Minnis Reverses Course on Travel Visas, Flip-Flops on Testing for Travelers, Is Still Hundreds of Thousands of Vaccine Doses Short, Has No Plan to Contain COVID.
Facing intense anger from Bahamians over his travel visa scheme, which transferred money from the pockets of the people to a company in which his National Campaign Coordinator is a director, Hubert Minnis has finally reversed course on the much-hated travel visa fees.
Minnis changed his travel visa policy not because he suddenly cares about people, but because he fears the anger of Bahamians at the ballot box.
His policy reversal does not go far enough; Minnis must still account for the money collected from the travel visas. How much in travel visa money came in, and is it still in the account of a company in which his National Campaign Coordinator is a director and shareholder?
Bahamians have been asking if the FNM’s nasty and deceitful attack ads have been funded with their own travel visa fees.
The FNM government had forecast revenue from travel visas at least into 2023. The travel visa programme never made any sense, except as a scheme to funnel money to FNM insiders.
This terrible policy hurt Bahamians and will be retired permanently by a PLP government.
Minnis’s about-face on travel visas was not his only flip-flop. Months ago, Minnis was warned by Bahamian nurses and doctors that all travelers should be required to show proof of a negative COVID test. Medical professionals understood that forward transmission by vaccinated travelers was still possible, and as Delta cases started rising globally, understood the risk we faced in The Bahamas, with so few people vaccinated and with an already-strained public health care system. But the Competent Authority of One does not listen to or consult medical professionals and decided not to protect the people. Nearly every other country in our region continued to require a negative test from all travelers, and they experienced a boom in tourism over the summer; negative test requirements did not deter visitors.
We welcome the arrival of additional vaccine doses to The Bahamas. We note that The Bahamas was 17th in the region to begin vaccinating its people, and that the country is still hundreds of thousands of doses short. If Minnis wants to put shots in arms himself, that’s great. It leaves him less time to come up with policies that tax the small man.
As cases and hospitalizations and deaths rise, where is the government’s plan to contain COVID?
The PLP’s COVID Task Force continues to make constructive recommendations, as we have since the start of the pandemic. Our Action Plan recommends the following steps:
- Expand testing and tracing to keep up with the virus; free COVID testing for Bahamians exposed to infection.
- Partner with private sector to bring in vaccines, including Pfizer.
- Public education town halls featuring medical professionals.
- Hire, retain, consult, respect Bahamian doctors and nurses.
- Negative COVID test required for all visitors.
- Make high-quality medical-grade masks available to front-line workers and public.
- Risk mitigation: guidance for reducing airborne transmission in workplaces, churches, homes and schools safer.
- Support for COVID-positive who need to isolate to protect those around them.
- Earn trust of the public: restrictions should be justified by science that is shared with the public, and Ministry of Health must provide the public with more information about sites and sources of transmission.