No date yet confirmed for when unvaccinated nationals may return

While the government has announced plans to ease the vaccination requirements for nationals wanting to return to Antigua and Barbuda, no date has yet been set for the official implementation of the policy change. During the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, Minister of Information Melford Nicholas explained that time is needed for the requisite protocols to be put in place before the change takes effect.

“The travel advisory would first have to be updated and the relevant date identified. So, I am not going to put a hard date on it, but in the coming week the travel advisory will be updated to reflect that those persons who are citizens would be allowed through the travel advisory.

“The airlines would be advised that even though they do not have a full panel of vaccinations [they] are to be allowed to come to Antigua,” Nicholas explained.

The government instituted the vaccine travel mandate last December for both nationals and tourists but, according to the latest Cabinet notes, it has taken the decision to remove the mandate for nationals only. The decision was made in consultation with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Health Inspector.

However, consultations will still be held over how tourists will be treated. Groups including the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) have pushed back at proposals that the mandate could be relaxed for visitors. While unvaccinated nationals will be allowed into the country, they will be required to take either a PCR test or a rapid antigen test within four days of their departure to Antigua.

These nationals, upon arrival in the country, will be tested at the airport and must also spend seven to 10 days in quarantine while wearing a tracking bracelet, and will be required to take another test prior to joining their family and friends.

While Nicholas mentioned that the test at the airport is free, no definitive arrangements were disclosed regarding the second test. But Nicholas said is likely that government will bear the cost of the second test and will be the one responsible for its administration to those in quarantine.

Regarding the possibility of returning unvaccinated nationals jeopardizing the country’s target of achieving herd immunity, Nicholas said there is no immediate concern that the impact would be significant.

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