Bahamas Tourism Minister urges people to follow COVID guidelines

Bahamas Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday urged Bahamians to be honest and fair regarding their coronavirus tests.

Bahamas: Bahamas Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday urged Bahamians to be honest and fair regarding their coronavirus tests.

D’Aguilar’s comments came after numerous people were arrested and charged for possessing and uttering falsified COVID-19 tests while travelling to the Family Islands from New Providence.

Addressing reporters outside Cabinet, the tourism minister said there are currently no plans to implement any extra enforcement tools to identify counterfeit tests.

He noted that coronavirus ambassadors have become familiar with authentic and fake tests after scanning them every day & can determine the difference.

He emphasised that the penalties for breaching the emergency order are so “substantial” that it is simply “not worth the risks”.

“Not only is it irresponsible & disappointing that you take those measures, but they are implemented for a reason — to stop community spread,” D’Aguilar added.

“Please abide by the rules & not try to stray from them. That is why we are probably, to some degree, having some uptick in our coronavirus cases numbers.” D’Aguilar added.

As per the latest emergency orders, an RT-PCR test, taken no more than five days from the day of travel, is needed for the trip to the family Islands.

However, arguments have been consistently given that the government should provide free testing or change domestic travel demand to an antigen test, which is less expensive.

The tourism minister stated while he agrees that the coronavirus test’s cost is a challenge for some Bahamians, the choice was made to guard the Outer Islands from further exposure to the virus.

“It is absolutely critical that we limit as best as we can any growth in coronavirus cases in the Family Islands because the health facilities simply do not exist to assist adequate care,” D’Aguilar said.

“So, the government is using the advice that they are provided in order to prevent it.” He noted 

Health officials have hinted that a recent uptick of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations could be the onset of a 3rd wave of the virus in The Bahamas.

D’Aguilar insisted that Bahamians must proceed to abide by the rules to ensure that that does not happen.

“We are seeing possibly the origin of a third wave and so it’s absolutely, vitally critical that we all take whatever steps are required to ensure that we don’t have this 3rd wave,” he noted.

“And while I realize, to a certain degree, several Bahamians are clamoring for enforcement, we also need to, as a people, guarantee that we abide by the rules.”

Pointing to the photos plus videos that circulated over the weekend of individuals gathering at a beach in Nassau, D’Aguilar emphasized that the country must double down on its relief efforts against possible community spread.

“It would be very troubling to the rebounding also the restarting of our tourism economy if that were to happen,” he said.

“All I can do is urge to Bahamians to abide by the health protocols.” He noted 

He added, “The enforcers of the health protocol are doing the best that they can, but if there is extensive disregard for the protocols, no matter how many police you put on the ground, it’s going to be too hard to keep it; under control.”

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