Ease travel rules call

BAHRAIN’s premier business body has called for more flexible Covid-19 travel rules to be introduced to help boost the Covid-19 crisis hit tourism sector.

A senior member of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) yesterday urged authorities to waive a BD60 fee for virus tests on tourists and incoming passengers at the airport.

He said travellers who tested negative 72 hours prior to departure, at internationally approved centres, should be allowed to enter with no restrictions or demands.

BCCI hospitality and tourism committee chairman Jehad Amin said: “Bahrain should identify and accept polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results from laboratories that meet international standards in different countries.

“For example, I travelled to Dubai recently and did a PCR test from a verified medical centre in Bahrain, and returned back in 72 hours, only to have to pay a further BD60 for more tests.”

He stressed the need to ease Covid-19 test rules to encourage tourists as well as reduce the burden on Bahrain’s health resources.

Dubai and Saudi Arabia accept Covid-19 tests from approved clinics abroad, provided they are done either 72 hours or 96 hours before departure. However, in Bahrain, all passengers arriving at the airport must pay BD30 for the first test and BD30 for the exit swab 10 days later.

As a result a traveller from Bahrain ends up spending close to BD100 on tests, even on a short trip, said Mr Amin.

“We need to be flexible and start accepting PCR results that are 72 hours or 96 hours old, and save travellers from undergoing the tests here again,” he added. “Also, in some flights, where there are a large number of passengers, the entire process to register and undergo tests at the airport takes hours.”

Mr Amin said the proposal, if implemented, would further allow the smooth flow of tourists especially as Bahrain is set to host two back-to-back Formula 1 (F1) races later this year.

The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir will host the F1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020 from November 27 to 29 followed by the Formula 1 Rolex Sakhir Grand Prix 2020 from December 4 to 6.

A decision is yet to be taken on whether the events will be open to spectators.

“Bahrain, like some of its neighbours, is a convenient getaway for three to four days, and it’s important not to lose that segment of travellers,” Mr Amin said.

He highlighted that entry rules introduced for travellers passing across the King Fahad Causeway should be extended. “PCR tests done in Saudi Arabia are accepted by Bahrain authorities. The same rules should be applied at Bahrain International Airport in my opinion,” he added.

Saudi and GCC citizens have been allowed to cross the bridge into Bahrain since Tuesday. Saudi-based expats with multiple exit and re-entry visas and a valid Bahrain visa have also been allowed entry.

Meanwhile, Mr Amin claimed that a new rule is expected to be enforced on Sunday in which airlines will be prevented from flying in more than 100 passengers to Bahrain, due to the testing capacity in the laboratories here.

The authorities concerned have not confirmed this.

Statistics by the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority for Q1 2020 point to a sharp 47 per cent decline in the number of tourists, a 49.5pc decline in total tourist nights and a 55.4pc decline in total tourism expenditure.

Occupancy rates in five-star hotels fell to 43pc, down from 53pc a year ago, with four-star hotels seeing a similar decline to 36pc from 46pc a year ago, according to the Bahrain Economic Quarterly for Q1 released by the Finance and National Economy Ministry.


Source: http://www.gdnonline.com/Details/872292/Ease-travel-rules-call


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