NASSAU, BAHAMAS – With confirmed cases of COVID-19 seeing a resurgence in country’s worldwide in recent weeks, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday begged Bahamians and residents to reconsider any non-essential travel abroad and encouraged domestic travel instead.
“I want to make a very strong plea to Bahamians and residents considering or planning to travel overseas for nonessential travel — to not go overseas at this time,” Minnis said, during a national address ahead of the country’s reopening on July 1.
“If you are thinking of traveling for non-essential or non-emergency reasons, please, I beg you, stay at home at this time. Please stay at home.
“A number of the cities and areas Bahamians and residents like to frequent in neighboring countries and cities are experiencing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases. Many of these are hotspots where this very contagious virus is widespread.”
The prime minister warned if Bahamians travel to those areas and visit malls, shops, restaurants, and other establishments, they could catch the virus and bring it to The Bahamas, risking the possibility of another community spread
“Let me be as clear as I can,” Minnis said, “Your actions can damage the health of others and your actions could help worsen our economy if we have to lockdown again.”
As of yesterday, there have been over 9.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 495,760 deaths.
The United States, which accounts for 82 percent of The Bahamas’ foreign visitors, currently has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, standing at over 2.45 million cases with 124,811 deaths.
Some 36 states in the U.S. have reported a rise in cases over the weekend, including Florida, which some experts have cautioned could be the next epicenter for infections.
The Bahamas will enter Phase 2 of the government’s tourism plan with the reopening of the country’s borders for international commercial flights on Wednesday.
The country, however, remains on a 10pm to 5am curfew until the end of July.
Minnis yesterday acknowledged the concern to reopen the country as a number of other countries and jurisdictions are experiencing a surge in new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
“We are reopening because we must carefully balance the health, economic and social needs of our people in order to secure our country in the medium- and long-term,” he said.
“We have to reopen to get more Bahamians back to work and to get businesses and the economy back to work.”
Bahamas entry requirements
The prime minister yesterday reiterated the government’s protocols and requirements of all individuals entering The Bahamas, which now includes a shorter window of time for required COVID-19 testing for the protection of Bahamians and residents.
All individuals, including residents and tourists, will be required to undergo an RTPCR COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test administered by an accredited lab prior to returning to The Bahamas.
As of July 7, those results must have been given no later than seven days prior to the date of arrival. However, tests that have been taken no later than 10-days prior to travel will still be accepted.
If Bahamians and residents are returning from countries where they are unable to obtain a viable test, they may be permitted entry upon clear proof, and will be subject to 14-days mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
Additionally, Bahamians and residents returning from a trip abroad over a period of 72-hours or less are exempted from having to provide a negative test result to reenter the country. However, those travelers will be quarantined for two weeks upon their return.
The period of quarantine time may be reduced in both incidents if the traveler opts to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in The Bahamas – at their own expense – and the result is negative.
Minnis also noted that all persons entering the country may be subject to thermal temperature checks and will continue to be monitored by the Ministry of Health.
There are currently 104 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, with no hospitalized cases and five active cases.
It has been 14 days since a new confirmed case has been recorded on New Providence; 53 days since a case was recorded on Grand Bahama; and 43 days since a case was recorded on Bimini.
The prime minister appealed to all Bahamians and residents to continue following health protocols as the country continues to reopen.
“Let us remember that it is about preserving the health of our people, it is about saving precious lives,” he said.
“It is also a good thing for our future economic prospects because, if we can maintain our reputation of having handled the pandemic well, then that in itself will attract visitors to The Bahamas.”
He later added, “This pandemic will not end until there is a vaccine and the majority of the world’s population is vaccinated.
“No one knows when that will happen. Disciplined countries and disciplined people will do better in the interim. Countries that don’t listen, peoples who don’t follow the rules, will catch hell.
“People who listen to their public health professionals and live by that advice will have better outcomes and fewer deaths.”