NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A group of seven Bahamians were repatriated from Kingston, Jamaica, on Monday, without being tested for COVID-19, according to an approval letter from the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA).
The letter, dated May 14, was signed by BCAA Director General Captain Charles Beneby and addressed to Paul Aranha, president of Trans Island Airways, and the flight’s pilot.
“It is understood that the person in question may not be in possession of a valid PCR COVID-19 molecular swab test and as such it is understood that said test will be administered by the Ministry of Health officials upon arrival in Nassau,” Beneby wrote.
“It is understood that all necessary approvals from other relevant agencies have been obtained by you.”
Eyewitness News understands that all seven individuals are currently being quarantined in a government facility.
The latest approval comes amidst ongoing criticism over the government’s repatriation protocols and weeks-long controversy over the protocol breach that led to the resignation of former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.
Sands resigned following the revelation that six American permanent residents were allowed to disembark a plane along with a donation of COVID-19 test swabs amidst the country’s border closure.
In a national address on May 3, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis characterized the entry as a breach of protocol.
At the time, the prime minister clarified that citizens and legal residents would be permitted entry into The Bahamas via air travel, after making contact with the nearest Bahamas Embassy or Consulate to them.
He said aircraft and airlines carrying such individuals are required to make flight applications in the normal course to the Department of Civil Aviation and each person will be required to obtain an RT-PCR COVID 19 test prior to returning, unless otherwise approved to have the test administered upon arrival.
The Bahamas began repatriating Bahamians from Florida earlier this month, making it mandatory for those individuals to receive a COVID-19 test before being allowed on the flight to return to The Bahamas.
Minnis advised last week that prior to the first repatriations round of repatriations, a total of 12 people had entered the country amid the strict border lockdown – the six Americans and six other individuals under authorized circumstances.