As The Bahamas prepares for a July 1 reopening of the borders, Consultant Physicians Staff Association (CPSA) President Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said yesterday that tourists should be required to test for COVID-19 before being allowed into the country.
Pinder-Butler said that without the requirement, a surge in cases could devastate the healthcare system and add to economic hardship.
“…Recently there has been a resurgence of cases in Beijing and significant increases of new cases in the United States,” she said in a statement.
“The United States has consistently been our largest tourist market. Hence, we anticipate that a potential increase in COVID-19 cases may be inevitable as our borders reopen, but [we] would wish to mitigate this as much as possible.
“A surge of cases in The Bahamas can potentially devastate our strained healthcare system and will further add to the economic burden that our country faces.
“The CPSA wishes to recommend continued COVID-19 testing prior to travel to The Bahamas.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis closed The Bahamas’ borders in March in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
It is set to fully reopen on July 1. Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has said that everyone coming in prior to July 1, including visitors on sea vessels, will be required to take a COVID-19 test before coming. He previously told The Nassau Guardian that this requirement will fall away with the full opening of the borders on July 1.
In a contribution to the House of Assembly last week, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands warned that The Bahamas should expect a second wave of the new coronavirus cases if the reopening of the country isn’t handled carefully with widespread testing.
Pinder-Butler asked for more open communication with Minister of Health and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis. She said contact tracing and surveillance capacity should also be increased in preparation of visitors entering the country.
“We further support mandated social distancing, wearing of masks, proper respiratory hygiene and routine hand sanitization as these combined efforts will assist in minimizing the potential cases of coronavirus in-country,” she said.
“We also recommend strengthening the capacity for contact tracing and surveillance.
“The Consultant Physicians Staff Association requests open and collaborative dialogues with the acting minister of health, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, and Ministry of Health officials so that we are actively involved in finalizing international travel protocols to strengthen our healthcare response further.
“We wish to continue to have COVID-free islands in The Bahamas and do not wish to see our country labelled as an unsafe destination if we are unable to contain a potential resurgence.
“Therefore, as senior doctors and frontline healthcare workers, we wish to ensure that appropriate guidelines are in place so that all of the hard work, funding and efforts invested in the past three months are not wasted.
“As we adapt and confront inevitable global challenges with modified responses that exemplify our country’s strength and resolve, it is imperative that our economic dependence on tourism does not supersede the public health principles that protect the health and welfare of our Bahamian people.”
There have been 104 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. Eighty-two are on New Providence, 13 on Bimini, eight on Grand Bahama and one on Cat Cay.
Eleven people have died.