The Cabinet was convened at about 10:30 am and ended at about 5:30 pm, members meeting both virtually and face-to-face.
1.The Cabinet commenced its session with a prayer, as is its custom each week; additionally, the members remained standing for one minute in memory of their fallen Comrade, Sir Lester Bird, who died on Monday morning August 9, 2021, at about 6:00 am. The Cabinet had arranged a subcommittee of the executive body, which met with members of the Bird family on that very day.
The following was agreed by Cabinet:
1.i. A special, joint Parliamentary Session to honour Sir Lester Bird will convene on Tuesday morning, August 17 2021, giving every member an opportunity to express publicly his/her love and admiration for the National Hero and former Prime Minister; the parliamentary sitting planned for Thursday, August 12, 2021, is postponed.
1.ii. All flags on Government buildings will continue to be flown at half mast until the funeral is at an end on Thursday 26 August 2021.
1.iii. There will be three days of official mourning commencing on August 24 and continuing through until August 26.
a)Sir Lester’s body will lie in state in the Parliament on the first day, allowing everyone an opportunity to pay their last respects;
b)On the second day, his body will lie at 46 North Street, the home of the Antigua and Barbuda Trades and Labour Union, from which institution sprang the ABLP which he led for more than one decade;
c)On the third day, August 26, 2021, an official holiday will be declared, allowing all to attend the State Funeral which will be held at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium;
d)Sir Lester’s remains will be buried alongside his mother’s, Lady Lydia Bryant-Bird, in the public cemetery; a monument will be constructed at the National Heroes Cemetery at Tomlinson’s, which will commemorate his life and legacy.
e)Invitations will be extended to CARICOM Heads who may wish to attend the State Funeral for their fallen Colleague.
2.The Cabinet was informed by the Minister of Health and Wellness that all 500 employees of the Royallton Hotel were tested for the Covid-19 virus. The results revealed that 31 employees tested positive; contact-tracing continues to determine if any employee may have infected family members and others with whom they came into contact.
The Cabinet continues to urge all employees, in both the public and private sectors, to obey the protocols that have been established while on the job and when in public spaces. A three- to six-feet space is to be maintained between all persons; masks are to be worn at all times when away from home; and, frequent hand-washing or hand-sanitizing is to take place.
3.The Cabinet was informed that 17,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive Antigua next week Thursday, 19 August 2021, and that all holding facilities are in place to store the shipment. They are a gift from the US Government. The object is to deploy the same among 12- to 17-year old students primarily, since it is the only vaccine which has received Emergency Use Authorization by U.S. authorities and the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda for minors. Consultations with parents, teachers and school administrators will begin almost immediately so that many students can receive the vaccine before the start of the new semester in September 2021.
4.The Cabinet reflected on the riotous behaviour of a group last Sunday, August 8, 2021, which unlawfully gathered at the V.C. Bird Bust despite a denial by the Police of a request by the group to march on that day. The group calls itself the “Freedom Fighters” and refused to disperse at the order of the Police. Later, members of the group threw missiles at the Police, started fires in public streets, and also tried to prevent the Fire Police from putting out those unlawfully set fires. The Cabinet agreed that the Police showed great restraint and acted professionally throughout the four-hour period. Several arrests took place and station bail was subsequently granted. The photographs, upon the release of those charged with breaking the law, show candidates of the Opposition political party gleefully providing moral and other support for those charged with disobeying the law.
5.The Cabinet invited a contingent of the Air Traffic Controllers, Ministry of Aviation Officials, and two officials from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) to meet with the Executive Body. The purpose was to address identified (future) potential deficiencies which need to be tackled before they become disruptive. The Cabinet learned that ten new air traffic controllers are being trained in the U.K. over an 8-month period; at the end of that period they will return to Antigua to begin their deployment at the V.C. Bird Airport. Proficiency tests, normally administered once every five years, are to be undertaken annually.
Class 3 Medical tests are also to be administered with increased frequency. These proficiency and health tests are intended to measure the suitability of controllers who have been practicing their trade, directing aircraft to land without incident. On very busy days, when an increased number of aircraft are seeking to land within a short space of time, the air traffic controllers need to be able to keep the aircraft safe in the skies and upon landing and take-off. Simulated tests continue to be one of the methods utilized to test efficiency. Failure to meet the standard may disqualify controllers, reducing the number available for daily deployment; the number of hours which a controller may work in any one day is also circumscribed by the rules governing aviation.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) also rates airports, taking into account several factors including safety. The V.C. Bird International Airport was rated as a Category 1 airport; because the airports of the ECCAA are jointly measured, a failure to adopt legislation and to take other steps by their governments have caused the ECCAA airports to be downgraded to a Category 2. The new Head of ECCAA has promised to return the region to a Category 1.
6.The Barbuda Council has sought the approval of the Cabinet to impose a small fee on passengers arriving and departing Barbuda by sea. The revenue so derived will be used to build a terminal at the River Dock, and to provide security for passengers. The Cabinet gave its approval.
7. Those who choose to make threats against the lives of public officials, utilizing Facebook and other platforms, are reminded that these actions are unlawful.
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