The Cabinet met both face-to-face and virtually, all members present. The Cabinet also customarily invites experts and officials to attend the sessions in order to assist in enhancing the executive body’s decision-making.
- The Cabinet held a discussion about the pace at which the vaccination of the population is proceeding, and agreed that to achieve herd immunity, more residents and citizens must offer themselves to be vaccinated. Several incentives were agreed including offering $50 food vouchers to every adult who steps forward to be vaccinated, and who brings others to the centers to receive their jabs. Although more than 30,000 adult residents and citizens have step forward and have been vaccinated thus far, an additional 40,000 adults need to be vaccinated before herd immunity can be said to be achieved.
- The Cabinet invited the officials of the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) to appear before it. The assurance was sought by Cabinet whether, like other Hotels Associations in the Caribbean, the ABHTA would have a voluntary or mandatory policy regarding vaccination and employment at the hotels. The officials did reveal that many North Americans making bookings for the upcoming season, inquired whether the hotels’ employees were vaccinated. The Cabinet concluded that there is a strong desire by the travelling public to ensure that the persons with whom they must interact at the hotels, the taxi drivers, the shops, the places of high historical interest, are safely vaccinated and not likely to make them ill or to infect them. 1,,900 of their of 3,600 employees are vaccinated.
- Invitations to Cabinet will be extended to the Employers Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Trade Union Congress, and other employee/employer groups, in order to seek consensus on the vaccination policy. A mandatory policy of vaccination is contemplated by the administration only if herd immunity cannot be achieved through other means within a fixed timeframe.
3.iii. The Minister of Sports made an impassioned plea to allow recreational sports to take place. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, scores of men gather on open fields to play soccer and other kinds of sporting activities intended to keep their muscles taut and their lungs healthy. The Cabinet agreed that it is to be encouraged but that every precaution must be taken to ensure that these activities do not lead to the spread of the virus. Those who feel ill are to stay isolated in their homes; those who participate must not expose themselves, but must practice the protocols that have kept them healthy. They must all be encouraged to vaccinate.
3.iv. A Public Health Protection Policy is being articulated, vaccination being the most important element. The protocols established thus far, which have kept the population largely healthy, is another element of this policy. There is planned one more meeting with bar owners; after the owners and the employees of those establishments have received their first vaccine, they are to be given the green light to re-open a few days afterwards.
- The Cabinet invited the three APUA managers and the APUA General Manager to come before the body in order to assess the readiness of the APUA to supply electricity, water, telephone and INET services, during the pandemic and beyond.
4.i. The Electricity Manager spoke to the issue of sufficiency of power generation over the next 15 years, the life of the current plants that produce electricity, and the need to plan for additional power generation now. The current generating capacity stands at 82 megawatts, and peak demand is close to 60 mgw. However, several engines may pass their useful life shortly, requiring replacements that take into account greenhouse gas emissions, the state’s carbon footprint, and the plan to place all government buildings on renewable energy systems that will eliminate nearly 25% of the demand now placed on APUA.
- The Water Manager listed the number of new reverse osmosis plants that are coming on board within the next 12 months, that will take into account the increasing need for potable water which an expanding economy and new housing will trigger. The Potworks Dam was yielding 700,000 gallons per day following the rains of last November 9 and 10, 2020; since drought-like conditions have returned, the amount now required of the Potworks Dam has increased to more than 2,100,000 gallons daily. Folks with water storage capacity are filling their tanks to avoid a shortage in households. Barbuda has a supply of 200,000 gallons of potable water daily.
iii. Several broken cast-iron pipes that cause severe leakage in Ottos and Point will be replaced, the manager promised; it will involve inconvenience for motorists since the surfaces of roads will have to be removed in order to access the buried broken pipes. The resources for completing this exercise have already been secured.
- New intelligent water-meters that allow for top-ups will be installed for customers who may wish to limit their household expenditure on the precious fluid. When the value of the amount has been consumed, the meter will shut-off supply until an additional amount is purchased, not unlike cellphones that require top-ups when the paid value has been consumed.
- The Telephone/INET Manager reported that since 2018, the number of customers reliant upon APUA/INET has moved to more than 25,000, yielding revenues of more than $18,000,000 annually. INET has been a success story, despite an attempt by a previous administration to end its existence.
- The Fiber to Home network is proceeding steadily, the Cabinet was informed, with 21,000 of 43,000 households targeted for the change-over by December 2021.
- Two investors and their local banker were invited to Cabinet by the Prime Minister to share their vision of an Antiguan Health City which they intend to construct over 10 years, at a cost exceeding US$2,000,000,000 (two billion dollars). The investors were invited to look at the Willoughby Bay Development, planned by the Economic Recovery Committee; they visited the site during their first visit to Antigua. It is now their third visit to Antigua and they are more persuaded that their plan can be executed. Emphasis is to be placed on new technologies in addressing illnesses; their patients will come from all over the world and will consist of wealthy and insured customers who can afford the luxury planned. They believe that as many as 4,000 men and women will be employed by the facility, and create other value for the Antigua and Barbuda economy.
- Parliament will convene this morning at 9:30 in order to consider a number of Bills and amendments. The Telecommunications Bill willhave its First Reading in 2021.
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