The Cabinet met face-to-face, all members present.
1. Cabinet held a discussion on Covid-19 and the mandates and protocols that have been guiding Government’s policy, since March 2020. The mandate requiring all persons entering Government buildings to provide proof of vaccination, is no longer required. All other protocols remain in place including hand washing, social distancing and wearing of masks. It is Cabinet’s intention to make mask-wearing optional, shortly. Cabinet encourages all those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so in order to increase their protection against any variant that may emerge and might be deadlier than the Omicron. Cabinet noted that there are no patients hospitalized with Covid and that in the past week only twenty-three (23) cases were detected.
2. The Minister of Immigration reported that the first day of the Amnesty Programme went seamlessly. The expectation is that over the next sixty (60) days—or up until April 30th when amnesty ends—several thousand immigrants would have regularized their status. Each immigrant must acquire a numbered form and pay $200.00 in order to gain amnesty. Other fees will follow depending on whether one has been resident in Antigua from four years to fewer than seven years, and is seeking lawful residency; anyone who has spent seven or more years and is seeking citizenship will then pay a different fee.
3. The Cabinet invited the APUA Water Manager to its meeting, in order to provide timelines, to answer questions about the quantum of resources required, and the current performance of various Reverse Osmosis plants.
The Crabbes Plant, for example, has six units; four units now produce 2.5 million gallons of potable water per day; and, when its two other units are brought back online, the Plant will be back up to 3 million gallons per day. The Cabinet was informed that the membranes used to operate RO plants grow increasingly inefficient with use. The membranes are cleaned frequently and APUA changes those parts every 3 to 5 years.
The Ivan Rodriguez Plant which is at Barnacle Point produces 1.4 million gallons per day with six units; two of the units are currently being maintenanced in a staggered fashion that allows for the plant to continue to produce a significant portion of its maximum output.
At Camp Blizzard, Cabinet was informed that there are four units there at the moment, and they are all functioning. Their membranes were replaced in 2018 and are about ready to have new membranes installed sometime within the next twelve months.
At Ffryes Beach, four units are online producing 90% of its production capacity or 1,600,000 gallons per day; that increase has caused the southern parts of Antigua to receive more potable water than ever before.
The Fort James Plant, which is under construction, will be fully commissioned before September 2022 and has been purchased for more than $14 million dollars.
The Pigeon Point RO Plant produces more than 300,000 gallons of potable water daily. It will be sufficient to meet the demands of the villages and communities in St. Paul, the yachts and other vessels that will be participating in the Antigua Sailing Week at the end of April.
Two storage tanks that remain unconnected are being connected through the use of polyethylene pipes, since it was determined that PVC pipes cannot be used. The soil is rocky and will puncture the pipes if there is earth movement, the Cabinet was told. The Cabinet was also informed that new membranes can be shipped five to six weeks following an order; they cannot be kept in storage for more than a few weeks before deteriorating.
In Barbuda, the Cabinet was informed that the building to house the RO plant has begun construction. The 2017 hurricane destroyed an RO plant and infrastructure that provided the Village of Codrington with potable water. The new plant will fulfill the needs of homes as well as institutions that require potable water.
4. The Cabinet held a discussion on issues of the Blue Economy. The Minister responsible assured the Cabinet that there is great potential in securing minerals and other substances from the seabed that falls within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Antigua and Barbuda. UWI Five Islands has been successful collaborating with the Association of Commonwealth Universities to have professors as well as students interested in oceanography and the Blue Economy, to utilize the Five Islands Campus for special courses as well as research. UWI Five Islands is positioning itself to be the university of choice for those who wish to study Oceanography and exploitation of sustainable ocean resources.
5. The Cabinet received a request from Mr. Jamale Pringle to provide him with a portion of crown land in partial satisfaction of a debt owed to him for work he has done for National Solid Waste Management Authority. The Cabinet has agreed but will conduct an audit of the debts which the businessman claims are owed to him.
6. The Cabinet was informed of the rape of a young girl by a group of adult males. All the agencies of the Government within the social protection systems have been activated to address the needs of the victim. The issue of prosecution is outside of the remit of the Executive arm of Government. The appropriate agency is conducting a full investigation.
7. The former Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Jocelyn Greene, is to be buried on Thursday, 3 March 2022; a funeral service is to be held at the Greenbay Moravian Church at 2:00 pm. Representation from the Cabinet will be present. The Cabinet expresses its sympathies to the husband, daughter and family, coworkers and friends of a true daughter of the soil.