“We are leveling the playing field” — says AG
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government is expected to release an amendment to the latest emergency order that will block hotels from accepting guests who do not have a negative COVID-19 test.
This comes as local hotels have been advertising special rates and weekend packages for Bahamians and residents for several weeks.
The Ministry of Tourism acknowledged the offers in a statement yesterday, adding that “weekend lockdowns are being implemented for the sole purpose of curbing further spread of COVID-19”.
The ministry stated: “No hotel or resort is permitted to allow any guest – whether an international traveler or a Bahamian resident – to remain within its property without a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test.
“…In addition, as a reminder, all hoteliers are responsible for ensuring that physical distancing and mask-wearing requirements under emergency Powers (COVID-19 Pandemic) (No 3) Order 2020 are carried out.”
Attorney General Carl Bethel explained authorities are seeking to “avoid contagion” in an interview with Eyewitness News yesterday.
Bethel explained that since hotels have been declared “quarantine sites”, people are only allowed to go if they have a negative COVID-19 test.
He said visitors will go in for their mandatory quarantine, so others need to have a clear COVID-19 test in order to access any amenity.
“The rationale is simply to avoid contagion,” Bethel said.
“If you wish to go to a place where there is a mass gathering in a resort, you must have a COVID-19 negative test because everyone there – except for the workers who are the most vulnerable in this – every other guest has a COVID negative test in order to be there.
“We are just leveling the playing field and we have been non-discriminatory. The whole theme of the COVID (3) order is to set one standard for all.”
The attorney general insisted that the measure is not targeting anybody.
“We have adopted the principle of non-discrimination,” he said.
“We will not discriminate for the purposes of the enforcement of the orders.
“There is no special treatment for any category of persons, whether they are Bahamian, residents, or visitors.
“…These are non-discrimination policies. It’s the same treatment and the competent authority was adamant about this; that it’s the same treatment for everybody.
Eyewitness News spoke to one hotelier just minutes after the statement was reported.
That hotelier, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed disappointment and shock over the announcement, indicating that they were not advised prior.
Pointing to current travel challenges and the new restrictions on locals, the owner said: “Are you now saying we must close down?”
Among hotels advertising special resident rates included Warwick Paradise Island, Breezes Resort Bahamas All Inclusive, and the Courtyard Marriott.
Bethel said he was not aware of the number of bookings or extent of advertising undertaken by hotels.
“We are not responsible for that because nobody has a right to go into a quarantine site,” he said.
The Emergency Powers (COVID-19 Pandemic) (No 3) Order 2020 was released on Monday, and provides for hotels to be considered as an appropriate quarantine facility for visitors and legal residents.
The amended order was not released up to press time.
Bethel said the amendment will deal with specific provisions governing inter-island travel, its limitations, and access to hotel properties and amenities.