It would not be acceptable to allow Bahamians — traveling abroad for less than 72 hours — to return to The Bahamas without a negative COVID-19 test “going forward”, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.
The Bahamas reopened its borders on July 1 after being closed for about four months — in an attempt to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
At the time, the government implemented a policy requiring Bahamians and residents to quarantine upon arrival to The Bahamas if they traveled for less than 72 hours and opted not to take a COVID-19 test.
“We all know what happened when we opened the borders,” Turnquest said yesterday.
“To date, no one has been able to document that any tourists brought the virus during a visit. But, we do have documents that Bahamians traveled and brought the virus. That’s scientific fact.
“There’s no blaming or anything of that nature as some would try to criticize that we were blaming people. We’re not blaming anybody anymore than you would blame somebody for catching AIDS. It is a fact now that that has happened and we need to deal with that.
“We can’t stick our heads in the sand.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said 4,246 Bahamians traveled internationally, including to COVID-19 hotspots, between July 1 and July 24.
The Ministry of Health has not indicated how many of those individuals contracted the virus.
Yesterday, Turnquest said The Bahamas has to deal with “the fact that this has happened”.
He said a lesson must be learned from it.
“Meaning, whereas we allowed people to freely travel in the last opening to come back if they were only gone for a day or two, to come back without a test, obviously that is not acceptable going forward,” Turnquest said.
“Fortunately, it looks like there may be easy tests, rapid tests that can be done and get results within 45 minutes or so. So, that may make it easier.
“But, we’re just going to have to tighten the rules and we’re just going to have to stick to them and make sure we police them very, very carefully.”
The Bahamas has reported over 1,200 new COVID-19 cases since it reopened its borders.
It reported 104 cases between March and June.