A policy requiring all cruise passengers entering The Bahamas to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be extended until next year, Minister of Tourism Chester Cooper announced yesterday.
The policy, which was imposed in an emergency order signed by the competent authority, took effect on September 3 and was set to expire on November 1.
“We are taking action to extend that to 2022. We will be looking at it closely moving forward. We’re actively in conversations with our various cruise partners. As you know, we welcomed Virgin Cruises last week, a ship to our shores,” Cooper said.
“But we believe vaccination is the right approach in order to be able to attract tourists to our shores in a balanced and responsible way. So we note that mostly in the US market, we see vaccinations in the high 60s, low 70s percent, and we know that all of our cruise passengers, who come naturally because of this rule, are vaccinated.
“That’s good for The Bahamas. It’s good for the tourism industry and, certainly, as we extend this rule, we believe this will help us even further grow our tourism business in a balanced way.”
The policy stipulates that cruise ships on passenger voyages submit crew and passenger manifests detailing the vaccination status of all individuals in order to enter ports in The Bahamas.
Passenger cruise ships are not permitted to enter Bahamian ports unless, “all passengers who are 12 years old and older were fully vaccinated prior to embarking on the cruise ship at the start of the voyage; and the health protocols previously submitted by the cruise line to the competent authority and approved by the competent authority have been complied with”.
The Bahamas has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, with more than 21,700 cases confirmed so far.
The national vaccination campaign was launched in March of this year.
More than 115,000 people were fully vaccinated as of Saturday.
Cooper yesterday expressed concern with The Bahamas’ vaccination rate.
He said the country seems “to be tracking low relative to the rest of the world”.
“We know that some countries in the region, like Jamaica, are slightly lower than we are,” Cooper said.