In response to an uptick in COVID-19 cases since its reopening on July 1st, the Bahamian government is reimposing its ban on international visitors, with the exception of travellers from Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union who test negative for the virus within 10 days of travel to the Islands.
In a televised address to Bahamians this past Sunday, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis explained that his government is trying to get Bahamians back to work while limiting the spread of the virus. However, the health of the nation’s citizens remains the top priority.
“The number of deaths and confirmed cases continues to rise, with the pandemic much worse in some countries and areas of the world, including countries frequented by Bahamians,” he said. “Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy. It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders.”
According to the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 surveillance unit there have been 49 new cases of COVID-19 since the country’s borders fully opened on July 1, 2020. Sixty-three percent of those cases are in Grand Bahama, the northernmost island in the archipelago.
Battling COVID-19 requires “agility, a quick change of course when necessary and decisive action,” said Prime Minister Minnis. “You have seen from media reports that quite a few places, including countries that responded well at the outset, have had to re-impose curfews, lockdowns and other restrictions. The world will be in this cycle of opening up, reviewing community spread, and tightening up again for some time.”
In response to the new cases, the Prime Minister said the following measures would be reinstated.
- International commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers will not be permitted to enter Bahamian borders, except for commercial flights from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. Effective midnight, Wednesday, July 22, 2020.
- Bahamasair must cease outgoing flights to the United States (effective July 19). Outgoing flights permitted to accommodate visitors scheduled to leave after Wednesday, July 22.
- Private international flights and charters for Bahamians, residents and visitors will be permitted.
- Please craft and yachts will also be permitted.
- All returning Bahamians, residents and visitors by air or sea from overseas are required to have a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result from an accredited lab and must present it to immigration officials upon arrival. The test must be taken no later than 10 days before the date of travel.
- All individuals entering the country must also have an approved Health Visa to enter the country.
- Bahamians and residents returning to the country who are not in possession of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result from an accredited lab are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, via the Hubbcat Monitoring App. Travellers who do not agree to Hubbcat monitoring or whose premises are not approved by the Ministry of Health for quarantine, must quarantine at a Government-identified facility at their own expense. At the end of the quarantine period via Hubbcat or at the facility, COVID-19 testing is required, also at the traveller’s expense.
- Domestic travel is permitted. All people travelling domestically are still required to complete an electronic Health Visa prior to departure at travel.gov.bs. Any airline or commercial sea vessel that permits a passenger to board without the required Health Visa will face a fine of $500 per passenger who is not in compliance.
- Public and private beaches and parks on New Providence, Paradise Island, Rose Island, Athol Island and surrounding cays were closed as of Monday, July 20th until further notice.
- Restaurants at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay were also required to close, effective Monday, July 20th.
He also outlined measures being implemented in Grand Bahama, which after being COVID-19 free for a little over two months has experienced 31 new cases in the past two weeks, many of which have been traced to Bahamians returning to The Bahamas.
- Grand Bahama is now under a new curfew (7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. daily) and all of its public and private beaches and parks are closed until further notice.
- International and domestic borders are closed to all incoming and outgoing flights and sea vessels to and from Grand Bahama, except for emergencies and to transport essential services and goods, effective midnight Wednesday, July 22, 2020.
- Indoor dining and all Fish Fry’s have been closed again. Bars remain closed.
- No congregant activities and gatherings, including religious services, weddings, funerals and sporting activities, are allowed (effective Monday, July 20, 2020).
“The Public Health team will monitor the epidemiological situation in New Providence as it relates to the number of daily COVID-19 cases over the following 72 hours. I must tell you, if cases continue to spike and increase, my Government is prepared to implement more restrictive measures…including a lockdown beginning Friday, July 24, 2020,” said Minnis.