Prime Minister Minnis: Flights to return Bahamians and residents home to resume this week

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The repatriation of Bahamians and residents who remain abroad due to COVID-19 travel restrictions will resume this week with two scheduled flights from Florida, said Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis. The Prime Minister was speaking in a live televised COVID-19 National Address on Sunday 17 May.

This week’s flights, scheduled for Thursday 21 May and Saturday 23 May from Ft. Lauderdale to New Providence, will mark the second round of repatriation exercises by the Government. A flight to Grand Bahama will be accommodated if necessary. On Friday 8 May, the Government facilitated the return of 183 Bahamians and residents to New Providence and Grand Bahama.

“The system has been streamlined in order to avoid what happened during the last exercise, when a passenger who had received a COVID-19 positive result overseas was allowed to board a return flight home,” said Prime Minister Minnis. Subsequent testing by the Ministry of Health following the passenger’s arrival has shown this individual is now COVID-19 negative, the Prime Minister noted. Those who are seeking to return home through this week’s repatriation exercise and who meet the required protocols, including a COVID-19 negative test, may book a ticket directly through Bahamasair.

Those who already have a return ticket on Bahamasair should call the airline’s ticket office between 9am and 5pm, staring on Monday 18 May. Passengers will be required to present the COVID-19 negative test result to a Bahamasair agent before being allowed to board the aircraft. They will also be required to quarantine for 14 days in a government facility or at home upon their return, following an assessment by health officials. To date, there remain 96 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas. This includes 74 in New Providence, 8 in Grand Bahamas, 13 in Bimini and 1 in Cat Cay.

No new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported on 17 May by the Min. of Health. The number of recovered cases is at 42. Active cases are at 43. There are 7 hospitalized cases. The number of COVID-19 related deaths remain at 11. One thousand eight-hundred and fourteen tests have been completed. The Prime Minister noted that a complete lockdown of Bimini will take effect beginning Monday 18 May at 9pm until Saturday 30 May at midnight. The lockdown is being implemented to slow and control the community spread of the COVID-19 virus on the island, which has the largest number of confirmed cases of COVID-
19 outside of New Providence.

“I want to reassure residents of Bimini that there will be sufficient food and supplies on the island during the lockdown period,” said Prime Minister Minnis. Groceries and supplies arrived in Bimini over the weekend by boat to re-stock food stores in advance of the lockdown.
The Department of Social Services distributed 600 food vouchers on Friday past to ensure residents in need had the necessary resources to purchase food before Monday, the Prime Minister reported.

The Government’s National Food Distribution Task Force has also coordinated the delivery of 100 food packages through the Bahamas Feeding Network, to Bimini. Additional food packages will be delivered before the end of the lockdown. During the lockdown period, a team of 12 volunteers will assist the island Administrator with checking-in and assessing residents in need of assistance. This group will also help to manage the food pantry on the island.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force has agreed to provide escort service for the Administrator and her team as needed. Boats carrying food and supplies will also be allowed to call on Bimini during the lockdown period to ensure food stores are re-stocked after the lockdown ends, said Prime Minister Minnis.

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