NASSAU, BAHAMAS — “We could not wait to come and see your beautiful beaches,” said Joannah Baboun, who travelled to The Bahamas from Mexico with her family yesterday as the first wave of visitors entered the country with the resumption of commercial carriers.
Flanked by her two daughters who were visibly smiling behind their masks, Baboun said she travelled to The Bahamas because she felt the country was safe.
“We know that you’re safe,” she told reporters outside the international arrivals terminal of Lynden Pindling International Airport.
“We’re safe. We were all tested before we take the plane.
“All the measurements are super responsible.
“It was difficult because you need to get tested again. We have been tested many times because we want to know we’re safe.
“To know that the country is asking you to be safer and to have the time to do the test and be isolated and then come to a safer place, it is worth it.”
Baboun said the traveling experience was vastly different to the norm, with constant checks and assessments; mandatory hand sanitization, temperature scans and social distancing, even at checkpoints with officials.
“If you have patience and you want to come out, you can do it, and it’s worth it for sure,” she added.”
“We love The Bahamas.”
Nassau Airport Development (NAD) Company officials projected 500 international visitors to arrive in The Bahamas Wednesday.
Several visitors who spoke to Eyewitness News travelled from Fort Lauderdale — an emerging epicenter for the virus as cases surge across the state and others, including Arizona and Texas.
Jaime Galinda, who travelled from Fort Lauderdale, said he travelled to the country out of necessity and planned to overnight. He too underwent a COVID test prior to traveling, though his stay was less than 72 hours.
“It was very efficient,” he said.
“I went and took the test, emailed it and within 10 minutes I had a response with approval.
“It was very well organized. It was very good.
When asked whether he was concerned about a resurgence of cases in The Bahamas as a result of the influx of visitors, particularly from the United States, Galinda said: “But it’s everywhere. Young people are not listening.
“They are the ones who are getting sick and they are just not listening.
“You wear the mask and you space yourself; you have no problems.”
Galinda also said he has no concerns about wearing a mask throughout his stay.
On Monday, the prime minister reminded the public that both tourists and residents will face heavy fines for failure to wear a face mask — $200 and/or one month in prison.
Beaches and parks reopened on New Providence, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama on Monday, but straw vendors and jet ski operators cannot resume operations until July 23.
A curfew also remains in place between 10pm and 5am until the end of July.
Jim Swartzell, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, said he intends to stay in The Bahamas for the next 30 days.
“I work on a livable dive boat,” he explained.
“I just came back to start doing charters again. Hopefully, it will all work out.”
He continued: “Everything worked fine. You guys have got it down.”
Swartzell said he was tested for the virus at CVS pharmacy.
The pharmacy established over 100 locations across the US offering COVID-19 testing since May.
He said those results were submitted to the government of The Bahamas for approval, and requested by airport officials to board the plane.
Luke Skipper of Fort Lauderdale said he works on yachts in The Bahamas and was looking forward to returning to work for the next 90 days before departing.
He suggested obtaining the negative test and health visa was tedious, but more than understandable.
According to Skipper, the flight he arrived on was around half full.
“A lot of us had our own seats,” he said.
“It wasn’t too bad. They made it pretty easy.”
A visitor, who identified himself as Demetri, said while there were “some concerns” related to entering the country, he and the members of his group were pre-screened, temperature checked and assessed upon entering The Bahamas.
“I think it is pretty organized,” he said.