Bahamas Announces Slight Relaxation of COVID-19 Rules

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The government of The Bahamas has announced a slight relaxation in COVID-19 rules, but warned that Bahamians must get used to cycles that involve tightening and loosening of restrictions because the pandemic will be “with us well into next year”.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis who was speaking during a press conference, held just days before the territory welcomes visitors and returning residents without requiring that they quarantine for 14 days.

However, the Prime Minister said that all beaches and parks in New Providence and Abaco will open starting Monday,  could not provide a timeframe for when the country’s state of emergency — currently extended until November 30 — will come to an end.

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Concerning weddings and funerals on Grand Bahama, he said they will be limited to ten people, not including officiants and mortuary workers.

On tourism-related issues, the Prime Minister said that health officials are expected to give more information about protocols for the reopening of tourism before Sunday. The government had previously announced that travelers to the Bahamas will be allowed to skip the islands’ mandatory quarantine starting November 1 if they continually prove they are negative for COVID-19. The new protocols will allow visitors to freely roam the islands if they obtain a negative PCR test no more than seven days before traveling, and then get a rapid antigen test upon arrival and another four days after that. Travelers will also need to apply for a Bahamas Health Travel Visa, which includes the cost of rapid tests.

The Prime Minister, who is a medical doctor, also warned that the pandemic is far from over. 

“Sadly, the northern hemisphere is likely heading into the worst period of the pandemic. With Fall already here and winter coming, colder countries face a very challenging winter. More individuals will be indoors in these places. The virus spreads easier indoors where there is poor ventilation,” he said.

The Prime Minister noted that until “there is an effective vaccine and the overwhelming majority of Bahamians are vaccinated, we will have cycles where cases go up and cases go down. This will occur because the virus spreads easily, especially when we do not wear masks or go to social events, including family gatherings, where the virus may quickly and easily spread.”

He added that – “when cases go up on a particular island, we will have to increase restrictions if necessary.”