The Bahamas has reversed its original decision by announcing that tourists visiting after July 1st will have to be tested for COVID-19.
The country has announced they will officially open up its borders on July 1st to tourism. Originally, travelers would not be required to take a test or quarantine as long as they had not been exposed to the virus shown any symptoms.
This drew criticism from the former Health Minister, Dr. Duane Sands, who resigned after a public dispute with the Prime Minister. He urged Parliament to do more COVID-19 testing, not less.
“Data suggests that many are hoping for a sun, sand and sea vacation after the dreary lockdowns. But they also want to be safe. Is the housekeeper, maître d’, taxi driver or hair braider COVID safe? We cannot leave this up to chance,” Sands said.
“As we open up Eleuthera, Exuma and the other islands, let us be mindful that we are doing so blindly. Surveillance must be undergirded with testing,” he said. “Many carriers of COVID-19 are asymptomatic or have atypical symptoms.”
The government has apparently headed Dr. Sands’ warning. Minister of Tourism and Aviation D’Aguilar announced to Parliament this week that a negative COVID-19 test will now be required for all visitors arriving after July 1st.
“There has been much concern expressed about the re-opening of the country to foreign visitors — allowing them and Bahamians returning home, after 1 July, to enter the country without, I repeat without, some form of testing to determine their COVID-19 status,” D’Aguilar said. “The Bahamas, which now requires a COVID 19 test to enter the country up to July 1, will also require a COVID-19 after July 1.”
The Bahamas is in a tough spot as far as reopening goes. Tourism plays a vital role in the nation’s economy, and many areas have been hit hard due to the shutdown. The country needs foreign visitors to restart the economy, however there are legitimate health concerns. Restarting tourism may end up causing a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“With the reopening of businesses in all 50 states and the protests that have been taking place in many of the major cities throughout the US, most states are now reporting spikes in the number of positive results from COVID 19 tests,” D’Aguilar said. “Given the spike in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in the United States and the uncertainty surrounding just how many cases will require hospitalization, the government of the Bahamas has decided to maintain the current status quo until further notice.”
So far hotels and airports in the Bahamas have already announced new policies to protect the health and safety of locals and visitors. However, the Family Islands are particularly vulnerable once tourists start flooding in. Access to healthcare is limited and an outbreak in these regions could be disastrous. Hopefully, requiring a negative test will provide everyone with an extra layer of protection.
All visitors will need to fill out the following health form and attach a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival.
Bahamas Travel Health Card: https://travel.gov.bs/over_seas/new