Starting Wednesday, July 21, most Americans will be barred from entering the Bahamas due to concerns about new cases of COVID-19 attributed to Bahamians traveling from the United States.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced the travel restrictions during a public address on Sunday, according to CNN. The ban comes three weeks after The Bahamas reopened its borders to international tourists.
“Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy,” Minnis said. “It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders.”
Since the July 1 reopening, 49 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the Bahamas. The new diagnoses increased the total number of cases there to 153.
Cruise ships and international commercial flights from the United States and most other countries will not be allowed in the Bahamas, reported The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Private planes and boats are still able to enter the country. Additionally, departing tourists will be allowed to leave the country. Airlines and commercial ships that allow passengers onto crafts without a health visa or face mask face a $500 per passenger fine.
Citizens traveling from the United Kingdom, European Union and Canada are still authorized to enter the islands. Anyone who arrives in the Bahamas must provide a negative COVID-19 test result within 10 days of travel. Anyone without those documents will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
Minnis expressed concern about rising COVID-19 rates in nearby countries and admitted he was worried Bahamians could be affected because of how other countries “are following or ignoring health guidelines,” he said.
“In neighboring countries, hospitals are overwhelmed and deaths are increasing. For some places it is unclear when or how they will get this virus under control,” Minnis said.
On the day of Minnis’ speech, Florida, which represents a large tourism market for the Bahamas, recorded 12,478 new cases of the virus, according to USA Today. The Sunshine State surpassed 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths the day before, per The Sun Sentinel. As of Wednesday, July 22, more than 3.9 million Americans have contracted the virus and over 144,000 have died.
The Bahamas’ economy could be severely affected by the travel ban since about half of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from tourism. A majority of travelers to the Bahamas come from the United States. Minnis, who is also acting as health minister, is aware of the financial risks, but his priority is saving lives.
“The better we are at this, the more our economy could open up and people could make a living,” he said.
Several other Caribbean countries remain open to Americans, Mercury News reported. Some countries, like Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, require negative test results. Other nations are not as welcoming. On July 16, the European Union extended its ban against American travelers.