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Comment: Tried and TESTED – Bahamas Covid-19 screening

Virgin Atlantic is making sure passengers on its new Heathrow-Bahamas service are aware of the small print in the destination’s testing protocols, writes Samantha Mayling

Having taken PCR and lateral flow tests for overseas travel and UK cruises, I thought I’d covered most eventualities: visiting a GP, visiting a pharmacy, and taking one at home and dropping off the test in a box at a local collection centre.

However, having a nurse in full PPE kit swabbing my nose in my kitchen was not what I had expected when I signed up for Virgin Atlantic’s Bahamas inaugural press trip.

He was very chatty and efficient as we both bemoaned the vast amount of single-use plastic for my lateral flow test – which looked exactly the same as the regular NHS ones I’ve been using myself on a regular basis.

While we waited 15 minutes for the test result (negative, thankfully), he told me how he had worked as an NHS nurse during the pandemic but had taken on so much work for Covid testing firm Prenetics that this was now his full-time role.

If he’s not testing travellers, he can be found sticking swabs up the noses of TV and film stars on sets, or local Norwich City FC players and staff.

Later that day, I got my official confirmation email from Prenetics which meant that I could apply for my Travel Health Visa for the Bahamas, via which asked for evidence of vaccination, the test result, and details of my flights and hotels.

I also had to pay the Travel Health Visa fee of $50 which covers the admin costs and pays for the Covid-19 health insurance that covers me during my stay.

The Travel Health Visa applications take up to 48 hours to process and travellers are advised they “should be completed with adequate lead time” – but mine came through the following day.

The nurse visit that I had was arranged by Virgin Atlantic in partnership with Prenetics, which sorted all the home testing for journalists on the inaugural press trip.

A spokesperson for Prenetics said the Bahamas travel requirements on the website are “very vague” but confirmed that no self-tests or home test kits will be accepted by the destination.

“The tests need to be conducted by a medical practitioner,” she said.

Prenetics does not offer the nurse visits for general consumers yet but hopes to introduce the service “in due course”.

However, not all our fellow passengers had to have a home visit from a nurse – a private drive-through service or a visit to a pharmacy such as Boots for a medical practitioner to conduct the test would also be acceptable.

Shane Lewis-Riley – Virgin Voyages’ associate vice-president for the UK and Australia – had his test procedure for our trip at a drive-through centre near where he lives.

Virgin Atlantic said it is making efforts to advise passengers and make them aware of the small print in the destination’s testing protocols.

• The website says:

“Fully vaccinated persons need a negative Covid-19 test (either a Rapid Antigen Test or PCR), taken no more than five (5) days prior to the date of arrival to Bahamas.

“Unvaccinated travellers, ages 12 and older, entering The Bahamas must obtain a negative Covid-19 PCR (swab) test taken no more than 5 days prior to the date of arrival.

“All children, between the ages of 2 and 11, are required to obtain a negative Covid-19 test (either a Rapid Antigen Test or PCR), taken no more than five (5) days prior to the date of arrival to The Bahamas. All children under the age of 2 are exempt from any testing requirements.”

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