The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda met both face-to-face and virtually, all members attending.
1. The Cabinet decided to retain unchanged the hours of the curfew; the curfew continues from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am daily. And, when the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda convenes tomorrow on Thursday, March 25, 2021, it will seek to extend the State of Emergency for 90 days, or until 30 June 2021. The beaches will remain closed on the Good Friday and Easter Monday Public Holidays; no music, no food, no picnics are allowed on the days when beaches remain open in order to discourage clustering and cavorting that could result in the spread of the Covid-19 disease.
2. It is the practice of the Cabinet to invite experts and officials to the Cabinet in order to enhance decision-making. The Chief Medical Officer and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health were invited to Cabinet to address several issues:
i. There were discussions held on the return of cruise tourism, likely to restart in a few months. The protocols that are to control entry into Antigua have already been articulated and submitted. While the Ministry’s focus has been concerned with the entry of the visitors, the cruise liners are also carefully examining the systems in place in the destination to forestall the infection of their passengers while on-shore. The training and vaccination of taxi drivers, tour operators, store owners and their sales staff, and the restaurant operators that are likely to interact with the disembarking cruise passengers were examined and approaches proposed.
ii. There also was a discussion about a fixed contractual arrangement between the vessels and the Mount St. John Medical Center, in the event a passenger falls ill and requires hospitalization that is beyond the capacity of the ship’s sick bay. That discussion also focused on a fixed contractual arrangement between the vessels and a receiving hotel, should a spouse or partner of a sick passenger should wish to remain in Antigua for the duration of the party’s hospital stay. A proposal was put forward to make voluntary an insurance program to which a passenger may subscribe when purchasing his/her/their travel package.
iii. The vessels are also interested in keeping the passengers disembarking Ship A, from mixing with passengers arriving on Ship B, when several vessels have moored on the same day in the St. John’s harbour. The systems which would be instituted are likely to include safe taxis and buses; passengers occupying separate parts of the public beach; and, ensuring that beach vendors, lounge chair renters, and sea sports operators on the beaches do not act as vectors. All may have to be vaccinated and to practice the safety protocols.
iv. The USA Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also sought to ensure that crew members do not disembark their vessels. The Cabinet has asked that this proposal be studied.
v. The passengers getting on board cruise vessels leaving the USA will all require vaccination as a condition of boarding; however, the cruise passengers will also require a Covid-19 PCR Test before setting off if Antigua is a destination stop.
vi. There has been a slight decrease in adults reporting ill with Covid-19 symptoms, daily; however that number is not very significant. Testing of contact-traced persons has not decreased significantly either, the Cabinet was informed. Several people who are still counted as being treated for the disease, have recovered.
3. The Minister of Tourism reported that:
i. One US air carrier is willing to increase its flights to Antigua each week. The bookings have begun to increase, and the carrier is seeking to maximize its return at this time, he reported. The carrier is also expecting LIAT to begin flying, and seeks to make the regional carrier an integral part of its future.
ii. An Irish airline is moving to complete an agreement with Antigua that will witness the opening-up of a new market as tourism springs back to life.
iii. The Ministry of Tourism has agreed to work with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Aviation to obtain official certification that passengers arriving Antigua on vessels have indeed received the inoculation by administration of a Covid-19 vaccine; by providing certification to ICAO, those arriving by air can have a digital record of their vaccination. The same ought to be done for cruise passengers.
iv. Several carriers are continuing to show interest in the destination ensuring that Antigua and Barbuda will be ready to receive passengers from its customary source markets as herd immunity is achieved in these countries, or infection rates decline markedly.
4. i. Construction on the annex to the Sir Novelle Richards Academy will begin at the end of the month. The building materials and other supplies have been purchased. The Italian philanthroper has provided a significant portion of the EC$4,000,000 and will complete the gifted amount in tranches as the structure progresses. The philanthroper selected the construction company of his choosing.
ii. Schools are to re-open on a full-time, face-to-face basis on April 12, 2021. If there is any change to the announced schedule, it may pertain to the Forms/Grades that can be shifted if conditions are not quite right.
5. The Cabinet proudly congratulated Cejhae Greene for his recent accomplishment on track and field exploit. He ran 10.01 seconds sprint at the Tropical Elite Sprints meet, held in Miami. He now qualifies for the Olympics later this year in Japan. The Cabinet remarked that support has been provided to a number of athletes who have gone on to achieve outstandingly. Mention was made of Bakka Bailey who actually ran a similar race as Greene at 9.90 seconds. Greene has also received assistance from the Treasury.
6. A National Day of Prayer is still to be held on Sunday, April 11, 2021, virtually. One of the events on that Sunday will be a 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm event to be aired on ABS-TV and other platforms. The participants will gather at a venue for praying, singing and possibly a sermon.
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