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Bahamas Joins Other Caribbean Islands in Border Shutdown

The Bahamas has closed the nation’s borders to all visitors until March 31, in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced the new measures on Tuesday, which includes the closure of all airports, sea ports and public beaches. It also mandates a curfew for twenty-four hours per day, except for essential workers.

There are four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nassau.

Restrictions did not apply to outgoing cargo flights or commercial cargo flights, or emergency medical flights, or emergency flights approved by Civil Aviation.

Bahamasair will suspend all scheduled flights until the end of the month following the expansion of the orders. Baha Mar, Sandals, Atlantis and Meliá Hotels have all already announced plans to suspend operations.

The widespread travel restrictions across the region, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, will put a strain on the tourism industry that is essential to Caribbean economies. The Bahamas, for example, saw a record 7.2 million visitors in 2019. While the impact the COVID-19 crisis is uncertain, the industry’s long-term prospects as the sector has proven resilient.

The Caribbean has “considerable experience in managing disruptions and risks,” according to Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association CEO and Director General Frank Comito and President Patricia Affonso-Dass.

“We demonstrated this post 9-11, through SARS, Zika, hurricanes and other natural disasters over the past two decades, all while experiencing unprecedented growth,” Comito and Affonso-Dass said in a joint statement.