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Hotelier Calls For 'Calibrated' Action On Covid Surge

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Harbour Island hotelier yesterday urged the government to adopt "a more calibrated approach" to the surge in COVID-19 infections rather than cut off all commercial transport links to the US.

Benjamin Simmons, proprietor of The Other Side and Ocean View properties, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas needed to tackle the issue on an island-by-island basis rather than use "a one-size-fits-all blanket approach" to combat the increase in infections in New Providence and Grand Bahama since the borders opened.

He argued that Family Islands with no COVID-19 infections, and which were enforcing all the necessary health protocols, should not be penalised for the issues impacting The Bahamas' major urban centres.

Mr Simmons added that if the Minnis administration had concerns about visitors bringing the virus with them, even if they produced a negative COVID-19 PCR test within the required ten-day window, then it could limit the load factors or available seating on incoming commercial aircraft to 50 percent capacity or require smaller planes.

"I would have hoped for a bit more of a calibrated approach," he told this newspaper, "and address the problems where the problems are rather than a one-size-fits-all blanket approach. The Bahamas is not one island. There's many of them. I think we have to calibrate the response in a manner that fits the geographical reality.

"If an island does not have a case, and there are no issues with the way it is handling COVID-19, why cut them off at the knees? We're hoping there will be that adjustment.... It is what it is. We're in belly of the snake right now with this virus. We'll keep on adapting and hope the administration see there's a way to calibrate the response that allows us to function."

The government's decision to close The Bahamas' borders to all commercial air and sea travel from the US with effect from tomorrow was yesterday said to have sent many visitors, both leisure and corporate, "scrambling" to book return flights home.

Many resort properties were also reacting negatively to the Prime Minister's decision to cut off commercial travel from The Bahamas' major source market that provides 82 percent of the country's visitors. Sandals Emerald Bay was said to have told all guests they must leave by tomorrow, while there were unconfirmed suggestions that Resorts World Bimini may close for three months.

With The Bahamas entering the slowest part of the tourism season, and uncertainty over when commercial travel from the US may resume, many properties will likely decide to close until the fall/winter season and furlough staff.

However, The Bahamas remains open to private aviation and boat traffic, which means Family Islands which thrive on such business, in particular, will still see tourism business - albeit much reduced.

Mr Simmons said Harbour Island hoteliers, vacation rental and other tourism providers, were all hoping charter operators will be able to fill the void left by the commercial airlines when they met yesterday.

"We've lost one reservation so far, and more may follow," he added. "It's definitely unsettling for our guests. There's a lot of private charters willing to step up and get people to us, and we'll keep our doors open and stay open as long as guests come to us.

"We cannot replace the Silver Airways drop, which is the main way people get to us, and I know the airlines would have appreciated a little more warning. Everybody is very concerned."

However, Mr Simmons said there were signs that many Harbour Island guests were "moving their flights up to arrive before the closure so that they can get in and then make their way back by boat and private charter, and as flights allow.

"It's another hurdle which, unfortunately, our guests have to go through. A lot of them want to get out of the US and come and relax here, and they are very respectful of the rules and laws we have in place."

Comments

proudloudandfnm 8 months, 4 weeks ago

The countries that have successfully managed this pandemic did so because their citizens cooperated fully. Just shut up and ride it out. People are dying, the Bahamas has one of the highest death rates in the world. Please keep your opinions to yourself and just cooperate. Why is it so hard for people to understand that the better we manage this thing the better it'll be for all aspects of the country. Just keep in mind that this is TEMPORARY and shut up!

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whogothere 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Like who? What countries handled the pandemic well? Italy? France? Spain? Uk? The USA? People are dying - like who? There are 4 people in hospital...No one died of COVID19 in this country for months in spite of the cases we racked up since the last death...Doctor's hospital laid 44 people because of low patient activity - because they cancelled surgeries and other important procedures!! People with cancer and heart conditions are great risk now because of the back log... Wake up....Domestic violences cases are up. There 10s of thousand of people are collecting food from food banks on a government program that will run out in the next few weeks. There are 100s of infants that not getting sufficient nutrition because of increase unemployment and reliance on inconsistent and dwindling NIB support. We need more Bahamian entrepreneurs to stand up, do their best to survive this otherwise the impact will damage countless others... Only through a balanced approach can this be achieved. Hurricane season approaching the country's problems will only get greater. You know what is not temporary the permeant closure of 100s of small business and the families they support. Meanwhile 9 people died...where was the government response when gun death was in it's 80s and 90s each year...Did they lock Nassau down - I sure didn't notice..?

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happyfly 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Amen. The PM thought he was so clever scaring the pants off of everyone so they would do whatever he says ....... and now he has to deal with a population that would rather starve to death than risk 0.0something chance of dying from Covid

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proudloudandfnm 8 months, 3 weeks ago

What are you talking about? Our death rate is damn near 10%....

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Dawes 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Thankyou whogothere, fully agree. We are about to enter uncharted waters in Bahamas with all the layoffs coming, and the idea of staying closed until this is over seems to still be the mantra of the day for some, with the belief that when we re-open everything will go right back to how it was.

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proudloudandfnm 8 months, 3 weeks ago

New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, Georgia and a few more have all successfully managed it. Check it out for yourself..

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whogothere 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You really don’t get it...sigh...New Zealand had some the strictest lockdowns but isn’t dependent on 1000x their population entering the country to spend money, South Korea barely lockdown but had incredible testing, Canada locked down but could afford to give everybody that is unemployed $2k per month and is now broke and realizing they can’t keep it up, Georgia had one of the shortest lockdowns in the US and was completely fine in spite doom and gloom predictions of resurgence but did not close their border to the rest of states. NONE OF THE EXAMPLES U PROVIDE IS A SUITABLE MODEL FOR THE BAHAMAS!! The bottoms line is that, as this article suggests, there must be balanced approach to the crisis given the unique geographical reality of our country. In stead poor Minnis is now Caught up in the cycle of doom that destabilized the USA - “TEST TEST TEST” - “HEAPS OF CASES OH NO!!” - “PANIC PANIC PANIC” - so let’s “TEST TEST TEST” - “OH NO HEAPS OF CASES” - “PANIC PANIC PANIC”...so let’s...and so forth.. Rather than looking at the “who” is getting infected. In the first few weeks of the pandemic in the Bahamas average of age those infected was much higher in 50s and 60s and 70s and the Mortality rate was horrific...but now the average age of infected persons has decrease and so has the CFR predictably. The ‘Who’ gets COVID matters - basically if you ‘re likely to die within a year or two or three because you’re old or have a underlying disease than the chances of death are high (protect yourself at all costs), if you’re youngish but have diabetes or something else going on but expecting another 20+ years of life (guess what wear a mask, wash your hands, stay out crowded places) if you’re healthy and no issues be polite - wear mask and sanitize your hands. If you’re kid stay in school, don’t hug your grandparents (sadly) or strangers...The attached graph paints a telling story... Bottomline is locking down the country down does nothing but threaten those that are vulnerable for reasons other than their age or underlying health conditions. It’s cutting off your arm to spite your leg - whole body suffers.

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by whogothere

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Proguing 8 months, 3 weeks ago

We can't afford to cut the hand that feeds us...

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