As COVID-19 cases escalate in what is now being called the third wave and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reinstates (CDC) The Bahamas on its Level 4 travel warning, the president of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) yesterday said the country has come too far to veer off course at this critical stage.
Robert “Sandy” Sands urged workers in the tourism sector to remain vigilant, so as not to jeopardize the positive steps taken so far to help the sector rebound.
“I have personally spoken to taxi drivers, tour operators, owners and operators of small, medium and large businesses who are so grateful that business is coming back, so happy to return to work and provide for their families once again,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“We cannot allow apathy or COVID-19 fatigue to jeopardize all that we have accomplished, the sacrifices made by so many. Hope is on the horizon, we need to continue to be vigilant in our efforts to combat this virus.”
A Level 4 warning from the CDC advises travelers to avoid all travel to The Bahamas.
Although visitors entering the country have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, lower cases have bode well for The Bahamas in the past few months as tourism officials highlighted the country as a safe place to travel.
As a result, visitor arrivals more than doubled in March, compared to December when major hotels reopened.
In December, there were significantly fewer new cases of COVID-19 – in the double digits, weekly. There have been more than 600 new cases so far this month alone.
Sands said The Bahamas had been taking steps in the right direction with the rollout of vaccines and this new travel notice by the CDC “was not a step in the direction The Bahamas wants to go”.
“The BHTA, our private and public sector tourism partners continue to emphasize how vital it is that we do not let our guard down. The measures we have deployed thus far have worked in our favor: social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, to name a few. Now is not the time to celebrate a victory because we have not crossed the finish line,” he said.
“We can and will get there, but we must continue to deploy practicable, common-sense steps; adhere to proven protocols and comply with rules and regulations put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. These, along with a robust vaccination strategy, are key to our ability to avoid the massive resurgence so many countries are facing right now.
“We have come too far to veer off course at this critical stage in our journey to a full and sustained recovery.”
The CDC had dropped The Bahamas to a Level 3 – which advised that travelers avoid nonessential travel – in January.
More than 15,000 residents have been vaccinated with one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine since the country received its first batch last month.
To date, more than 9,700 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in The Bahamas.