PLP COVID-19 Task Force, Co-Chairs Dr. Michael Darville and Dr. Melissa Evans
GOVERNMENT MUST URGENTLY DEVELOP EFFECTIVE PLAN TO ADDRESS NEW CDC REQUIREMENTS FOR US ENTRY
Once again, this FNM Government finds itself in another untenable position regarding its approach and response to the latest news that the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) will require all travelers to the USA to have a negative Covid-19 Test. This move was not entirely unexpected as it is in line with the worldwide response to curb the spread of the virus. The question is: what is the plan to minimize the negative impact on the Bahamian economy?
The Minister of Tourism’s statement that “we are fighting like hell to get a waiver of this requirement” is bravado – not a plan. It is telling that his strategy is to call anyone they know in the American government to see what they can do for us. It may be how he runs his businesses, but calling your friends and hoping they give us a break is not an effective plan for the country. Yes, of course we hope that he is successful, although he may well find that the international view of the government’s handling of the pandemic is quite different from his own.
In the meantime, the Government should be pro-active rather than re-active. This is not a time for hand-wringing. The government must address head-on the implications of this latest challenge and focus on some key questions:
• What measures will the government take, and how will they address this new requirement?
• Has it begun consultative discussions with stakeholders in the Tourism and Travel sectors to solicit their views and enlist their cooperation?
• The Minister of Tourism has talked of falling back to Plan B, which is the 5-day antigen testing. Is the government ready to fully implement this? Currently almost half of the required travellers (some 21,000 people) have not been tested since November 2021. How will the government test a much higher volume of travellers?
• What does the travelling public need to know and prepare itself for?
• The Bahamas has a pre-clearance arrangement with the USA for the airports in Nassau and Freeport. What will be the impact on these arrangements as travellers to the US will be screened locally? And if denied entry to the US, what will be the next step? And what of travellers from the Family Islands?
The government must learn that a credible, effective plan requires them not merely to hope for the best, but to also prepare for the worst. A plan is not a plan if it is merely based on a hope for the kindness of strangers.