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Govt contemplating how to safely open borders

In anticipation of the country’s borders potentially opening on July 1, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that a lot of thought has gone into how that can be safely accomplished from a tourism standpoint.

He noted that the kind of protocols that would have to be put in place would likely apply for arrivals as well as departures.

“We have to come to grips with the fact that we can’t eliminate the risk. It’s impossible,” he told reporters outside Cabinet.

“And COVID-19 is going to be with us for the rest of our lives, so we have to learn to live with this and to mitigate the risk as much as possible.”

He added, “Of course when you arrive in the destination, you’ll notice that LPIA will now have markers on the ground for social distancing.

“There’ll be barriers between the passenger and the immigration officer. Every attempt will be made to enforce social distancing, the wearing of masks, temperature checking, screening passengers as best as we can in order to allow them to enter the destination.

“I think on the market there are rapid tests that are coming out or close to coming to market that we’ll be interested in deploying.”

In a national address on May 17, the prime minister announced that the government is eyeing July 1 for the resumption of commercial flights to The Bahamas.

The country’s borders have been closed since late March in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Inter-island travel between islands which were allowed to resume normal commercial activity only began to be permitted again last week.

Individuals seeking to travel are required to submit to an evaluation by a ministry-authorized physician, and they must receive a COVID-19 Travel Authorization Card.

D’Aguilar said a similar process might be implemented for international travel as well.

“Getting as much health information as possible about a passenger, in much the same way as the government is now screening people for domestic travel, we’ll want to do something similar for international travel to mitigate the risk of spread when we open the industry,” he said.

“So, you know, a lot of thought has gone into when you arrive at a hotel, how you go to a restaurant, how the room is cleaned, how the staff interact.

“It’s going to be a substantial amount of training that goes into effect to let employees of hotels [know] how you now deal with customers in this new normal.”

According to D’Aguilar, the tourism industry “has produced a report that they will soon release into the public domain of all of the work and covering all of the industries that encompass the tourism industry”.

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