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Travel cards scrapped

The Nassau Guardian June 2, 2020

Passengers will be permitted to travel domestically among all islands in The Bahamas without a COVID travel card on June 8, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) announced yesterday.

Passengers traveling from islands with confirmed COVID-19 cases will instead be required to fill out a travel form and health form when they check in for travel.

“As part of the ongoing and phased reopening of the country, domestic borders will be opened for regular domestic commercial flights and for domestic pleasure craft and yachts,” OPM said.

“This applies to all islands of The Bahamas.”

The statement added, “Passengers traveling from New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini by aircraft, mailboat or passenger ferry will be required to complete a standardized travel form and a standardized health form at the time of check-in.

“These short forms will be used to collect contact information and a COVID-19 risk assessment for health officials.

“The system announced today will replace the application and assessment process that was initially put in place to accommodate inter-island travel, effective immediately. Those who have already applied will receive travel authorization from the Ministry of Health by email prior to June 8.

“Individuals traveling aboard pleasure craft and yachts leaving from a marina in New Providence, Grand Bahama or Bimini should submit travel and health forms before departing. If leaving from a private dock, individuals will be required to fill out and submit forms at the point of entry.”

The statement noted that commercial airlines are expected to begin taking reservations for travel today.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced the travel card system two weeks ago.

He announced that individuals will be required to submit to an evaluation by a ministry-authorized physician.

The Ministry of Health later issued a list of approved physicians for the inter-island health travel process.

More than 1,000 people had made queries about the government’s COVID-19 travel card program, but it was unclear how many travel cards were approved.

OPM said yesterday the tourism and health ministries are working on a digital solution to help streamline the new travel process, and airlines are developing health and safety protocols to lessen the risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) during travel.

The statement said those protocols include: enhanced cleaning procedures for aircraft and requiring that all staff utilize personal protective equipment (PPE); travelers will be required to wear masks; and there will also be procedures to ensure physical distancing during boarding and onboard the aircraft.

“The airport authority and port authority have developed various protocols for the reopening of domestic travel and will continue to make adjustments as necessary to improve systems,” the statement read.

“Travelers should note that due to physical distancing protocols, the check-in process may take longer than usual. Please arrive early to check-in.

“As with other jurisdictions around the world, the reopening of domestic travel is an ongoing work in progress.

“Officials will continue to streamline and fine-tune the process. Officials will also continue to monitor the process and to adjust as necessary.”

The country’s borders were closed on March 27, as the government sought to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The government expects to open the borders to international commercial flights on or before July 1.

The Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee, led by the Ministry of Tourism and Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, will unveil the proposed plan for re-entry into the tourism market during a press conference at 10 a.m. today.

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