The Cabinet focused upon Covid-19 and assessed its continued impact on Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean region, and upon several countries in Europe. In light of the resurgence in Covid-19 cases in several of the nation’s tourism source markets, Cabinet repeats that all health protocols are to remain in place even during the New Year. All citizens and residents are to continue to wear face masks; they are to continue to engage in sanitizing the hands; and to engage in social distancing, as far as is possible.
1. All bars and clubs and private parties over the Christmas Holidays are to continue to request vaccine ID cards for entry; no other form of Covid-19 vaccination identification shall be accepted. Vaccination ID’s issued overseas for tourists and returning nationals, upon entry into Antigua and Barbuda, will be accepted at the Bars and Clubs.
2. The State of Emergency and Curfew will end on 23rd December, 2021. Nevertheless, the retention of the established covid-19 protocols shall still govern. The Central Board of Health (CBH) and Law Enforcement will monitor behaviours on the beach and at the bars and clubs should it appear that the rules are being disregarded. The object is to ensure that there will be no spike in Covid cases after the Christmas Holidays. There shall be no clustering, no consumption of liquor, no music and no picnicking on the beaches even after the state of emergency has been lifted. It is anticipated that there will be an increase in the number of infections following the Christmas Holidays; therefore all citizens and residents are expected to display caution during the holiday season since they may become infected by unvaccinated people. Everyone is encouraged to get the vaccine if they have not done so yet.
3. Effective December 15th, all passengers arriving Antigua and Barbuda shall be fully vaccinated and shall also have a negative PCR Test or a Negative Rapid Antigen Test no more than 4 days old.
3i. The Technical Working Group (TWG) has issued a list of the approved rapid antigen tests that can be used to enter Antigua and Barbuda in lieu of the PCR test. The TWG has also published a list of category of persons who are eligible for booster shots. The Cabinet will prioritize the list of men and women who are eligible for a booster shot.
3ii. Among the list of acceptable vaccines COVAXIN has been added. It is an Indian-manufactured vaccine.
3iii. The Cabinet was also informed that a single medical personnel has been suspended, while investigations into the alleged fraudulent issuance of the vaccine booklet continues. At least 40 individuals had received the booklets and the Cabinet has insisted that they proceed to having themselves vaccinated.
4. The Cabinet invited to its Wednesday meeting the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Transformation and four other officials, including the head of the YEEP Programme. Each had an opportunity to speak and to present their views of the programme and its Director. The YEEP programme was described as a successful programme that has drawn hundreds of men and women who deserved a second chance at accessing educational opportunity at the High School Level. The students have earned passes at the CSEC level in various disciplines and several have gone on to enrolling at the Antigua State College, UWI Five Islands, ABHTI, and ABIIT.
5. In celebration of Arbor Day, the Department of the Environment presented the Cabinet with a mix of thirty potted plants. The Nursery Officer, the Senior Environmental Officer and a multi-talented technician presented the plants to all Ministers present. The Gaston Browne Administration has set aside $100,000.00 to nurture 100,000 fruit trees/saplings to be planted in 2022 across Antigua and Barbuda. The object is to make the country carbon neutral, and even to create more oxygen-producing plants than the amount of CO2 emitted annually.
6. The Cabinet invited three leaders from the Department of Environment, The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Agriculture to address the body on the successes of the COP26 negotiations.
6i. The Officials spoke of an Insurance Project that will allow farmers to insure their losses at minimal cost against extreme weather events. Over the next two years the Division is to develop forty new projects for Antigua and Barbuda in order to access millions of dollars that have been pledged, by the major greenhouse gas polluters, to the Global Environment Facility. $2.6 million United States Dollars have been secured for distribution to Churches as shelters during Natural Disasters. The Churches that have agreed have been identified; and the amount to be allocated has been agreed upon. Water harvesting is also to take place at these institutions and at sporting facilities that may also serve as shelters. Antigua and Barbuda will earn carbon credits which the Government will exchange for technology. For example, a wind turbine that saves the Government hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide by lessening relyiance on fossil fuels can be sold to a Carbon-emitting country in exchange for technology. A waste-water plant that is powered by a solar-electricity generator can indeed attract carbon credits; and, in some places where salt water has intruded into fresh water wells, desalination of the water can be undertaken using a solar-powered desalination plant. The Prime Minister has been in touch with the Government of Japan, and so also have been the Director of the Environment Division.
- The Minister of Tourism addressed the Cabinet on the issue of payment to taxi drivers at the seaport; he noted that the Ministry of Tourism is cognizant of the trouble that can be caused by any industrial action of taxi drivers and tour bus operators at this time, when the industry is recovering. So, every effort is being made to borrow money, if necessary, to meet payments to those who are unable to wait until such time as the cruise lines pay the tour operators.
- Travel from the docked cruise vessels by tourists, on foot, is to be fixed such that the visitors do not put themselves in danger. Traversing through an active parking lot is considered unsafe. The boardwalk which allows travel over the edge of the sea has been deemed, by the DCA, as unsafe. The replacement bridge will cost more than $200,000.00 by a private contractor; the amount requires tendering. It is possible to speed-up the process by seeking a waiver from the Tenders Board. That is to be fixed quickly so that all shops within the two areas–Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay–can get an opportunity to attract the tourists to the shops.