D’Aguilar: There will be outbreaks from time to time

After the Ministry of Health reported a cluster of COVID-19 cases at a resort on Bimini, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday downplayed the incident saying that there will be breakouts from time to time.

The Ministry of Health reported that there were 43 new cases on June 27, 11 of which were reported on Bimini and Cat Cay.

The ministry said that the new cases on Bimini and Cat Cay “indicate evidence of clustering that is linked to a local resort”.

But D’Aguilar said things are under control. 

“I think we have to be realistic,” he said.

“There are going to be little small outbreaks here and a little small outbreak there.

“But, by and large, up until the end of May, there were 300,000 persons who came into the country.

“Look at the levels of hospitalization.

“Look at the level of positive cases. You will notice that in the month of June, the numbers have been trending down from April and May.

“So, I think we have done an excellent job of reopening our tourism economy, getting it back on track, getting Bahamians back to work. You would have seen the taxi drivers very happy about the amount of business there is.

“People are going back to work, they are starting to make tips, starting to make gratuities, starting to get salaries back. So, I am very optimistic. As I look into the next month or so, the numbers keep getting better.

“So, I think we are doing an excellent job of bringing our tourism back in a safe manner.”

D’Aguilar said the health protocols, which are enforced by The Bahamas’ use of a health visa, are creating a safe environment, as he responded to the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) recent criticism of the system. 

“I think the opposition likes to distract us with this health visa, which is really ridiculous,” he said.

“It’s making hay where there is no hay.

“I think it has done an excellent job of bringing persons back into the country. And you know what our foreign visitors are saying? They feel safe. And because they feel safe because of the health protocols that we have, that is what is encouraging them to travel to The Bahamas. So, I remain very optimistic and I think it was the right decision to implement that visa.” 

PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis said a PLP government would move to end the travel health visa program, which he described as “a burdensome, unnecessary tax on Bahamians”.

Davis made the declaration after criticizing the program and the choice of digital payment provider that the Minnis administration chose.

D’Aguilar said there is no way that airline workers would be able to properly verify passengers’ COVID-19 tests to determine whether or not they meet The Bahamas’ travel requirements. 

“Obviously the genesis of the health visa was to implement the health protocols laid down by the Ministry of Health,” he said.

“And it’s incredible to me that the opposition would think that somehow an airline could do this better than we have done.”

He added, “So, it has worked very well for us.

“As you can see tourism is bouncing back.

“The numbers are very robust. Atlantis was at 90 percent this weekend. Baha Mar was at 75 to 80 percent. And we have been keeping the COVID numbers low.

“So, this has contributed to the successful rebound of tourism. It has helped us to keep our COVID numbers low while bringing large amounts of persons into the country. So, I think it has been successful.

“I don’t understand what the issue is here. Certainly from a health standpoint, it has contributed to the reopening of the tourism sector.”

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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