With just days left before the November 1 full reopening of tourism, Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) is putting together final preparations to facilitate on-site COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) Vernice Walkine said over the next few days the airport will be installing cubicles at two separate areas to facilitate the testing of visitors upon arrival.
“We have two areas identified. If you can appreciate the way the arrivals terminal is set up, we have one corridor which services international flights, for example, non-US flights – Air Canada, British Airways – those flights come down one corridor, and then the US flights from the US gate come down a different corridor. We have sites set up, one at each corridor at a strategic point, so that we capture everybody who is coming off any aircraft using any of those respective gates,” she told Guardian Business yesterday.
“So there will be lots of signage to identify where people ought to queue, we have stations that are being set up and all of the testing cubicles will be set up over the next couple of days. So based on the plan I’ve seen it looks like an appropriate plan and we believe that we have the capacity as passenger numbers grow, to add more capacity.”
The Ministry of Tourism recently announced new travel protocols which require visitors and returning citizens and residents to obtain a RT-PCR (swab) test no more than seven days prior to traveling to The Bahamas. A rapid antigen test would be conducted upon arrival and again 96 hours after their arrival.
Though the airport has remained open for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns and travel restrictions, the load of passengers traveling through LPIA has been significantly less compared to previous years.
The full reopening of the tourism sector and the eventual reopening of major hotels is considered critical for The Bahamas’ economy.
Walkine said she doesn’t anticipate large numbers of visitors traveling through LPIA in the first weeks.
“Notwithstanding that we’re getting ready for November 1, the US has its presidential election on the third, so we don’t know what the loads are in terms of flights coming in. We don’t know to what extent some people are going to be traveling for any significant extent next week, but whatever the numbers are, the airport has always been ready because you may be aware that we always had flights coming in on a limited basis,” she said.
“In terms of all of the COVID-19 protocols that every airport is expected to have in place, we certainly have those in place and our staff and all of the other relevant agencies, immigration, customs, everybody knows the protocols. The only thing that has changed now is the testing regime, which we are facilitating in terms of identifying locations for the testing to be done, working with the Doctors Hospital team for them to administer the test. So those details have been worked out and this week is a time for everybody to be in place, so that when time comes on November 1 we’re ready to go.”
Walkine added that the slow start is ideal for the airport to work out whatever kinks present themselves.
“Initially it will be moderate but more easily controlled, so I think in effect it will work out well because the numbers will not be significant in the first week I’m sure. As I said there’s a US election taking place on the third and traditionally during the US election we find that travel is muted, so in any event it is a good way for us to get started with this new regime and to see how well it works, so that we can make tweaks as we need to,” she said.