Flights from the USA to Bahamas are to be halted and Grand Bahama placed in lockdown following an uptick in Covid-19 cases.
Bahamas Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis (pictured above) said he had made the difficult decision to close borders to international commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers from the United States effective as of Wednesday, July 22 at midnight.
In addition, Bahamasair will cease outgoing flights to the United States, effective immediately. Outgoing flights will be permitted to accommodate any current visitors scheduled to return to the United States after Wednesday, July 22.
Private flights and charters from the United States, as well as pleasure craft and yachts will be permitted, and travellers from Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union are exempt from the emergency order. All visitors are required to present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test from a referenced lab, taken no more than 10 days prior to the date of travel.
Since opening borders to international travel on July 1, The Bahamas has seen a deterioration in conditions relative to COVID-19.
In an official statement, the Prime Minister said these restrictions had been put in place to protect the health and wellbeing of both residents and visitors, which remain of primary importance, and to prevent the spread of the virus throughout The Bahamas.
Reopening of borders will continue to be monitored and guided by The Bahamas government and health officials, based on COVID-19 trends.
Meanwhile, after consultation with health and other officials, including officials on Grand Bahama, the Prime Minister announced on 21 July that Grand Bahama would be placed on a two-week lockdown in order to slow and control the community spread of the COVID-19 virus on this island.
This lockdown will take effect beginning Thursday, the 23rd of July at 7 pm until Friday the 7th of August at 5 am
He noted that similar lockdown periods were applied on the island of Bimini and in other countries to help to control the spread of COVID-19.
The island has been classified as a COVID-19 hotspot by health officials. As of Monday the 20th of July, health officials have confirmed a total of 59 cases of COVID-19 on Grand Bahama. 51 of those cases have been recorded since the borders fully re-opened on the 1st of July. Outside of New Providence, Grand Bahama now has the largest number of recorded cases in The Bahamas.
During the period of July 18 to 20, a seven-member team from the Ministry of Health was mobilised on Grand Bahama to assist with identification, testing and mapping of contacts for characterisation of the epidemiological situation following the significant increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on that island.