‘We cannot let our guard down’

Medical Association of The Bahamas (MAB) President Dr. Marcus Cooper yesterday expressed support for the reopening of the country’s borders, but recommended that all travelers should not only be made to present a negative COVID-19 test, but that proof of the same also be presented to hotels upon check-in and that authorities ensure they have the ability to translate and verify test results that are in a foreign language.

“The MAB strongly supports a negative PCR test for COVID-19 for all travelers entering the country,” Cooper said in a statement.

“PCR tests are readily available in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and are even free in some areas. The interval between testing and travel should be determined by the average turnaround time to receive test results in the various jurisdictions. Test results should be presented prior to boarding any vessel whose final destination is The Bahamas.

“The policy should also take into consideration Bahamian citizens and residents who will be travelling abroad for short periods of time. Test results should also be required for any resort or hotel check-in where further examination may be necessary to verify authenticity of test results. Authorities must also have the ability to translate those test results that are not in English.

“The MAB also seeks clarification on what information is required for the health certificate referred to in the Bahamas Tourism Readiness and Recovery (TRRC) Plan for Re-entry into the Tourism Market.”

On Monday, The Bahamas began its phased reopening of the tourism industry, during which time boaters, yachters and private aircraft will be allowed to enter the country.

A full-scale reopening of the industry is set for July 1, when the country’s borders will reopen after having been closed since late March.

In its reopening plan, the Ministry of Tourism initially outlined that travelers must travel with a medical certificate indicating good health.

But Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar announced on Wednesday that all individuals, including tourists, coming to The Bahamas will be required to present proof that they tested negative for COVID-19.

Cooper commended the work healthcare professionals and the government have done thus far in flattening the curve when it comes to COVID-19 in the country, but cautioned that no one should let their guard down.

“The MAB reminds the government that despite our success, the COVID-19 war is not over, and we cannot let our guard down,” he said.

Cooper continued, “Currently in the United States there are reports of a resurgence of new cases in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Arkansas.

“Prior to the border closure, direct flights were available from multiple airports in Florida, Houston, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, to Lynden Pindling International Airport. The director of the Centers for Disease Control has also warned of a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall that could result in an even worse peak at the end of the year. History will show that when the U.S. gets a cold, The Bahamas gets pneumonia.”

Cooper added, “The medical community of The Bahamas continues to be the first line of defense in this war against COVID-19.

“We have sacrificed, volunteered and responded when our country needed us most. We will respond if we are needed again. However, we need the assurance that the government, on enacting policies for complete open access of our borders, will maintain robust scrutiny of the international traveler to prevent COVID-19 transmission. A resurgence of COVID-19 that could have been avoided may be even more devastating to our economy and detrimental to the health of our nation.”

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