Written by 6:07 am Travel

“Absolute explosion” of health visa applications; reports of returning Bahamians unable to receive health visas

Over 5,000 applicants per day

Some travelers report being stranded within the US as they seek to return home today

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said today that the federal government has had to regulate its manpower and approvals process to handle an “absolute explosion” in health visa applications, noting “we’re as much as over 5,000 applications a day”.

Speaking with reporters ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting, D’Aguilar said that the federal government has had to scale back the time-frame during which to use for a health visa to 14 days in light of the proven fact that fully vaccinated travelers can now apply for a health visa months prematurely versus the five-day window with an RT-PCR COVID test.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar.

“Most of our foreign visitors are coming from the USA — in excess of 90 percent,” he said.

“Most of those travelers have a card from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that shows the style of vaccine and the date that each doses were applied.

“It’s fairly straightforward for us to see when the vaccine was given and what style of vaccine was given.

“We only accept AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer in addition to Johnson and Johnson.

“Now we have seen an absolute explosion within the variety of those who are applying.”

He continued: “As you may imagine, while you had the PCR test, people could only apply inside five days of travel.

“Now, when you’ve gotten a vaccine, you may apply months prematurely and that somewhat overloaded the web site on the outset.

“Now we have needed to bring it back right down to where you may only apply to inside 14 days of travel.

“We’re as much as over 5,000 applications a day.”

Eyewitness News understands quite a few Bahamians looking for to return home today were awaiting approval of their health visas.

D’Aguilar said the appliance surge was very encouraging, but said officials must synthesize and undergo all of the applications.

“Everyone has grown to expect us to reply in 24 hours,” the minister noted.

“That has slipped with the greater demand and so we’re having to regulate our manpower and approvals process to accommodate this surge in applications.”

At the top of April, the federal government announced updated public health measures and entry protocols for fully vaccinated travelers.

Bahamian residents and residents who’re fully vaccinated at the moment are exempt from COVID-19 testing requirements when traveling inter-island from New Windfall, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera to another island.

Also, effective May 1, international visitors traveling to The Bahamas from other countries, who’re fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period, might be exempted from testing requirements for entry and inter-island travel.

D’Aguilar admitted his concerns over the hesitancy of many Bahamians to change into vaccinated and aid within the country’s economic revival.

The Bahamas has administered greater than 36,000 vaccine doses to this point.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar receives his first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Loyola Hall on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (BIS PHOTO/KEMUEL STUBBS)

“I’m all in with the vaccine,” he said.

“I feel the advantages far outweigh the risks.

“I feel that in the event you take the vaccine, there is a big probability that you’ll not find yourself sick and have an unlucky final result.

“Most significantly, while you get the vaccine, it significantly reduces your ability to spread the virus to another person.

“Should you’re within the tourism sector or a frontline environment where you may get exposed, you don’t need to take it home to someone who hasn’t been vaccinated and cause them to have an unlucky final result.

“I feel it’s very necessary that, for our economy to bounce back and for tourism to flourish and grow, that our destination has to record low levels of COVID-19.”

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