“WE HAVE TO BE MORE CAUTIOUS”: Govt hopes to mitigate virus spread with new cruise regulations, says minister

“WE HAVE TO BE MORE CAUTIOUS”: Govt hopes to mitigate virus spread with new cruise regulations, says minister

“If you want to come to The Bahamas (by cruise), you have to be vaccinated”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government is hoping to mitigate any potential spread of the COVID-19 virus from cruise passengers with its latest regulations calling for all passengers 12 and older to be fully vaccinated, according to Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

The new regulations outlined in recent emergency orders set to start on September 3, 2021, state that cruise ships must provide a crew and passenger manifest ahead of calling to the port medical officer, disclosing the vaccination status of all onboard.

All passengers 12 and older will need to be fully vaccinated, and health protocols previously submitted by the cruise line need to be approved.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar. (BIS/KEMUEL STUBBS)

The order is valid to the end of October.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines confirmed it has changed its vaccine policy for people departing from Florida to comply with the new regulations.

D’Aguilar, in an interview with Eyewitness News, said: “Basically what the government is saying is as it relates to cruise passengers coming into the Bahamas, all cruise passengers under the age of 12 must be fully vaccinated unless for some proven medical reason.

“This strengthens our heath protocols for cruise passengers and will help mitigate against (sic) any importation of the virus. It is very good for the cruise industry as well because obviously if there is an outbreak onboard a ship, it reflects poorly on the industry.

“This is really an attempt to primarily strengthen our health protocols and an offshoot of this is that it mitigates the outcomes of COVID.”

D’Aguilar noted that the government’s latest move is similar to the action taken by some of its regional counterparts. Several cruise lines have already announced that they will be offering refunds to guests who do not want to cruise to The Bahamas under the new regulations.

While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned vaccine passports back in April, D’Aguilar suggested that such a move has no effect on what restrictions this nation implements.

A US judge recently allowed Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to demand that passengers show written proof of coronavirus vaccination before they board a ship. While the cruise line won in federal court, it now faces an appeal.

D’Aguilar said: “The State of Florida can implement whatever rules they wish. The Bahamas can also implement whatever rules it wishes.

“If you want to come to The Bahamas, you have to be vaccinated. We have to be more cautious because we don’t have the healthcare infrastructure they have.”