Not enough COVID-19 tests for all travel card applicants

Not enough COVID-19 tests for all travel card applicants

NASSAU BAHAMAS — There are not enough COVID-19 tests in country to screen each applicant for the government’s inter-island travel card program, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen.

Brennen was responding to questions placed by Eyewitness News about the risk assessment that will guide authorization for individuals to travel throughout the country by plane or boat.

Bahamians and residents outside the country will need to present a negative COVID-19 test in order to board any repatriation flights.

However, Brennen explained there are not enough tests in the country to mandate individuals obtain a negative test before becoming eligible for the inter-island travel card.

He said the risk assessment will determine whether an individual will need testing or not.

During a national address, Prime Minister and temporary Health Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the process to obtain a COVID-19 travel card will begin on Wednesday.

To be eligible, the evaluation will include a risk assessment via a questionnaire to determine the individual’s level of risk for COVID-19 infection.

It may include a further physical exam by a government-approved doctor in the public or private sector.

Minnis explained that individuals will be deemed low risk or high risk following the evaluation; however, he said a physician can still flag an individual for testing at any risk level.

On Friday, Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis said while the government’s testing capacity is in a better position from the start of the outbreak, there are still challenges given its stock and ability to order more.

“We are particularly concerned that although we have adequate supplies in stock this time to follow the advancement of testing for vulnerable populations, we must always be alert and concerned about having a reserved stock, given that there are global shortages, and when we ran into the difficulties earlier, our backorders were exceeding two months,” she said.

Dahl-Regis warned that authorities have to proceed cautiously.

She added that as significant progress is being made with the number of new cases, the country should be in a good position for a “prescribed period of time”.

In the first phase of the COVID-19 travel card program, residents of Family Islands who have been stuck in the capital will be allowed to return home.

Minnis announced residents on uninfected islands will be able to travel between those islands without a COVID card.

Residents from uninfected islands will also be able to travel to New Providence or Grand Bahama, but will need to complete the evaluation process to return.

The prime minister maintained that weekday curfews and lockdown measures remain in place for reopened islands, alongside physical distancing and the mandatory use of face masks.