HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday October 20 2021

Cabinet convened at about 10:30 am with all members attending, virtually and face-to-face.

1. The Cabinet requested the Honourable Minister of Health to provide a report on the Covid-19 situation in Antigua and Barbuda. Although he made a similar report to parliament the day prior, the Minister provided more details.

1.i. It is evident that the number of daily infections is decreasing and that is as a result of a smaller number of unvaccinated adults in the population. The Minister further reported that about 2,000 students, ages 12-17, have not yet received their Pfizer vaccine, although more than 75% of the eligible students have received their first shot.

1.ii. The United States has promised to deliver the 17, 600 doses of Pfizer vaccines; this second tranche is likely to be delivered at the end of October. A third tranche of the same amount should be delivered sometime thereafter.

1.iii. There are still thousands of AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinopharm and Janssen and Janssen vaccines available; hence, no adult can be exempted on the basis of the lack of vaccines. The best vaccine is the available vaccine.

2.i. The Cabinet affirmed its previous decision governing covid-19 protocols in Schools, restaurants and at the beach. All teachers returning to the classroom are to be fully vaccinated. All restaurants offering dining-in services are required to have all staff fully vaccinated and all customers fully vaccinated as well. They are to request evidence that those persons are vaccinated. Picnics and clustering at the beach are strictly prohibited at this time and will likely end when more people are vaccinated, the infection rates decrease further, and herd immunity is achieved. 

2.ii. The Minister reported that the Covid-19 vaccination card has been very well received internationally by those who have presented when travelling abroad. The Minister responsible for the production of the ID cards reported that the current level of production is 500 cards per day. However, additional equipment and licenses are shortly to be received and the production level will more than double to 1,000 cards per day. Within a short period the production will allow for cards on demand. The QR codes will be activated shortly.

3. The General Manager of APUA and three other APUA managers were invited to Cabinet to address responsibilities assigned to each of them.

3.i. The Manager responsible for broadband services reported that fiber to the home project in the southern zone is ongoing and a schedule of their progress is to be shared with customers.  The supply-chain challenge that plagues industry globally is causing a slowdown in the delivery of supplies and equipment ordered by APUA. Nationally, the Project should be completed by June of 2022. APUA will report once more to cabinet in four weeks or in mid-November on the revenue it earns from broadband services and a price structure that can fit the pockets of indigent families.

3.ii. The Manager of the Water Division indicated that the dependence on desalinated water is still paramount. However, it is evident that the revenue from water sales falls far below the production, such that APUA is persuaded that leakage and theft of water account for their losses.

3.iii. The Manager with responsibility for electricity was asked to explain recent outages. He attributed outages primarily to maintenance work which is scheduled and published each week. APUA electricity provides the water division with fiscal support, since water is a loss-leader.

4.i. The Minister of Tourism reported that dredging continues in the inner harbour of St. John’s to make the four-mile long channel and turning basin deeper and wider. The Oasis Class ships carrying 5,000+ passengers are expected to arrive on its inaugural trip by the end of December 2021. Every effort is being made to complete the work necessary and millions of dollars have been invested in getting it done.

4.ii. The Minister of Tourism also reported that Sandals is planning an expansion program here in Antigua.  It may involve a second property as well as expansion of its existing property at Dickenson Bay.

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