No negative test, no entry: Doctors weigh in on reopening Phase 2

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) yesterday raised “grave” concerns over the testing protocol for travelers once the country full reopens next month.

CPSA president Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler warned the government not to sacrifice public health due to the country’s economic dependence on tourism as doctors advocate for continued COVID-19 testing prior to travel.

“As a world renowned tourist destination, we have visitors from all over the world,” Pinder-Butler said.

“The number of cases of COVID-19 differs across the world however, recently there has been a resurgence of cases in Beijing and significant increases of new cases in the United States. The United States has consistently been our largest tourist market hence, we anticipate that a potential increase in COVID-19 cases may be inevitable as our borders reopen but would wish to mitigate this as much as possible. A surge of cases in the Bahamas can potentially devastate our strained healthcare system and will further add to the economic burden that our country faces.”

The association also requested “open and collaborative” dialogues with the acting Minister of Health, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Ministry of Health officials to ensure doctors are involved in finalizing international travel protocols to strengthen healthcare response.

“We wish to continue to have Covid free islands in the Bahamas and do not wish to see our country labelled as an unsafe destination if we are unable to contain a potential resurgence,” Pinder-Butler said.

‘Therefore, as senior doctors and frontline healthcare workers we wish to ensure that appropriate guidelines are in place so that all of the hard work, funding, and efforts invested in the past three months are not wasted.

“As we adapt and confront inevitable global challenges with modified responses that exemplify our country’s strength and resolve, it is imperative that our economic dependence on tourism does not supersede the public health principles that protect the health and welfare of our Bahamian people.

The first phase of the government’s Tourism reopening begins today will the full support of the CPSA, according to a letter penned by its president Dr Sabriquet Pinder-Butler.

“However, there is grave concern regarding Phase 2, starting July 1, 2020 as travelers coming to the Bahamas will no longer be required to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test or quarantine,” Pinder-Butler said.

“Over the past three months, the Government of the Bahamas along with the healthcare workers and residents at large have done a tremendous job in containing the spread of COVID-19 throughout the islands of the Bahamas.”

The letter continued: “Various government ministries were actively involved in combined efforts including border closures, curfews and lockdowns to ensure the health and wellbeing of our residents and visitors of the Bahamas.

The CPSA wishes to recommend continued Covid-19 testing prior to travel to the Bahamas. We further support mandated social distancing, wearing of masks, proper respiratory hygiene and routine hand sanitization as these combined efforts will assist in minimizing the potential cases of coronavirus in country. We also recommend strengthening the capacity for contact tracing and surveillance.”