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Travel protocol integrity questioned

A claim made by several tourists suggesting they entered The Bahamas without a negative COVID-19 PCR molecular swab test stipulated by the authorities has raised concerns over the integrity of the system put in place to lessen the chance of the coronavirus being imported now that the borders have reopened.

In a video recorded by businessman Maxwell Curry, the three unnamed Boston women — who eventually jumped a fence to access the closed Cabbage Beach — explained their desperation to enjoy time on a beach despite its closure and their determination to enter the country despite not presenting results for the required PCR COVID-19 test.

“We’re from Boston,” one of the women said.

“We took an eight-hour flight, first to Houston then here. We took three COVID-19 tests and [faced] interrogation at the airport twice. They first told us that we had to get on a flight back to America and that we were not welcomed because of a certain COVID test.”

The woman, seemingly unfamiliar with the name of the test, then turned to one of the other women, who assisted, saying, “There’s a certain one called PCR. They don’t accept the antigen. It has to be a PCR test swab yet they require it within seven days, so it’s really difficult to get results back.”

After the recording of the women was carried on Our News on the weekend and widely circulated on social media, many questioned how the women were allowed entry to The Bahamas without the required test.

Speaking with The Nassau Guardian yesterday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen said he doesn’t know if it’s possible to launch an investigation into whether the women obtained a travel health visa or how.

“I don’t think that we can because no one knows who they are,” Brennen said.

“No one has the information to say who they are in order to investigate that any further.”

According to Brennen, it’s still required that visitors and locals present negative results of a COVID-19 PCR molecular swab test no older than 10 days to enter The Bahamas.

Once approved, a travel health visa is granted within 48 hours.

While the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation didn’t go into detail on the incident, the ministry released a statement saying, “A testing requirement allows for the most consistent process in ensuring the lowest risk of potential spread as we reopen our borders, particularly as we continue to see an increase of cases in the U.S.

“It is a work in progress. We are adapting to these unprecedented times and will continue to assess protocols based on COVID-19 trends.”

The United States has recorded more than 3.2 million COVID-19 cases. At least 33 states are seeing an upward trend in new cases when compared to last week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Despite the spikes in COVID-19 cases in the United States, The Bahamas reopened its borders fully on July 1.

Beach

Bahamian beaches continue to be a key reason why visitors come to The Bahamas, although the numbers of tourists are low compared to what the country usually gets around this time every year.

In the first five days of July, fewer than 1,900 people — locals included — had come through Lynden Pindling International Airport, officials said.

Maxwell Curry, owner of Cabbage Beach Bar and Grill, approached the visitors in question after realizing their determination to enter the beach despite beaches being closed for the weekend.

“Their gripe was that they saved over a year to come here, travelled seven or eight hours, took three COVID tests and then you tell them they can’t go on the beach,” he said.

“I only recorded them because of my awareness. And it just showed the tourists will to go on the beach. You know, with them knowing that they could be arrested and all that they still jumped the gate.”

He said the video was recorded on Friday.

In the video, the businessman asked the women about hopping the fence, telling them that they were recorded doing so.

Photos showed the women, dressed in their swimsuits, hopping the fence at the entrance of Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island one by one.

“Yes, we came to The Bahamas for the beach; we’re going to go the beach,” one said.

“We don’t have beaches like this where we’re from. You guys don’t know how lucky you are to have a beach like this 15 minutes away. We do not have that at all.”

One of the women was wrapped in a Bahamas flag towel, which she showed off in the video saying, “We love your flag, by the way. It looks like a sunflower in the sky.”

In addition to expressing outrage over the women being allowed into the country without the required test result, some social media users were irate that they had broken the law in accessing the beach.

According to Royal Bahamas Police Force Press Liaison Assistant Superintendent Audley Peters, after the video surfaced a check of Cabbage Beach was carried out and no one was found.

Last week, while defending his decision to close public parks and beaches on New Providence, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and surrounding cays, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis urged Bahamians and tourists to sacrifice three days to “save” The Bahamas from a second wave of COVID-19.

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