Statement on Travel Restrictions for Eleuthera

The sudden change in travel requirements for people travelling from Harbour Island and Eleuthera is grossly unfair to residents. 

Last night (Wednesday, March 31), the government issued a new requirement as part of it latest amendment to its Emergency Powers Order, saying travelers will now have to take a RT-PCR COVID-19 test in order to obtain a travel visa to other parts of the country.

This has come out of nowhere and is absolutely unfair on residents of Harbour Island and Eleuthera.

The people of Eleuthera were once again surprised by an abrupt, ad hoc travel policy enforced by the Competent Authority. 

Without warning, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement prohibiting all domestic travel from the islands of Eleuthera and Harbour Island to other parts of the Bahamas without a RTPCR COVID-19 test.

Once again, the people of Eleuthera and Harbour Island are surprised by a sudden restriction that will no doubt negatively affect the local tourist economy. Eleuthera is possibly one of the only destinations where tourists have returned in high volumes, but instead of formulating an effective plan to facilitate the concern, all we have is the same old last-minute decision making once again.

These new restrictions have raised more questions and the latest amendment issued by the Prime Minister shows his lack of compassion for our Family Islanders.

It’s hard to understand where this has come from. People will already have made plans and suddenly without warning they are going to have to find a way to get a test or cancel those plans. There is no explanation of why this is suddenly necessary – it’s like the government is making things up as they go along. There is no consistency.

Are there even the facilities in place for people to be able to take the tests being demanded by government? Is there a provision for testing sites to be open to the public during the holiday weekend?  How about people that are travelling tomorrow?

How can a citizen who has not worked in almost a year afford over $600 to travel to and from Nassau? Wouldn’t the Rapid Antigen Test provide a more viable option?

This is just a sign of the long-term health dangers faced by residents of Eleuthera. For many of us here, we have to ask how much care the government is really providing. 

The healthcare and well-being of Eleutherans are important, but after cancelling a much-needed hospital after taking office, proper health care is becoming out of reach for the average citizen on this island.

We reiterate that the Bahamian people are still waiting on a way forward to co-exist and to start to build our economy back. We must protect the lives of the Bahamian people, but we must also protect the social and economic ills that now plague our country. 

People have been following the rules to limit the spread of the virus – but it’s so hard when the rules keep changing on an ad hoc basis with no scientific justification. 

It’s nearly impossible for individuals and especially businesses to plan for anything when you don’t know what the rules will be next week, tomorrow or even in an hour. The government is playing with people’s lives and not even giving them the courtesy of explaining why, or when things will change.

This is governance on an ad hoc basis – there’s no plan, there’s no communication, and there’s no sympathy for the people of Eleuthera who have been suffering for so long. This kind of action is sounding the death knell for businesses and ruining the lives of people who don’t know from one day to the next what the rules will be.

There is no sense in the way that Eleuthera is being treated. Other islands have no more regulations being put in place, but Eleuthera gets treated like this. It’s just not fair.