REGIME CHANGE: Travel health visa to be revamped on October 1

REGIME CHANGE: Travel health visa to be revamped on October 1

Health visa requirements likely to remain in place for visitors

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The existing health travel visa, which began under the former administration, will undergo a regime change on October 1, according to Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis.

The newly elected prime minister advised that the intention is for Bahamians to travel freely without cost while a fee for visitors remains.

Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in June promised to end the travel health visa requirements for Bahamians and visitors if elected.

Davis previously called the travel health visa, which was rolled out in November 2020, a “burdensome, unnecessary tax on Bahamians at a time of widespread economic pain”.

On Friday, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Michael Darville announced several amendments to the Bahamas travel health visa, notably that it is no longer required for inter-island travel and visa fees for all returning Bahamian citizens and residents have been removed.

But there were reports that applicants of the health travel visa were still being requested to pay over the weekend.

To this, Davis said: “We understand that there has to be some technical adjustments to the web process to enable us to achieve the objective which we set out to do and we hope to be able to have that all sorted by the 1st of October, at which time you perhaps will see a complete, new regime as well.”

When asked if this signaled a doing away with the health travel visa requirement, Davis said: “We’re doing away with the costing. We’re doing away with travel visas for Bahamians. That’s my objective, but it will probably remain in place for the visitors.”

The travel health visa was placed under the spotlight earlier this year amid assertions that the Minnis administration awarded the contract for the program based on political affiliation — an accusation that the former administration and online payment retailer Kanoo have rejected.

At last report, the travel health visa collected around $10 million, of which 82 percent derived from visitors, with $2.4 million in surplus after expenses.

As it relates to travel, fully vaccinated individuals and children ages two through 11 traveling to The Bahamas must still obtain a negative COVID-19 test — RT-PCR or rapid antigen — within five days of arriving.

Prior to August 6, fully vaccinated individuals were exempted from the COVID testing requirement, but the former administration amended the emergency orders amid concerns about more contagious COVID strains such as the delta variant, which has been confirmed as the predominant variant in The Bahamas.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.