PM: Bahamas to allow fully vaccinated travelers to bypass PCR testing requirement

PM: Bahamas to allow fully vaccinated travelers to bypass PCR testing requirement
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis speaks in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. (BIS PHOTO/ULRIC WOODSIDE)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced eased travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers as the government seeks to expand its vaccination program across the archipelago.

He announced that fully vaccinated individuals — after receiving the second dose of the vaccine — will be immediately exempted from RT-PCR testing when traveling domestically.

He also announced that effective May 1, international travelers will be exempted from RT-PCR testing once they have been fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period — in line with CDC guidelines.

He said individuals who have not been fully vaccinated will still be required to obtain a negative RT-PCR test to enter The Bahamas.

According to the prime minister, this will greatly assist the nation and its ability to curb COVID-19 infections.

He pointed out that numerous Family Islands have not recorded COVID-19 cases in several months.

Additionally, Minnis said effectively immediately, the curfew on mainland Abaco will be changed from 8pm through 5am, to 10pm through 5am.

The prime minister also advised Parliament that fully vaccinated individuals will be able to interact in closed environments once all individuals in that group have received the required doses of the vaccine.

He also noted that indoor dining will be able to resume for fully vaccinated individuals.

He said this will also apply to cultural events and other activities such as work in the Junkanoo shacks and weddings.

As the prime minister again urged residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine, he acknowledged complaints concerning the cost of RT-PCR tests.

However, he said the measure for travel has been necessary to prevent further infections on the Family Islands.

He maintained: “We are at war with the COVID virus.”

The Bahamas has vaccinated approximately 22,000 people to date.

There has been a sustained rise in COVID-19 cases in the last several weeks.

The increase is cases has been attributed to international travel and relaxed adherence to the health measures.

New strains of the virus in The Bahamas are also said to be causing an increase in infections.

Countries across the globe, many of which continue to battle variant strains, remain under varying restrictive measures, particularly in Europe, as the jurisdictions race to vaccinate their citizens.

Quoting National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee Chairperson Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, the prime minister said: “Dr Dahl-Regis noted that we are in a race against time and that the pandemic is not over.

“COVID-19 is continuously presenting new challenges and at this time, vaccinations alone will not get us out of this pandemic.

“We must simultaneously address the increase in cases, the identification of resistant strains and adhere to the public health measures if we are to win this race and return to a sense of normalcy.”

The prime minister expressed concern about breaches of the emergency orders and said health guidelines must be adhered to in order to “conquer” the pandemic.

“We are truly in a race to the finish line against this virus and whoever reaches the finish line first [will be] victorious,” he said.

“The virus and the vaccine, [we] are in a 100-meter race. The virus is occupying lane number three and the vaccine is occupying lane number four. The government will do all it can to obtain the vaccine…and to ensure proper rollout of the vaccine via its populous. That’s lane number four.”

But the prime minister noted that the people and their behavior, and not the government, “control lane number three”.

He said breaches of the orders, such as partying and ignoring the curfew, will aid the virus.