Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Here are my top five, no, EIGHT recommendations to improve the re-opening of borders and getting our people back to work again.
WHAT DO WE KNOW NOW?
We understand that the first re-opening attempt by the Minnis administration was on 1 July, 2020 when there was no discussion of a point of entry testing strategy and limited technological infrastructure to trace and process visitors.
We understand that the hotel policy requirement to test negative to stay at hotels was problematic and was retracted at the same speed as the 'effective immediately (unconstitutional) lockdown' order.
We understand that the Minister of Tourism promised a point of entry testing strategy, which was later retracted moments later on 31 October, 2020 - the day before re-opening of international borders.
We understand that the second re-opening attempt by the Minnis administration was on Sunday 1 November, 2020.
We understand that health visas range from $40 - $60 and extended stay visas (12-months stay) are $500 (students) and $1200 (workers).
We understand that 100,000 tourists applied for health visas and many poured into Lynden Pindling International Airport, but are not required to quarantine and take rapid antigen test upon arrival on 1 November, 2020.
We understand that a percent of revenues from the health visas are being allotted to an insurance policy for the betterment of visitors in case of infection of COVID-19 and are asymptomatic (i.e. a $500 per diem).
Point of the entry testing is a must. There are significantly lower risks in potentially knowing if a recent traveller was exposed to the virus.
A co-operative alliance with the Bahamas Hotel Association to designate temporary accommodations for both asymptomatic persons (i.e. government approved vacation in place 'VIP' hotels) and persons waiting on test results or, if possible, the latter class of visitors may remain at point of entry location until processing of test results.
Domestic testing, tracing and contacting. Improve the testing capacity of the public and private sectors and make testing more accessible to the average person. If infected, inform officials of previous encounters or allow access to such data, if possible. If asymptomatic test findings, visitors must wear monitoring bracelets and may VIP at their own expense or leave the country.
Increase the health visas to fund or subsidize domestic testing demands, especially in the public and tourism sector. Alternatively, for visitors’ ease, they may select between RT-PCR swab or rapid point of entry testing visas (i.e. ranging from $50 - $100, respectively). It follows that these prices will help cover expenses in cases where a visitor tests positive with a rapid antigen test and are required to follow up with COVID-19 RT-PCR swab test for accuracy.
A national free testing plan from revenues of the health visa is in encouraged, which falls in align with a national health care insurance plan. Explore COVID-19 insurance in the private sector for visitors and Bahamians.
Review the mask mandate and continuously educate Bahamians on proper COVID-19 hygiene until we are designated a COVID-19 Free country.
Effectively use data collection and artificial intelligence at point of entry to following up on contacts, track persons and flatten the curve.
Aim to make and market family islands as COVID-19 (Free) destinations.