NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said he hopes the travel visa for certain inter-island travel will be a thing of the past soon once COVID-19 cases reach an “acceptable level” and an approved vaccine is rolled out sometime next year.
He was responding to questions from the media on what some have labeled exorbitant costs associated with traveling to other islands from New Providence and mainland Abaco, which requires a negative RT-PCR test and a travel visa.
The domestic travel visa is $25.
“We recognize the challenges of this COVID era,” the prime minister told the media following a Crown Land grant ceremony in Crossing Rocks, Abaco.
“We’re hoping that this COVID era would be over soon with these vaccines coming in and we would encourage people to continue to follow all the mitigation protocols, so as to minimize the introduction of COVID into our society.
“And once we reach a comfortable level, then that would all dissipate, so you would not require any visa or whatever.
“We are working aggressively towards that, so the more individuals comply and become disciplined with the protocols, then the sooner.
“And we are working aggressively to see that we can get the vaccine as quickly as possible, taking into consideration the vaccine would not help individuals who already have the disease or are infected.
“It would prevent individuals from becoming infected.”
Several Family Island residents, who were seeking to return home in recent days, told Eyewitness News the government’s policies consider health, but not cost and what Bahamians can afford.
There have been other concerns about the requirement to obtain a PCR COVID-19 test when traveling from a Family Island to the United States via transit through New Providence
“A lot of people are traveling and missing flights because it’s all kind of problems,” a Grand Bahamian woman said.
To enter The Bahamas or travel inter-island, a person must obtain a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test within five days of travel, a health visa and a follow-up rapid antigen test on day five of travel.
However, a person traveling from any island except New Providence or Grand Bahama to another island shall not be required to undergo an RT-PCR COVID-19 test in order to obtain a health travel visa.
According to the latest emergency orders, a person who enters The Bahamas and transits through New Providence to a Family Island within a period of fewer than 24 hours shall not be required to obtain a further travel visa.
Travel is prohibited to and from islands under lockdown, impending lockdowns and or 24-hour curfews, the order reads.
As a condition of entry into The Bahamas, travelers must self-report on their condition via a daily health questionnaire for the first 14 days of their stay and agree to be monitored by the COVID-19 enforcement unit, as well as agree to unscheduled visits from the police force.
Visitors who refuse to be monitored will be deported, while citizens or residents who refuse will be required to quarantine.
A person who is required to quarantine must do so at a government-identified facility or one deemed appropriate by the Ministry of Health.
This includes a hotel room.