths or stay closed and continue to face economic hardship.
Acknowledging growing health concerns, D’Aguilar said: “There has been much concern expressed about the reopening of the country to foreign visitors, allowing them and Bahamians returning home after July 1 to enter the country without some form of testing to determine their COVID status.
“The concern expressed has been as a result of what we have all been watching on our televisions and reading on social media and in the newspapers about what is happening in the United States, the source of 82 percent of our foreign visitors, with the reopening of businesses in all 50 states and tests that have been taking place in many of the major cities across the US.”
He continued: “Most states are now reporting spikes in the number of positive results from COVID-19. This has put The Bahamas in a difficult position. On the one hand we need foreign visitors to come to our country to restart our economy; foreign visitors from the United States especially Florida, Georgia, Texas and the northeast states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts where we get the bulk of our annual visitors.
“We need them to come to restart our tourism sector and get people back to work. On the other hand here are legitimate health concerns that these very people we need could end up causing a spike in COVID cases here.”
While 2019 ended with record visitor arrivals of 7.2 million, D’Aguilar underscored COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the tourism industry.
He said the country had been on track for another “record” year with cruise arrivals up 26 percent in January and February and air arrivals down only 3.3 percent.
As of yesterday, there were 104 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, of which 21 remain active.
There have been four newly confirmed cases of the virus in the last three weeks — evidence of The Bahamas flattening the curve .