HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday, March 30 2022

The Cabinet meeting commenced at approximately 10:00 am and ended at 4:00 pm. The Prime Minister was absent and the Attorney General, acting as Prime Minister, served as Chairman of Cabinet.

1. The Cabinet was informed that there was a power outage in Barbuda that was the result of an engine failure. A fuel injector ceased functioning, the Cabinet was informed, consequently the APUA flew two experts over to Barbuda to repair the malfunctioning engine; power was to be restored to Barbuda before Cabinet ended.

2. The Cabinet invited the General Manager of the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board and six members of the Bus and Taxi Association in order to regulate the voucher system guaranteeing a 25% reduction in fuel to legitimate buses and taxis. After vigorous discussions, it was agreed that vouchers allowing the reduction in the cost of 5 gallons and 10 gallons will be distributed to the bus drivers and taxi operators who are to carry an ID which connects them with the bus or taxi. The bus drivers will be allowed a weekly maximum of 50 gallons for bus drivers, and 40 gallons for taxi drivers. The system will allow for the bus and taxi drivers to redeem their gas vouchers at three service stations—one is in close proximity to West Bus Station, another on Factory Road, and a third on Old Parham Road. The Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board will assign one clerk to each of the three stations in order to ensure that the agreement made with each driver is adhered to.

3. The Cabinet invited the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA) to address the issue of a non-functioning x-ray and carousel at the Airport which has to be used to examine luggage. The ABAA sought estimates from three providers and settled on a supplier from the United States; its presence is also noted in four other Caribbean countries. Major repair work has to be undertaken in order to remove a nonfunctioning system and to replace it with a new one. Significant modifications are required in order to replace the old nonfunctioning system.

4. The Chief Fire Officer who is approaching retirement was invited to Cabinet along with the former Chief of Defense Staff in order to explain to the Cabinet why several firetrucks had been disbanded at the Burma Dump. The Fire Chief reported that one truck was 39 years old, another 29 years and two were 27 years old; all had been deemed unusable and beyond repair by the Department.  The life of a fire truck is usually ten years, dependent on the frequency of use. In the case of the Antiguan and Barbudan fire trucks, they put out more than 600 fires per year and drive sometimes on unpaved roads when putting out bush fires. The Cabinet agreed that the new fire trucks that will be replacing several of the old ones will be purchased from a firm that certifies the fire-trucks-mechanics; the trained mechanics will be stationed at the Government Workshop.

The Cabinet congratulated Assistant Police Commissioner Weaver for his outstanding service as Chief of the Fire Department, and for his thirty years of service to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

5.i. The Minister of Creative Industries invited four experts from the Festivals Office to address the upcoming 2022 Carnival. The Officer responsible for finances explained that the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) has been unused for more than two years and requires significant upgrading. The Minister of Works agreed that his Ministry would examine the state of the ARG and make every effort to ready it for the Carnival festivities.

The Double Decker ARG Stand which has already been condemned is likely to be removed in a few weeks, creating new space for special seating during Carnival. Contemplation is being given to razing the Sir Vivian Richards Stand in order to make way for a superior modern facility. The food vendors within the ARG will soon move into the completed temporary space, directly outside the ARG. APUA will next install running water and proper disposal for the runoff.

ii. Carnival participants are all encouraged to vaccinate or to be tested for Covid-19 before participating in troupes and other groups.

6. The Cabinet held a virtual discussion with a non-profit company that is offering to harvest Sargassum before it reaches our beaches and to turn the Sargassum into several useful products. The firm will rely upon the hotel sector, worst-affected by the Sargassum, to fund the exercise equitably. The Cabinet was informed by the Minister of the Environment that a fund from the Japanese Government will be more than sufficient to supplement any shortfall which the virtual presenters may encounter. There will follow a meeting between the not for profit group proposing the harvesting of Sargassum, twinned with the gift by the Japanese.

7. The Minister of Immigration reported that the amnesty program is proceeding vigorously to attend to the mandate now enshrined in law. More than 80 persons and their documents are examined daily. The program is schedule to end on April 30.

8. The Minister of Health reported that Covid infections are retreating. There are no persons hospitalized with Covid and only 9 active cases are currently reported.  The number of new active cases is still in single digits. The Cabinet is of the view that the management of the disease in Antigua and Barbuda was superb.  Cabinet congratulated the Minister, the Chief Medical Officer and her Deputy, the Chief Health Inspector, Ministry of Health Officials, Doctors, Nurses, Immigration Officers, Police, Members of the Defense Force, ONDCP, Customs, EMS, Orderlies, the Vaccination Teams, Port Health Workers, Staff at the Air and Seaport.

9.  Sailing Week is showing great potential to be one of the largest in a long time. The festivities are all possible because of the retreat of Covid caused primarily by the percentage of vaccinated individuals in Antigua and Barbuda. 10,000 more people need to be vaccinated in order to make our country safer. 

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