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Some Bahamians abroad worry, but still understand why borders closed

Shaunae Lynes, a 20-year-old Bahamian student living in Atlanta, Georgia, said she feels rejected by The Bahamas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is one of hundreds of Bahamians temporarily prohibited from entering the country following the government’s recent decision to close the borders.

“It feels like I’m being rejected [by] my own country, but at the same time I understand why it’s necessary,” Lynes told The Nassau Guardian.

“I felt it was the right decision to make. Everyone needs to stay inside; that’s the quickest way for this to blow over.” 

She said she purchased a return ticket home on March 23 — the night Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis ordered a 24-hour national curfew and the partial closure of The Bahamas’ borders.

“So, I had canceled my flight thinking the commercial airline wouldn’t be able to land,” Lynes said.

“The next morning they still allowed the last few planes to land and I ended up stuck.”

When asked what was next for her, Lynes replied, “[I will] hope for the best and prepare for the worst, make sure have my emergency funds on hand [and] wait for the lockdown to be lifted and travel to not be banned.”

She said she will continue to self-isolate until the lockdown has been lifted in Atlanta.

Wayne Russell, 21, a student in Salisbury, Maryland, said it’s “annoying not being able to leave the U.S., especially given the state that it’s in right now”.

“I would definitely feel more comfortable at home with most of my friends and family,” he told The Guardian.

“I mean I can’t get back home. I wasn’t able to come back home before it (the border) closed because my university just allowed me to come back on campus yesterday to gather all my belongings since they’re transitioning to online schooling for the remainder of the semester.

“So, now I have to stay out here with my mom instead of just coming back home one time.”

He added, “It’s frustrating but at the same time I can understand why there’s a temporary hesitation to do so.” 

On Friday, the government decided to shut down borders for all incoming people, including Bahamian residents and citizens, due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States where there are more than 125,000 cases.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said empty planes can come into The Bahamas to pick up passengers and leave.

“It is realized that this is likely to result in the dislocation of Bahamian nationals and residents who are abroad and seeking to return home,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We urge you to make direct contact with the nearest Bahamian embassy, high commission or honorary consulate.”

Stuart Hanna, 23, a graduate student living in Spain, where there are more than 78,000 cases of the virus, said he worries what will happen if The Bahamas’ embassy were to close.

“Because I am at the heart of the crisis, I understand that the government of The Bahamas needs to take the proper precautions,” Hanna told The Guardian.

“But there is also a feeling that in the event that things here worsen, we will be on our own.” 

He said he would have liked the option to return home “especially with the threat of my family members being affected by coronavirus”.

However, Hanna said he isn’t stranded abroad.

“We know we have the support of the embassy but should that support disappear, then we wouldn’t know where to turn,” he said.

There are more than 704,000 cases of COVID-19 in 177 countries.

More than 33,500 people have died as a result of the virus.

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