The Cabinet began its weekly gathering at about 10:30 am and ended its meeting at 3:45 pm.
1. The Cabinet took a decision regarding Secondary School students ages 12 and older who have not taken the covid-19 Pfizer vaccine as mandated by the regulations. Those students attending Public and Private Secondary Schools who have not taken the vaccine are not allowed to enter onto the premises of their assigned Secondary Schools. A press statement was issued during the Cabinet meeting today to allow parents and students time to journey to any of the vaccination centres; these centres include the Multipurpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre, the Polyclinic at Villa, the All Saints, Jennings, Clare Hall and Browne’s Avenue Clinics.
i. Bars and Clubs will be permitted to open from Monday 15th November; all customers must be fully vaccinated and must present their photo ID vaccination cards for entry. All staff at these bars and clubs must also be fully vaccinated. Fetes will not yet be allowed until community immunity is achieved. Pleasure craft are also allowed to operate but must adhere to the covid-19 protocols which include vaccinated patrons and workers, the provision of sanitizing and temperature stations on board.
ii. The Chief Medical Officer and the Director of Education were invited to address the challenges that still face the nation as the economy opens up.
52,000 Nationals and Residents are fully vaccinated and about 6,000 partially vaccinated. Yet another 25,000 nationals and residents need to be vaccinated in order to get to community immunity. The CMO gave the Cabinet the assurance that there are sufficient vaccines in storage to complete the double vaccination of those who have had only a single dose administered. 19,000 doses of additional AstraZenica are expected to arrive in two weeks to supplement those in stock. The Cabinet is requesting the National Covid Technical Working Group to review the evidence and the guidelines with the intention of administering additional doses to those who require booster shots; for example, a person whose immune system is compromised, and vulnerable and high risk members of the population, will require a booster shot.
iii. A Travel Advisory is to be issued shortly that would give permission to passengers arriving in Antigua and Barbuda to take an approved rapid-test effective November 17 and to be fully vaccinated in order to gain entry. There is a list of approved rapid tests published by the WHO, the US/FDA, and the NHS that will be included in the travel advisory.
iv. The CMO noted that the number of persons hospitalized with Covid is now down to nine persons, two of whom are in ICU. The recent deaths recorded at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Center were all unvaccinated.
v. Prime Minister reported that he has instructed the CARICOM Secretariat to seek vaccines and the Covid prophylactic pills from the US Government that have been developed by the U.S. Pharmaceutical Companies. The Prime Minister reported that he will meet on Thursday 11th November with the US Ambassador and her delegation, and that he intends to raise this issue.
vi. The Prime Minister also made a report on the results of the COP26 Summit which was held in Scotland and noted that it was truly a moment for small island states to show leadership. He also reported on the Commission created by Antigua and Barbuda and Tuvalu to compliment the effort, by including “loss and damage” in the agreements that are likely to emerge from the Conference. The Prime Minister reminded the Cabinet that approximately $220,000,000.00 are required to place Barbuda in the position that it was before Hurricane Irma; yet, only $20,000,000.00 have been accessed thus far and much of it borrowed. Under the “loss and damage” principle, a fund of several billion dollars would be established to compensate those states that suffer harm from climate-extreme events.
2.i. A discussion regarding the private sector and enforcement of the Covid 19 mandates followed. There was some evidence presented that some private businesses were not enforcing the mandates requiring them to request a show of proof of vaccination; failure to so act will result in a penalty of $5,000.00 to apply. The next publication of the public health advisory will include the advisory. There appears to be a relaxation of the mask-wearing, sanitizing and social distancing by some businesses and their customers.
2.ii. The Minister of Finance reported that $10,000,000.00 have been dispatched to the Social Security Board to meet their obligations for the months of September and October. Those resources are from the CDB loan to the Government.
2.iii. The University of the West Indies (Five Islands Campus) is earmarked to receive $2,000,000.00. National Housing will be receiving $1.8 million dollars to assist in preparing temporary housing for Booby Alley residents who have been temporarily displaced, to make way for a new housing project in the Point.
2.iv. ABS-TV will shortly enter into a partnership agreement with CNN to share and utilize each other’s content and to report to CNN on newsworthy items flowing from Antigua and other Caribbean countries. The Cabinet agreed that it is a significant recognition of ABS’s standing as a reputable source for information and news-gathering.