The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda convened virtually, for more than seven hours.
- The Prime Minister welcomed the members back after a three-week holiday break. He noted that the economy grew by 4.2 percent in 2021 and the aim is to achieve an 8 percent growth in 2022.
- He acknowledged that the new reverse osmosis plants coming online in 2022 will produce an additional 3,000,000 gallons of potable water per day, placing water-production at more than 10,000,000 gallons per day. The APUA will re-double its effort to solve the water problem caused by continuous drought conditions for 5 years. The Prime Minister also noted that water-storage is a challenge for many indigent families and complete reliance upon piped water is ill-advised; hence, CHAPA will be provided with resources to import rubber tanks for sale at cost. It was also agreed that the APUA will abide by its published schedule and will give notice when it is compelled to change. APUA will also intensify its communication strategy.
- A solution will shortly be found to the challenge posed by a decrepit Jolly Beach Hotel that owes significant debt to myriad creditors including the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
- Social Security will be provided $1,000,000 to enable it to meet its obligation before 31 January. The Government will also focus upon the construction of new homes; while the Edward Ward at the old Holberton Hospital will be repurposed to make available a Renal Facility for dialysis. A Cardiac unit will take the space that the dialysis centre will vacate at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre, in the New Year.
- The Cabinet will also shortly approach the parliament to grant amnesty to deserving residents whose immigration status is doubtful. It was also agreed that roads, drains, bridges and sidewalks will also be repaired during 2022.
- The Cabinet invited the Chief Medical Officer and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to participate in its meeting, in order to procure the advice of the two outstanding Doctors.
- The members were informed that 752 active cases were reported in the first week of January. There is strong evidence to suggest that the surge will continue, even though at a slower pace. Healthcare workers are also adversely affected. A field hospital has been activated on the grounds of the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre in order to lighten the load of those who appear at the Emergency Room, especially for testing, since the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 is easily transmissible and keeps the infected away from work, school, church and recreation.
- The two professionals are of the view that the citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda must learn to live with Covid and its variants; they encourage unvaccinated people across Antigua and Barbuda to get vaccinated immediately, and boosted when eligible.
iii.The CMO and her Deputy announced a standardized program for those who are infected by the Covid variants. Persons who are positive for COVID-19 should remain in isolation for 7 days. Once asymptomatic on the 5th, 6th and 7th days, they can be released from isolation with a negative rapid antigen test. If the test is positive, they should remain in isolation for a further 3 days until the 10th day when they are released without a test.
For those who are not positive and are in quarantine, the duration of quarantine is as follows:
Unvaccinated 14 days
Fully vaccinated 10 days
Fully vaccinated with a booster 7 days
iv. The CMO informed that 15 additional samples have shown that the Omicron variant is present in Antigua and Barbuda, and children are infected. At least 1,000 active cases of Covid are being treated in Antigua and Barbuda.
7. The Cabinet agreed that there will be no shutdowns, no curfews and all vessels scheduled to arrive Antigua will be allowed to dock.
i. The Cabinet noted that self-testing kits are not in stock at this time; the testing kits that are in stock must be administered by a healthcare professional. Nonetheless, anyone who tests positive from a self-testing kit will be required to be tested by a healthcare professional in order for the record to be complete; and, those who test negative from a self-testring kit may in fact have received a false negative, and can be dangerous to their family, friends and co-workers. They too are to be tested by a healthcare professional. There are 50,000 test kits presently in stock. A program of training, for those using the test kits, will take place at schools, at the places where uniformed personnel are located, and at public institutions.
8. The Cabinet learned that there is a chronic shortage of nurses which is reflected in the additional tasks assigned to the nurses at several institutions. The Cabinet expressed its gratitude to the nurses for the part they continue to play in performing their national duty.
i. A discussion was also held about the Merck and Pfizer tablets and it was established that these tablets are very costly but may be deemed more attractive than a syringed inoculation. Innoculation for children between the ages of 5-12 years is to be provided to Antigua and Barbuda by a friendly neighbour.
ii. In October 2021, the country had 00 active cases; the spike in infections following the Yultide Season is evident. Had there been fetes of 300 persons, or of 850 to 1,000 patrons as requested, the Cabinet is persuaded that the number of infections would have been even higher.
9. The Cabinet determined that many of the former workers of LIAT resident in Antigua, accepted the offer which the government made by accepting the cheque which the receiver paid from the $2,000,000 compassionate payment voluntarily provided by the government. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has no legal obligation to pay the former workers.
ii. The 109 substitute teachers brought on three months ago to fill a breach, are to be placed on staff as established workers.
iii. The Cabinet ordered that $1,000,000.00 be transferred to Social Security in order to ensure that recipients can be paid on time at the end of January 2022.
iv. The Cabinet agreed to replace a number of fire tenders that are no longer serviceable; and, simultaneously, to cause a contract to be entered into with an expert who can repair firetrucks.
11. The Solicitor General was invited to Cabinet to discuss PV Energy, the supplier of three solar plants to Antigua and Barbuda. One of the principals of the firm, Mr. Peter Virdee, has been convicted in Germany. He has entered into a payment plan to avoid incarceration.
i. An arrangement for the firm to provide storage batteries that will allow the plant to be operational when the sun does not shine, was also discussed.
ii. The solicitor General also proposed to Cabinet a substantial solution to a critical issue of constructing a hotel at Kalaloo Cay in Old Road. In two weeks, he will return to Cabinet to report on his progress.
12. The Minister of Agriculture confirmed that Agriculture grew by one percent of GDP in 2021; and, in 2022 the estimate is one percent additional growth, taking agricultural production to 3 percent overall, by the end of 2022.
13. The Minister of Education and Sports reported of a fire which destroyed three homes in Nutgrove on Tuesday morning, leaving the families without a place to live and with all their possession destroyed. The Cabinet agreed to assist with the rebuilding utilizing the HAPPI Programme; and, private assistance will also be sought in order to return the families to some degree of normalcy.