NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamians locked out abroad will begin to return this weekend following a ‘protocol breach’ that saw six people enter the country despite the border shutdown.
At a press conference last week, Health minister Dr Duane Sands said health officials were blindsided by a last minute request to allow two American permanent residents to disembark a plane with a donation of COVID-19 test kits and swabs.
However, during a national address today, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis revealed a family of six were allowed to disembark the flight that landed in New Providence on Wednesday.
The prime minister characterized the entry as a breach of protocol, adding that the group tested negative for COVID-19 and remain under mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Last week, Sands said details were limited, but took responsibility for making the decision.
Minnis said Sands is expected to issue a statement on the matter tomorrow.
“Let me be clear about the protocol for Bahamians and residents wishing to return to The Bahamas,” Minnis said.
“Citizens and legal residents of The Bahamas, the latter with a home in The Bahamas, will be permitted entry into The Bahamas via air travel to New Providence or Grand Bahama unless approved otherwise.
“Those individuals in these categories are to make contact with the nearest Bahamas Embassy or Consulate to them.”
On Monday, Minnis announced in the House of Assembly that officials had made arrangements for the return of hundreds of Bahamians.
Today, he said aircraft and airlines proposing to carry such individuals are required to make flight applications in the normal course to the Department of Civil Aviation.
Each person will be required to obtain a RT-PCR COVID 19 molecular diagnostic test from an accredited lab prior to returning, unless otherwise approved to have the test administered upon arrival, he said.
Minnis noted some people in Florida have indicated difficulties in obtaining the diagnostic test, adding the government is working to help facilitate them.
Test results and contact details should be submitted to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health.
Returning individuals will be placed in mandatory quarantine at a government facility or at home, and will be subjected to mandatory verification monitoring.
Minnis underscored those who break quarantine, or violate the quarantine order, face a $20,000 fine or five years imprisonment, or both.
“This will be strictly enforced,” he said.