NASSAU, Bahamas – Opposition Leader, Dr. Hubert Minnis is urging the Bahamas government to re-think its decision to remove the travel health visa requirement for entry into the country, describing the decision as a “grave mistake”.
Minnis, whose administration had implemented the visa requirement for Bahamians and residents returning to the country from international travel as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID029) pandemic here,, said that the data collected from the travel health visa was an important tool in contact tracing.
The medical practitioner said removing the requirement for returning citizens and residents opens up the possibility of fraudulent coronavirus tests going undetected.
“The government is making a grave and serious mistake. There is no shame in saying you were wrong, after all you’re talking about jeopardizing the Bahamian economy as well as lives and (people’s) livelihood.
“This is an important health tool in terms of tracing and quarantine and (removing it is) a set-up for a disaster and catastrophe. The government is making a grave mistake (removing the travel visa requirement) with nothing in place and I advise them to reconsider,” the former prime minister said.
Tourism, Investments and Aviation Minister, Chester Cooper, last week announced that as of Monday, citizens and residents will no longer need a travel health visa to come home from abroad.
Cooper said despite this change, testing requirements will remain in place and visitors with citizenship in other jurisdictions will still need a travel health visa to enter the country.
But Dr Minnis said he doubts officials in the health and tourism sector are on board with the change.
“I find it very difficult to believe that the health professionals and tourism will agree to it, knowing the impact it will have on tourism, the economy and livelihood,” he said, adding that the decision will leave “our borders completely open”.
The Opposition Leader said protocols in place under the travel visa system were there to help spot fraudulent tests and that his administration dealt with the issue of people presenting fraudulent COVID-19 tests to travel.
“We went through that process and we did that because it was difficult to confirm the validity of the tests. “We had that problem before, we had excess training with personnel to ensure we were not exposed to fraudulent illegitimate tests. . .they have not said what process they are going to utilize, the airlines can’t confirm the legitimacy of the test.”
Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Michael Darville, has welcomed the removal of the visa that was implemented in November 2020.