Sands: Enforce follow-up testing or increase penalties

Sands: Enforce follow-up testing or increase penalties

Stiffer penalties for breaches of travel requirements may be required, says Sands

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said the government must enforce all aspects of its travel regime, including follow-up testing, to ensure The Bahamas’ safety and that those who enter the country take the health guidelines seriously.

On November 1, The Bahamas implemented a new testing regime for re-entry into the country that requires an RT-PCR COVID test no more than five days before the date of arrival, a health visa and a rapid antigen test five days after arrival in the country.

Between November 1 and November 6, there were 1,691 travelers who came into the country.

Of that number, 939 did not have follow-up testing done, including individuals who didn’t stay over the five-day period.

In an interview with Eyewitness News, Sands said: “Unless you enforce every single part of this, it is all going to fall apart.

“And so, if you say that everybody is supposed to have a test on day five, then let’s do an antigen test on everybody on day five.

“This is not optional, or whatever the penalties in law that accrue, then make sure they are enforced.

“Look at Cayman. Cayman a few days ago incarcerated a young lady for an extended period of time for going to watch a jet ski event.

“Now, is that draconian? Yes, it is. But that’s what you are going to need to do.

“There is widespread flaunting of the provisions.

“I am suggesting that we make it a part of our genetics that we are washing our hands over and over, that we are wearing the proper mask in the proper way — not under our chin, not hanging from our ear — that people are wearing them properly, that social distancing is taking place…and that whatever punitive measures that fall from people not complying with the requirement to take their COVID test at a certain time, that those punitive interventions take place.

“But if you are going to say that you are not disciplined enough to enforce what you say you are going to do, then people are going to say: ‘Well, they ain’ serious, so why should I bother? And when I leave, they ain’ ga follow-up on me; they ain’ ga put me on no stop list.’”

Asked whether travelers who fail to comply with the travel regime requirements, including follow-up testing, should be placed on a travel stop list, Sands said: “Well, you know it is how you approach the testing. You have to make it convenient. You have to make it comfortable. You have to make it something that people don’t mind doing.”