Prime Minister Hubert Minnis during an address in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, announced changes to travel requirements for fully vaccinated travellers moving within and coming to The Bahamas, referencing information presented by the Ministry of Health one day earlier.
He reiterated several points highlighted by Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis in her presentation about the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in The Bahamas at the Ministry of Health press conference, hosted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2021.
Dr. Dahl-Regis, he said, noted that the pandemic is not over, that it is continuously presenting new challenges, and at this time vaccinations alone will not get us out of this pandemic. He quoted Dahl-Regis’ statement, “We must simultaneously address the increase in cases, the identification of resistant strains and adherence to the public health measures if we are to win this race and return to a sense of normalcy.”
PM Minnis pointed out that there had been an increase in daily infection numbers in the country during the past two weeks, and highlighted Dr. Dahl Regis’ observation that, “New infections are being driven by international travel and a relaxed adherence to the health measures.”
Dahl-Regis on Tuesday also voiced concern over the suspected presence of variant strains of the COVID-19 virus now believed to be in country, saying that they spread more easily and are affecting younger age groups – with possibly more severe cases, adding, “The broad global uptick and increase in cases is affecting The Bahamas.”
Dahl-Regis pointed to a return to heightened surveillance, contact tracing, and accelerated uptake in vaccines as the path to controlling the pandemic within the Bahamas.
To assist contact tracing efforts, PM Minnis announced that after meeting with representatives of private labs on Tuesday, April 20th, data submission requirements were being tightened to a 24hr submission window for RT PCR test results, with stiffer penalties for labs not meeting requirements.
Enforcement of Emergency Orders would also be increased and enhanced said the PM, and he asked businesses, who were able to do so, to have their employees work from home where possible to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
The PM also announced a number of additional measures as follows:
“Effective immediately, the daily curfew for mainland Abaco will be moved to 10 p.m. – 5 a.m.
“Travelers within The Bahamas who have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus will be exempted from COVID-19 test requirements that are currently in place when traveling from New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera.
“These travelers will be exempted immediately after full vaccination. Proof of full vaccination will be required.
“Effective 1st May, those travelling to The Bahamas from outside of the country will be exempted from a COVID-19 test if they are fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week mmunity period. Proof of full vaccination will be required. To be clear if an individual is not fully vaccinated that individual will still be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test where testing requirements are in place.”
According to PM Minnis, The Bahamas has administered approximately 22,000 doses of the 53,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine received, to date, on the islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Eleuthera. Another 33,000 doses are expected to arrive before the end of May, through the COVAX Facility.
Vaccinations are set to continue, said the PM, throughout the Bahama island-chain during the week of April 26th. In the Family Islands the vaccine will be administered to all residents 18 years and older with a Bahamas Government-issued ID.
The proposed schedule is as follows:
Monday, April 26: Andros, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay, North, Central and South Andros, Ragged Island and mainland Exuma;
Tuesday, April 27: Berry Islands (Great Harbour Cay), Cat Island, San Salvador and Long Island, Exuma Cays and Rum Cay;
Wednesday, April 28: North, Central and South
Friday, April 30: Bimini.
The locations of vaccination sites and the days and times for each island are published on opm.gov.bs.
Family Island residents are asked to make their appointments online at: https://vax.gov.bs, however, on-site appointments are also available.
PM Minnis emphasized that now was not the time to relax, saying, “We must continue to practice the public health measures. Avoid large gatherings. Abide by the Emergency Orders. Wear your mask properly – over your nose and your mouth. Keep a distance of six feet from others when you are out. Wash or sanitize your hands regularly. And when you are eligible, get vaccinated! The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we can fully open our economy. The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to work.”