Government told to follow Bahamas as it scraps Covid health visa
The Government was urged today by the Opposition to follow the example of a tourism competitor after the Bahamas announced this week that it was scrapping its Covid-19 Travel Health Visa.
Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Health Minister, highlighted the announcement made yesterday by Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation for the Caribbean country.
Bahamas Information Services said the popular destination would be dropping the health visa as of Sunday as part of “a further streamlining of Covid-19 entry protocols for travellers”.
Mr Dunkley, a vocal critic of Bermuda’s Travel Authorisation Form for incoming visitors and residents, accused David Burt, the Premier, along with the Progressive Labour Party Government of being “steadfast in wanting this prohibitive process to continue”.
The Government declared in February its own loosening of travel restrictions against the pandemic, which included dropping the fee for the TAF from $75 to $40 this March.
Bermuda’s form is projected to remain in place until March 2023.
But Mr Dunkley, who said the Bahamas had “dropped its $40 fee for Bahamians and residents back in December”, accused the Government of putting the interests of the $40 fee ahead of “the interests of the island”.
Calling the procedure “an embarrassment”, Mr Dunkley insisted there was “no justification” for retaining the TAF as “the world turns away from closed borders with restrictive and bureaucratic submissions”.
The restrictions came under renewed attack last weekend as the United States dropped its requirement last weekend for foreign travellers to show proof of a recent negative test result for Covid-19.
The Government has repeatedly defended the TAF as an essential precaution as the pandemic continues — citing similar regulations taken up by other jurisdictions worldwide.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, also announced last week that the TAF had been eased for Bermuda’s major cruise passengers, with other streamlining efforts under way.
Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette the pandemic’s impact on the Bermuda economy was being compounded by the effect of Russia’s war on Ukraine and an “alarming” rise in the island’s cost of living.
He added: “As we endeavour to tackle the challenges we face as a country, how can Bermudians have hope for better days ahead when the PLP Government is unable to make the right decision and remove the TA and free up Bermuda?
“Once again the OBA calls on the Government to hear the cry of the people and end the TA as soon as possible.“