American tourists will be barred from entering the Bahamas amid the re-surging COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a national address Sunday.

The rollback comes three weeks after the Bahamas reopened its borders to travelers. 

The situation in the Bahamas has deteriorated “at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders” on July 1, Minnis said. The country’s Ministry of Health reported 49 new cases since borders fully opened, for a total of 153 cases. 

In the address, Minnis announced that the country’s national airline Bahamasair will cease flights to the United States, effective immediately.

To accommodate departing tourists, outgoing commercial flights will be permitted after Wednesday, he said.

Starting Wednesday, international flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers will not be permitted to enter the borders. Minnis said there would be an exception for flights from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. Visitors by air or sea from these countries will be required to show a negative COVID-19 rapid test result from an accredited lab.

EU travel ban: On Americans amid spike in US coronavirus cases

Minnis blamed, without specifying, nearby countries’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic “still raging around the world.”

“In neighboring countries, hospitals are overwhelmed and deaths are increasing. For some places it is unclear when or how they will get this virus under control,” said Minnis. He added that his country’s progress in fighting the disease can be reversed because of how citizens in other countries “are following or ignoring health guidelines.”

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“Our current situation demands decisive action, if we are to avoid being overrun and defeated by this virus,” Minnis said. “We cannot allow our hospitals to be overrun. Many priorities must be balanced, be they health, social and economic. Chief amongst these though is the health.”

The U.S., and the state of Florida in particular (just 50 miles off the coast), represents the largest tourism market for the Bahamas. The country is still recovering from the economic devastation of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. Florida reported 12,478 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday in the state’s continuing battle as the new epicenter of the disease.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bahamas bars American tourist entry, allows others, due to COVID-19


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