Bahamas has banned international flights from the United States and other hard-hit countries in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus

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(CNN) – The Bahamian government is banning travelers from the United States and other countries where coronavirus cases are increasing in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading in the Caribbean nation.

All international commercial flights are banned from entering the Bahamas, effective Wednesday July 22. The only exemptions are visitors from the United Kingdom, the European Union and Canada who tested negative, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said on Sunday in a national television address.

“Our current situation demands decisive action if we are to avoid being overwhelmed and defeated by this virus,” Minnis said in his speech, noting that the Bahamas has confirmed 15 new cases for a total of 153 cases. 49 of the cases had been identified since the reopening of the borders of the Bahamas on July 1.

Seagoing vessels carrying commercial passengers will also not be allowed entry. However, private international flights, charters and yachts from all countries will be permitted.

The national carrier Bahamasair will immediately end its flights to the United States and a number of beaches and parks have been closed until further notice, according to Minnis.

The Bahamas’ decision to ban most international travelers, especially Americans, is significant because 50% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which stands at $ 5.7 billion, comes from tourism alone, according to the Bahamas Investment Authority, with the majority of the 5.5 million tourists. who visit the Bahamas each year from the United States.

But with the United States breaking its own daily record for new coronavirus cases at least nine times in a month, Minnis was adamant that the Bahamas needed to focus on “saving lives and limiting the spread of the virus.”

“The better we are, the more open our economy could be and people could earn a living,” he said.

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