HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Thursday, June 17 2021

1.i. The Cabinet received an update on Covid-19 and learned of the very attractive data showing Antigua and Barbuda as the only independent state in this hemisphere with zero new cases in about one week, zero hospitalizations for Covid, and zero active Covid cases. The Cabinet congratulated all those who are responsible for this remarkable reporting including the Minister of Health, the Chief Quarantine/Medical Officer, the doctors, nurses, the front-line workers, the healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and the people of Antigua and Barbuda who obeyed the protocols, and those who are fully vaccinated. The Minister is of the view that the primary reason for this outstanding performance lies in the number of vaccinated people. He advised against becoming complacent. Every adult is encouraged to step forward for the AstraZeneca vaccine, now available. An estimated, additional 20,000 men and women resident in the State need to be vaccinated in order to achieve “herd immunity”.

1.ii. If it appears that the stored vaccines in Antigua’s possession that are scheduled to expire in a few weeks, and that they are not likely to be utilized by Antigua and Barbuda residents within that time, then the Cabinet determined that the vaccines will be donated to another Caribbean country that is in need of vaccines.

1.iii. The incentives relied upon to induce vaccination—at any of 6 venues across Antigua, and in Barbuda—will continue daily. All resident adults who have received one or two shots of the vaccine will be presented one ticket; the stubs will be placed in a large drum for a drawing of $5,000 at the end of each week, for four weeks. The raffle has not yet started but all vaccinated men and women are eligible to be included when all the administrative kinks have been ironed out. Additionally, an 8,000 square-foot parcel of land in Judges Hill will be raffled, at the end of this month for those who took first and second jabs in June 2021.

1.iv. The Cabinet determined that the number of people allowed to attend funeral services and weddings in churches, during this Covid crisis, will now be determined by the physical capacity of the church. The limit of 25 has ended. At the burial ground, the six-feet physical distancing will apply, and NOT the 25-person limit that controlled.

1.v. Approved events will have a curfew of 2:30 am, and patrons are to reach their homes by 3:00 am. Their arm bands and ticket stubs will serve as evidence that they attended an approved event that may be used if approached by law enforcement. The hours of curfew remain from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am each night, and the State of Emergency will be extended to September 30, 2021 or for 90 more days; the Parliament will convene next Tuesday, June 22, 2021, to address the issue of the expiration of the State of Emergency on June 28, 2021.

1.vi. ABS-TV/Radio and private media will begin airing new jingles to encourage all resident-adults to take their Covid-19 jabs, in order to move the numbers forward. A CNN training program will shortly commence for journalists.

I.vii. The plan for Summer Camps at school compounds will be limited to 50 students and administrators in order to reduce the spread of the Covid disease by crowding; the facilitators must be fully vaccinated.  The Cabinet reminds that it takes only one Covid-19 infected person to cause a super-spreader event.

  • Two officials were invited to Cabinet to provide expertise and to make specific requests of the Executive.

2.i.  The Chief Negotiator in the Green Barbuda Energy Project announced that the 100% green energy project that is financed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the tune of US$4,000,000, will make Barbuda the first island community that meets its energy needs 100% from renewable sources. Although a new diesel plant is to be added to the mix, the batteries that will store excess energy in the daytime will carry sufficient to meet the needs at night. The Prime Minister recalled that during one of his visits to the UAE, following Hurricane Irma in 2017, he persuaded the Emir to double the dollar amount earmarked for the project; it was agreed and several components were then added to the approved project which had its beginnings at the Antigua and Barbuda Mission to the United Nations. The Prime Minister, through the Cabinet, thanked the official present and the members of the UN Mission for their vigilance in pursuing this project to near-realization.

  • ii. The Project Coordinator of the Maria Holder Trust reported on the $7,000,000 project which is nearing completion and will throw its doors open in September 2021. A number of items require the input of the Executive to the tune of $450,000. The Cabinet committed itself to provide the furniture and the window blinds which together value US$67,000. The Center is a great addition to the All Saints West community that will be utilized in training youth from the surrounding villages.
  • The Cabinet held discussions on the Caribbean Maritime Union and the difficulties which students there were experiencing–and not just the students from Antigua and Barbuda. It was reported that Antigua and Barbuda paid its required contribution and was awaiting a reconciliation of the additional amount that was arbitrarily added to the bill. The disputed amount is not yet settled but the students are back in classes.  
  • The Minister responsible for Public Safety reported that additional fire trucks are to be added to the fleet as trucks are retired. Following the freak accident at the V.C. Bird Airport which cost the life of a firefighter and the destruction of a fire engine, it was deemed necessary to replace the asset and to add several other trucks which would meet the long-term needs of the Fire Service. A calculation as to the precise cost is yet to be finalized.
  • The Minister responsible for Public Utilities reported that underground fiber-optic cables have been laid in several communities on the north of the island. By the end of June 2021, connections to homes and businesses will commence. The APUA is also in the process of investing in its own underwater-sea-cable that will enable it to lower the cost of the broadband service to homes, hotels and other businesses.
  • The Cabinet announced that a Dental Clinic is being added to the services provided by the Villa Polyclinic, and that the communities of Point, Villa, Yorks, Fort Road and the Old City will be served by this clinic.
  • Cricket West Indies (CWI) Board has approved the Pakistan vs. West Indies Women’s to take place next week in Antigua. It attests to our successes.
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