While tourism officials have been boasting of continued increasing tourist arrival numbers, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr. Carissa Etienne yesterday warned against international travel to and from countries with low vaccination rates like The Bahamas.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said earlier this week that tourist numbers have been increasing consistently, as he noted that Atlantis and Baha Mar have been enjoying high occupancy rates in recent days.
While D’Aguilar and other members of the Minnis administration have repeatedly pushed for residents to be vaccinated, so that the country can reopen, Etienne warned yesterday that vaccines will not eliminate all the issues at hand.
“With children on vacation, many parents face important choices on how to make the most of the summer months,” she said during a weekly PAHO press briefing.
“As more people are vaccinated in the northern hemisphere, movement restrictions are lifted and travel destinations reopen for tourists, many families may be considering booking summer vacations.
“We must remember, however, that while vaccines protect us from the worst of this virus, even those who are vaccinated can become sick and spread COVID.
“Given the significant gaps in vaccine coverage and the still-imminent risk of infection, now may not be the ideal time for travel, especially in places with active outbreaks or where hospital capacity may be limited,” she said.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the global tourism industry to a halt, as countries around the world closed borders in an effort to prevent outbreaks.
With a large portion of Bahamians dependent on the industry, thousands were left jobless as resorts and tourist attractions shut down.
However, the industry has been recovering slowly in recent months, with increased vaccine availability and the reopening of economies.
The Bahamas, however, continues to struggle with increasing vaccine coverage. As of Sunday, some 58,122 Bahamians had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 32,945 people, roughly 12 percent of the population, were fully vaccinated.
The Bahamas has received 87,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine – 20,000 of which were donated by the Indian government in March.
The remaining doses were secured through the COVAX Facility. The Bahamas is still awaiting the third tranche of some 32,800 doses from COVAX, which would bring the total doses to 120,000.
Originally expected to arrive in June, PAHO officials advised earlier this week that the shipment has been delayed until July.
Minister of Health Renward Wells has maintained that the government is doing its best to secure more doses.