Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis says that persons who are fully vaccinated will be able to travel to The Bahamas as of May 1 and be exempted from testing requirements.
Minnis, who made the announcement last Wednesday, added said that fully vaccinated travellers within the country also will be exempt from test requirements when travelling to and from the islands New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera.
According to Minnis, proof of full vaccination will be required in both instances.
He added that fully vaccinated people in The Bahamas will be immediately exempted from the travel requirements while travellers to the country will be exempted no sooner than two weeks after they receive their final vaccine dose.
“Once individuals within our shores… once they have received the second dose of the vaccine or they have met the vaccination requirement, they do not need any further testing to move about through our Bahama-land,” Minnis said while speaking in Parliament.
“Therefore, I encourage individuals, receive the vaccines as soon as possible. I’m aware of CDC regulations. CDC states that there must be a two-week delay post the second vaccination shot. However, within The Bahamas, we recognize the antibody level and immunity (level), therefore that two-week requirement is not necessary. Once you receive the second dose, you could move. However, you must still adhere to mitigation protocols in terms of social distancing, mask-wearing, sanitization, etc.
“Effective the 1st of May––this is important for tourism so as to give them adequate time to put out necessary warning and alerts––those travelling to The Bahamas from outside the country will be exempted from a COVID-19 test if they are fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period. A full vaccination will be required. If an individual is not fully vaccinated, that individual will still be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test. This will greatly assist our economy and will also assist in reducing the number of infections.”
Minnis, who is also a medical doctor, said fully vaccinated people will get other benefits.
‘Once individuals are fully vaccinated,” he said, “individuals can participate in a closed environment, once all within that closed environment are fully vaccinated. The mask would not be necessary and they can participate within that environment. That means indoor dining can resume for those individuals who are completely vaccinated.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged that enforcement will be key as vaccination status determines what people can and cannot do.
“Most important as we move forward, enforcement must be adhered to,” he said. “I recognize (the) excellent work the police and COVID ambassadors are doing and I recognize many of them are probably burnt out, but I ask them to just provide us with that extra burst of energy for the next two weeks so that we can enforce our laws, our order, especially with all the events that are occurring around our islands.”
He added that the country is expected to receive 33,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine before the end of May through the World Health Organisation’s/Pan American Health Organisation’s COVAX facility.
Minnis’ comments came as health officials have warned of a third wave of COVID-19 cases amid a steady rise in infections.
The case increases have been linked to travel and relaxed adherence to guidelines and officials warn that variants of concern may be in the country.