Prime Minister (PM) of Antigua and Barbuda, the honourable Gaston Browne, has set a standard of excellence that should be emulated by all the leaders in the Caribbean and further afield. News had circulated that an Antiguan variant of Covid-19 was discovered by Public Health England (PHE). Browne quickly challenged those claims by stating that officials of the Antiguan Ministry of Health had contacted representatives of the PHE – an executive body of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom – who admitted that they erred in referring to the twin-island nation as responsible for infecting citizens of the U.K. with the variant.
P.M Browne wrote to many U.K. and Caribbean media outlets that were disseminating the story which had originated from the PHE website.
The P.M. said that the story evolved from a family of five who had vacationed in Antigua but he wrote in his letters that 32 days had elapsed since they had shown negative results for infection by the pandemic. This was much longer than the incubation period of 14 days. He also stated that daily tests were conducted on material from Antigua by reliable external agencies and they found no variant arising from Antigua. He assured the media that Antigua and Barbuda employs strict Covid-19 measures and is one of the safest places in the world with low rates of infection and a high rate of recovery.
The coup de grace by the P.M. was to pen a letter to Prime Minister of the U.K. Boris Johnson. He congratulated Johnson on his government ‘s success in swiftly and successfully administering vaccines. He spoke of his government’s similar success which was boosted by a considerable gift of vaccines from India. He highlighted the tardiness in receiving vaccines from the COVAX provision although his government had already paid for them. He highlighted his government‘s futile efforts to buy vaccines from major suppliers whose supplies were insufficient because of over- purchasing by rich countries. Nevertheless, he was able to boast of his country’s low number of infections and high rate of recoveries.
In his letter, Browne made it clear that tourism is his country’s major industry and it was severely impacted by the PHE’s posting of “an Antiguan variant” of the coronavirus being discovered in the U.K. He stated that this forced his government to borrow, which would plunge his country’s economy into greater peril. He reminded Johnson that it was one of the U.K’s major agencies which had inflicted the blow to the twin island’s economy, therefore he was requesting a donation of 100,000 doses of the Astra- Zeneca vaccines for his country’s citizenry.
Many countries may not experience a similar situation and be able to use it as an opportunity to make something good out of it. Good work P.M Browne! Let’s hope that your request is heeded and that the vaccines will make your people strong and revive your economy.
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