American tourists are officially banned from the Bahamas
Editor's note: This post has been updated to clarify that U.S. citizens arriving to the Bahamas on private jets or private vessels will be allowed to enter the country. The vast majority of U.S. passengers who arrive to the Bahamas – by air – are barred.
Americans are discovering a new phenomenon when planning international travel: closed borders. The United States remains one of the world’s hardest-hit countries, recording nearly four million coronavirus cases and over 140,000 deaths.
Most countries are not allowing U.S. visitors right now, as several states like Florida, Texas and California report spikes in cases.
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Now, one country that was open and accessible to American travelers will roll up the welcome mat this week. The Bahamas announced that it would ban U.S. travelers from entering its borders by plane or vessel effective July 22. This is a reversal from an earlier policy for American travelers. On July 1, the country lifted an international travel ban from March and officially reopened to tourists, which included Americans.
“Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said on Sunday. “It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders.”
Minnis said there were 41 new cases of the virus since the country reopened its borders. Bahamasair, which serves cities like Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, will stop all outgoing flights to the U.S., according to the Miami Herald.
Commercial flights and vessels from Canada, the United Kingdom, and European Union countries will still be welcome, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Private international flights and charters for Bahamians, residents and U.S. citizens are still permitted. Canada has recorded just 58,000 cases of the virus and the EU remains off-limits to Americans.
This likely isn’t a decision the Bahamas made lightly, given the majority of over five million tourists who visit arrive from the United States. All three major carriers fly direct to the Bahamas, with scores of flights coming from Florida, which has seen positive cases spike. The state has recorded over 350,000 positive cases.
Much of the Caribbean is open to U.S. travelers, and so far, the region has been spared from the widespread outbreaks in the U.S., Iran and Italy. But, as I reported last month, a surge in cases could be devastating for the region.
“We do not have the health system capacity to accommodate a significant surge in cases … already our health system is on a strain,” said Dr. Yohann White, the medical director at Para Caribe Consulting in Kingston, Jamaica told me last month.
The Bahamas has reported 153 cases of the novel coronavirus and 11 deaths, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.
For travelers who aren’t American, the Bahamas has implemented a two-step checklist before entering the country. Travelers are required to complete an electronic health visa and present a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than 10 days before departure. Airlines or sea vessels that allow passengers to board without the health visa will face a fine of $500 per passenger, Minnis said.
Travelers are required to wear a face mask and practice social distancing -- or face a $200 fine, one-month imprisonment, or both.