NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A Family Island businessman is urging the government to “exercise more empathy” with Family Islanders needing to travel to New Providence, arguing that the cost of an RT-PCR test in addition to other travel expenses is proving a “heavy burden”.
His comments come as nine people, including a 17-year-old juvenile, were arraigned in the Magistrate’s Court on Monday for possessing and uttering forged coronavirus test results while attempting to travel to the Family Islands from New Providence.
Long Island businessman Mario Cartwright told Eyewitness News: “Family Islanders are traveling to Nassau only when it’s necessary. I really think that the government needs to exercise more empathy in this regard because every time you need to travel to Nassau, that’s almost $200 on top of your regular travel expenses.
“If you look at many of the Family Islands, COVID-19 cases are almost non-existent and I think the government should take a look at that requirement.
“It’s really a heavy burden on Family Islanders, especially when their economies are already very weak. If people think it’s bad in Nassau, imagine some of the Out Islands.”
Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper has previously raised the issue over the additional cost burden placed on inter-island travelers, noting that the $25 required health visa in addition to a negative RT-PCR molecular test to travel to the Family Islands from Nassau and Grand Bahama was a challenge.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar noted yesterday that health officials have determined the test is necessary to travel from New Providence and Grand Bahama.
“It is absolutely critical that we prevent as best we can any growth in COVID cases in the Family Islands because the health facilities just do not exist to provide adequate care,” D’Aguilar said outside of Cabinet.
“The government is taking the advice they are provided in order to prevent it. I know it’s costly. I know it’s annoying. I know that everybody is fatigued, but we cannot allow for an uptick to happen.”