Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday begged Bahamians not to travel abroad as some countries experience significant spikes in COVID-19 cases…foremost among these is the United States, with the world’s highest virus total, only 55 miles from the Bahamas.

“I want to make a very strong plea to Bahamians and residents considering or planning to travel overseas for non-essential travel to not go overseas at this time,” the prime minister said during a national address.

“If you are thinking of traveling for non-essential or [non-]emergency reasons, please, I beg you, stay at home at this time. Please stay at home. I beg you. I implore you to stay at home. If you must fly, visit our Family Islands.

“A number of the cities and areas Bahamians and residents like to frequent in neighboring countries and cities are experiencing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases. Many of these are hotspots where this very contagious virus is widespread.”

He said individuals who travel to go to malls, shops or restaurants, can catch COVID-19 and bring it back to The Bahamas, causing community spread to be reignited.

“Let me be as clear as I can: your actions can damage the health of others and your actions can help worsen our economy if we have a lockdown again,” Minnis said.

There are over 10 million COVID-19 cases globally.

The United States has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases.

Florida, which is located about 50 miles from The Bahamas, yesterday confirmed 8,530 new cases yesterday. It reported 9,585 new cases on Saturday and 8,942 cases on Friday.

The United States is The Bahamas’ primary tourism market with 1.45 million U.S. stopover visitors last year alone.

The Bahamas reopens its borders on Wednesday after being closed for roughly three months as a result of the pandemic.

Bahamian citizens, residents or visitors not wearing masks are subject to a fine of $200, one month in prison or both, according to the prime minister.

“Masks are to be worn by all persons, Bahamians, residents and visitors entering and exiting our beaches,” he said.

Minnis said tourism attractions and excursions are permitted to resume operations on July 13.

He noted that vendors, including straw vendors and jet ski operators are permitted to also resume operations on July 27.

“We are reopening our society and economy with careful deliberation,” he said.

“We are guided by our very talented health experts in The Bahamas. Our dynamic team of Bahamian professionals are in turn guided by international experts and best practices from around the world, including lessons learned from previous pandemics.”

Individuals traveling to The Bahamas are currently required to provide a negative COVID-19 test that is no older than 10 days.

However, as of July 7, the requirement will change to mandate that the test be no older than seven days, according to the prime minister.

“We have made the window of time for testing shorter for the protection of Bahamians and residents,” Minnis said.

He said the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) has been charged with establishing a new COVID-19 Enforcement Unit “to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the emergency orders”.

Minnis said the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism will collaborate with and assist the police force.