“That is an extremely important move for The Bahamas,” he said. “It’s in keeping with the fact that The Bahamas has demonstrated it has certainly since Thanksgiving kept its COVID-19 numbers under some control.
“That is a big boost. However, the industry will not be happy until that ‘Level 3’ gets to a ‘Level 2’, which is a good indication that our management of COVID-19 has kept the virus under control. It’s certainly headed in the right direction, and the BHTA welcomes this because it removes a major deterrent for the public who are wanting to travel and come to the destination. It’s very much welcome news.”
Mr Sands spoke out after the Prime Minister revealed that the CDC was poised to upgrade The Bahamas from ‘Level 4’ to ‘Level 3. The shift would move The Bahamas from ‘very high risk’, in relation to COVID-19, to ‘high’ risk. This, in turn, downgrades the CDC’s warning to US citizens on The Bahamas from “travellers should avoid all travel to The Bahamas” to one where they should “reconsider travel”.
Dr Hubert Minnis said: “I am pleased to announce today that following a reassessment by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, The Bahamas will be moved down to a ‘Level 3’ travel health notice from the more serious ‘Level 4’.
“This reassessment came after discussions between myself, other Bahamian officials and the US government. We will, I believe, be moved to ‘Level 3’ because the CDC sees how much progress we have made and are convinced that we will continue to be vigilant.”
However, much confusion and uncertainty still exists over whether the US plans to impose a mandatory quarantine on all incoming travellers in a bid to contain skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates and deaths.
Mr Sands said a briefing given to international media on Tuesday by Ian Brownlee, the US State Department’s acting assistant secretary for consular affairs, and Marty Cetron, the CDC’s director for global migration and quarantine, cast some doubt on whether a quarantine will be made mandatory at the federal level.
In response to questions on the issue, a transcript quoted Mr Brownlee as saying: “We’re not at this time issuing federal quarantine orders, but we do have – and have had – up on the CDC website guidance regarding the ways to increase the safety of international travel……
“Staying home for a period of time, seven days if you have a negative post-arrival test taken between day three and five, as is recommended on our website, allows the quarantine period to be shortened.
“Most of this return recommendation really falls in the jurisdiction of state and local authorities, and each, the state and local authorities, may have their own specific advice, but the CDC’s standard advice on this can be found on our website. So these are recommendations from CDC.”
Obtaining clarity on the US quarantine issue is now the most critical matter for Bahamian hotel and tourism operators. Magnus Alnebeck, the Pelican Bay general manager, while praising the improved CDC travel advisory said the quarantine issue looms as a greater potential impediment to travel to this nation.
“We still need to figure out what this quarantine in the US is going to mean for our guests,” he told Tribune Business. “I don’t think anybody fully knows. That is a bigger deal than the actual travel advisory. Were we to get an exemption everybody would be happy for that.
“It would be an enormous boost. If that quarantine becomes a recommendation rather than something strict, and we get down from ‘Level 4’ to ‘Level 3’, then we can make some noise.”
Published: January 28, 2021