The Cabinet met today for its weekly meeting in order to take many decisions that reflected a shift in some Covid-19 policy. The entire team was present, several by virtual means and others by face-to-face engagement.
1.i. The Cabinet decided that fully vaccinated nationals and residents returning home after having taken the negative PCR Test, no older than seven days prior to their departure from the city which the aircraft comes, will be allowed to proceed to their homes unimpeded. Those fully vaccinated returning nationals and residents will have no need for a PCR Test on arrival in Antigua, and will not be required to spend two days in quarantine. The benefit of taking the two doses of the vaccine are paying off, the Cabinet asserted. Those residents and nationals returning home, who have not been fully vaccinated, will be required to proceed to the quarantine center at Jolly Beach for 14 days and to take a PCR Negative Test on the 12th day before being released.
1.ii. The Cabinet agreed that the first fete permitted to take place under very strict protocols is scheduled for July 18, 2021, at the Coolidge Cricket Grounds. Thereafter, fetes or gatherings will be allowed all fetes or gatherings will have a maximum of 300 adults, all fully vaccinated. Following the first event, a full epidemeological study will be conducted in order to determine if anyone has become infected with Covid-19. The Cabinet is aware that spikes in infectionns have occurred following mass gatherings, and will allow other mass- gathering events only if the first proves to be safe. The events must end at 2:30 am and patrons are to keep their ticket stubs and wrist bands in order to demnstrate that they are coming from an authorized event, in the event they are stopped by law enforcement. They must arrive home before 3:00 am.
1.iii. All bars and clubs are to continue to close at 11:00 pm during the Carnival days of August 1, 2, and 3; and strict enforcement is to follow by the Police and Military to ensure that no illegal gatherings take place during the Carnival period, but certainly on the August 1, 2, and 3 weekend.
1.iv. The attempt to arrive at a common protocol for cruise vessels docking at the ports of the CARICOM states was not achieved during the recently-ended CARICOM Heads meeting. The first cruise vessel scheduled to bring more than 100 passengers to Antigua’s Heritage Quay Port will arrive in the morning of Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The crew on board will be 100% vaccinated, and 90% of the passengers will also be fully vaccinated. Consequently, all those workers and officials who are likely to have contact with the disembarking passengers who come ashore are required to be fully vaccinated. Yet, the Cabinet was informed that only: 55% of taxi drivers are vaccinated fully; 72% of vendors are fully vaccinated; 72% of the merchants and their staff are fully vaccinated; 60% of Tour Operators and staff are fully vaccinated. The Cabinet is offering RAPID TESTING of the unvaccinated each week when cruise vessels arrive at Antigua’s Heritage Quay and their passengers are coming ashore. The cost of the testing is to be met by the unvaccinated. The Cabinet reminds that vaccination is at no cost and is readily available today and every day leading up to the first cruise vessel. The Cabinet encourages all to take the vaccine in order to protect one’s family, one’s business and the nation. Any spike in transmission could result in Antigua and Barbuda being removed from the green light accorded by the U.K., and from the safe Category 1 in which the USA has moved the state. The Cabinet reminds that those who disobey the strict protocol rules to iclude social distancing, wearing of face masks properly, and who fail to sanitize are subject to a fine of $500.
1.v. The Dollar Barrel initiative will continue until July 31, 2021, allowing families abroad to dispatch sanitizing supplies, clothing and food to enter without paying customs duties and ABST on the imported items. Thus far, more than 18,000 barrels have arrived Antigua, and the value of the duties and ABST foregone have exceeded more than EC$3,500,000.
1.vi. The Cabinet decreed that Jolly Harbour is to re-open as a point of entry for yachts and other sailing vessels. It is anticipated that Heritage Quay will become very busy and fully utilized in the weeks and months ahead, necessitating an additional entry point. The Parliament will convene on Thursday, July 8, 2021, in order to amend the Regulations governing Covid-19 and to bring changes to other important legislation.
2. The Cabinet welcomed the former U.K. Secretary of State for International Development who is currently the President of COP 26, the Right Honourable Alok Sharma. He was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister, the Chairman of Cabinet, who expressed the nation’s thankfulness for his earlier decision to provide nineteen million Pounds Sterling for infrastructural development. The Chairman/Prime Minister also asked him for full collaboration during the Conference of the Parties 26 (COP 26) when the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) will attempt to hold the big emitters of pollution to their promises of reducing their carbon footprint over the years ahead. The Prime Minister also reminded the President of COP 26 that small island developing states (SIDS) are very interested in developing a VULNERABILITY INDEX to include the recurring costs associated with hurricanes, drought and other climate extremes that increase the debt burden of SIDS. The President of COP 26 has vowed to take all these concerns into account and to win over as allies, during the Conference, the SIDS as allies. Inputs were forthcoming from the Minister of the Environment, the Chief Environmental Officer, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Tourism, and the Attorney General. The High Commissioner of the U.K. stationed in Bridgetown also spoke of the importance of the alliance between the SIDS and the President of COP 26. PM Browne is currently the Chairperson of AOSIS.
3. The Cabinet reflected on the unavailability of two hotel properties –the Halcyon Hotel and the Jolly Beach Hotel– that are to be required as a bumper number of tourists arriving by air are expected to fill all the available hotel rooms in the 2021/2022 tourism season. Arrangements have been put in place for Sunwing to partner with the holders of the lease at Halcyon Hotel; more than $90 million dollars are to be invested in its upgrade and to add new rooms to the existing 160 to bring it up to more than 300 rooms. Sunwing purchased the old Royal Antiguan Hotel, renamed it the Royalton, and spent more than $100 million dollars to refurbish it and to add to its appeal.
4.The Cabinet held discussions with two doctors by Zoom concerning Stem Cell Therapy which will be offered in Antigua to visitors and those with the resources to purchase the service. Stem Cell Therapy is the new method of curing illnesses without the use of surgery and pharmaceuticals, relying instead on rejuvenation of body parts by the injection of youthful cells that work with the body’s system to fix itself. It was agreed that the law exists for such therapy to be applied in Antigua; however, the issue of the payment of taxes and the shielding of the state from liability were two important issues that were agreed-to when the Zoom meeting ended. The issue of the “chain of custody” of the stem cells was also very important and was addressed, with assurances of security of the stem cells being given by the doctors who will operate the center. An Oversight Committee enshrined in the law will give its attention to the proposal.
5. The Prime Minister gave a review of the CARICOM Heads meeting which took place via one of the meeting platforms relied upon since the Covid-19 crisis, on Monday and Tuesday, July 6 ad 7, 2021. The Prime Minister also related the details of the gruesome assassination of the Haitian President and the injury caused to his wife, Haiti’s First Lady. She was flown to Florida for surgery since bullets entered he body during the unlawful killing of her husband, President Jovenel Moise. More than 27 items were discussed and a public statement or Communiqué was issued following the meeting. Prime Minister Browne remains the Chairman of CARICOM until December 2021.
6.The Minister of Information Technology informed that the Development Control Authority (DCA) will be automated fully in a few weeks. The Data Protection Act and its Regulations will be applied to make the task of DCA to be much easier. Efforts are underway to accelerate the Digital Passport to replace the pieces of paper that are given to vaccinated adults. That planned passport will conform to high standards that will make it fraud proof, the Minister explained.
7. The Cabinet applauded the Police for their successful management of the Nigel Christian murder. Four accused have been brought before the Court, charged with the murder of the high Customs Official whose bullet-ridden body was discovered in bushes shortly after execution. The Royal Police Force has worked with various police agencies, including the FBI, Scotland Yard, and the Canadian Mounties in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Cabinet congratulated the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda for their outstanding work, thus far.
8. The Parliament will convene on Thursday morning, July 8, 2021, at 9:30 am to debate and to pass into law several important pieces of legislation, including amendments to the Covid-19 Regulations required to instruct Port Health at the airport, the seaport and others of interest in Antigua and Barbuda.
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#6 ‘accelerating efforts to provide a digital vaccination passport’
Let’s hope Minister of Information & team do not plan to reinvent the wheel.
Months ago, the Minister of Tourism alluded to A&B using the global IATA vaccination passport – an electronic record accepted globally.
Please, let us move forward with that and not have the debacles we’ve witnessed with internet reliability & speed for digital nomads & the population, the tracking bracelets etc.
It makes sense to use a globally accepted system, and that surely should be easier & faster to implement, and more reassuring for Nationals who travel.
Cabinet: please give consideration to beach use, national park access and specific regulations over the 4-day August weekend.
Nationals would like to enjoy our island responsibly.
Perhaps permit beach use up to 10 people per group with picnic but no music. Ensure recently trained beach officers are working & visible each day.
Allow hiking & cycling but not car/motorbike gatherings.
Ensure police are actively alert, can see well & patrolling and willing to enforce regulations & protocols.
Please, give the people some easement – we don’t all have access to private flotillas to Barbuda or behind -high-walls pool parties.
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