“NOT WORKABLE”: Govt pursuing alternative plans for passport collection after COVID outbreak at office

“NOT WORKABLE”: Govt pursuing alternative plans for passport collection after COVID outbreak at office
The Passport Office on New Providence. (BIS PHOTO/DEREK SMITH)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS  — There is expected to be a slowdown in the processing of passports for collection following a COVID-19 outbreak at the Passport Office on Thompson Boulevard, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield yesterday.

Officials advised on Sunday that the office would be closed on Monday and Tuesday after several employees tested positive for COVID-19 and one died.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield.

Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet on the matter yesterday, Henfield noted that the Passport Office’s collection area was overwhelmed due to the normal summer demand and pent-up demand for travel.

He noted there were gatherings at the Passport Office that were “not workable” in the COVID-19 climate.

As a result, Henfield advised that the government is looking for alternative sites for passport drop-off and collection amidst the closures, which he said “are going to slow down the process because they impact personnel”.

“Despite the automated process we have, we still need personnel to produce the booklets and to do other things that are necessary in the office,” Henfield said.

The ministry said in its statement on Sunday that it was adopting innovative approaches to maintain the efficient processing and issuing of passports, particularly through its online renewal portals, should there be a further delay in these services after the 48-hour closure of the Thompson Boulevard office.

The ministry advised that to meet the compounded demand, some aspects of service may be taken off-site.

In addition, the Passport Office will soon introduce an appointment system to deal with first-time applicants, in an attempt to better regulate the traffic accessing these services.

Health officials confirmed 81 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the number of cases in the country to 13,685, with 1,194 active.

There are currently 83 people in hospital — 70 of those cases are moderately ill and 13 are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).