Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Entry regulations these days seem a tangle of change and confusion for some island governments as well as for the travelers who are anxious to visit Caribbean destinations.

A case in point is the Bahamas.

The Bahamas reclosed its borders to U.S. travelers, among other countries, starting July 22, a decision that came three weeks after the country reopened its borders to all travelers. The decision was reversed just three days later.

As of July 25, U.S. travelers now can join all other travelers entering the Bahamas, but arrivals are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at their own expense in a government facility and must test negative for a Covid-19 test at the end of 14 days, also at their own expense.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis acknowledged in a televised speech regarding the July 22 closure of borders to U.S. travelers that it was due to the surge in Covid cases in many states.

"My government cannot risk the death of Bahamians and our residents," Minnis said at the time.

I spoke with Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, the day before the border closure took effect for U.S. travelers on July 22.

"We were surprised at the speed with which this happened," Jibrilu said. "The uptick in numbers here and in the U.S. frightened people. We had 49 new cases here since July 8. People were afraid that we would be shut down again, and we had just reopened on July 1.

Joy Jibrilu
Joy Jibrilu

Jibrilu said that the country needed to get control of the virus domestically and "get a handle on its spread."
Fast forward to July 25 and Minnis' announcement that U.S. visitors could enter the Bahamas after all, coupled with the 14-day quarantine requirement. Jibrilu and I corresponded again.

"What's the reason for the change in now permitting U.S. visitors to enter the Bahamas?" I asked the director general.

"The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be an extremely fluid situation for destinations across the globe," she answered.

"Our Ministry of Health and other government agencies are closely monitoring the situation and evaluating protocols," she continued. "The Bahamas attorney general Carl Bethel said that travel permissions for foreign visitors, namely those from the U.S., were changed to create a singular protocol for all visitors. The mandated 14-day quarantine period allows for the protection of Bahamian citizens, residents and visitors from travel-related spread."

The quarantine applies to all Bahamian nationals and residents as well as visitors entering the Bahamas from any country. In addition, as of July 28, interisland travel is prohibited.

Jibrilu admitted that "this has been a painful time."

At one point, the islands were seeing a steady uptick of about 400 visitors a day; three weeks ago it had 800 arrivals. August looked stronger than July, and more flights were expected from major hubs in the U.S and Canada. Atlantis Paradise Island was preparing for a reopening.

But for now, everything is on hold. Under the executive order signed by Minnis, the Bahamas is under weekend lockdowns; beaches and parks are closed, including those at hotels and resorts; a daily curfew is in effect; and  indoor and outdoor restaurant dining is prohibited, except in hotels.

Masks are required in all public spaces.

"This is a difficult time," Jibrilu said, "but we are being guided by our health officials. Bahamians are resilient and strong. We will get this under control."

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