HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday February 2, 2022

The Cabinet met both face-to-face and virtually; all members attending.1. The challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic continues to engage Cabinet, even when the announced policies are being examined to determine the degree of their success.i. It was agreed that insufficient new data had emerged in the seven days since the prior Cabinet meeting to warrant a further examination of the proposal to eliminate the requirement of vaccinations for entry into Antigua and Barbuda. It was agreed that the review of the entry requirements will take place when the new data become available.ii. The Cabinet agreed to adjust the regulations which now allow only medical professionals and institutions to lawfully import the Rapid Antigen Covid Testing kits. The adjusted regulations will allow Rapid self-testing kits to be imported by individuals who are not medical practitioners, provided the kits are designed and intended for use at home by non-professionals. No duties or taxes are to be imposed on these items. The Cabinet recognized that many families, fearing infection from a single member of a household, may wish to be tested multiple times but may not be able to afford the cost which a private medical practitioner charges—especially when all household members must test. The regulations will shortly be altered and the Customs and Excise Division is to be informed to allow the kits to enter duty and tax free.iii. The number of Covid infections is declining weekly, though the latest number is still far higher than is acceptable and achievable; in the first week of June 2021, the number of active cases was 00. In the month of January 2022, a weekly high of 751 infections has been recorded; in the last week of January 2022, a reduction to fewer than 50 persons was recorded. The Minister of Health and Wellness continues to encourage all unvaccinated residents and citizens to protect themselves with the vaccines available, at no cost; and to obey all the protocols when in public. 2. The issue of the provision of potable water to homes, hotels, businesses, institutions, and other customers of APUA, was also addressed. Although new polyurethane pipes have been ordered, Cabinet immediately agreed to provide the APUA with an additional $400,000 to reduce the liability to the suppliers of the replacement pipes. When the repair of rotten and broken pipes begins, the APUA advises that inconvenience to pedestrians, drivers and businesses will be inevitable; the surfaces of the streets in Point, Ottos, Camacho Avenue, and Montrula will have to be disturbed in order to gain access to the broken pipes below. However, where nearly 20% of the produced water goes to waste because of broken and leaky old pipes, it makes good sense to replace them in quick time, Cabinet was again told. APUA now supplies more than 7,000,000 gallons of potable water daily. The object of the additional Reverse Osmosis plants and the repairing of the delivery system is to ensure a continuous supply to all seven days per week for 24 hours each day. 3. The Cabinet agreed to allow immigrants living in Antigua and Barbuda whose immigration status is in doubt, to apply for amnesty in order to regularize their status. The period during which the fixing of the gaps or shortfall will take place begins on March 1, 2022, to April 30, 2022. In anticipation of the 8% growth forecast of the economy in 2022, more workers will be required; the regularizing of the Immigration status will allow a greater number of workers to become available to the job market, the Cabinet believes.     4. The Cabinet agreed to pay special attention to Clarevue Hospital and to those persons who may need help, in order to overcome periods of mental illness that could lead to acts injurious to innocent others or to self. The Minister of Health and Wellness has pledged to have the trained Clarevue staff work with the Royal Police Force and the Ministry of Social Transformation to help to identify those who need the help. 5. Parliament will convene for the Budget Statement on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Several Bills will have their first reading then, and will be debated in the weeks following the conclusion of the debate, which begins next Thursday, February 10, 2022, at 9:30 am. The Leader of the Opposition is to be the first speaker. 6. Cabinet has favorably considered a request for celebration of Labour Day 2022. Monday, 2 May 2022, is marked on the calendar as Labour Day. Covid has prohibited the usual celebration of workers’ day in 2020 and 2021. Cabinet is giving favorable consideration to altering the means of celebration, in consultation with all of the stakeholders. A decision will soon be announced. 7. Cabinet also heard from the Minister of Cultural Industries who reported that a limited form of Carnival 2022 is being planned. All stakeholders are being consulted with the object of disallowing those events that could act as super-spreaders that can harm many people simultaneously. 8. The Cabinet decided to order an official funeral for Lady Ena Thomas who passed away more than one week ago, following a brief hospitalization. Lady Ena served as Chief of Protocol in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly after Independence in 1981. She was also Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Passports. Lady Ena Thomas was also the widow of Ambassador Sir James “Bags” Thomas, who died in 2013.  

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