ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) — The Antigua and Barbuda government says it has established a “travel bubble” that will allow citizens from several identified states within the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to travel to the country without the necessity of having coronavirus (COVID-19) tests and certificates presented upon entry.
A statement issued after the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday noted that citizens from the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Jamaica will be accorded the privilege of being included in this “bubble”.
“Reciprocity is also deemed to be a requirement. The number of infected persons in these jurisdictions is deemed sufficiently low so as not to cause a threat, although the citizens of these Caricom countries, upon entry, will be made to undergo non-invasive temperature tests. Only two of the states have opened their borders since the COVID-19 epidemic.
“All other persons of every citizenship who intend to travel to Antigua, after July 7, 2020, are required to undertake a COVID-19 test that is no more than seven days old prior to travel, and to have a certificate showing that they have tested negative,” the statement added.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas said while the decision to establish the bubble had been taken at the Cabinet level, the Ministry of Health has been tasked with ironing out the details.
“Even though the cabinet has made a determination at this high level we are still going to submit this policy for the consideration of the medical and health professionals such that they can determine the further protocols that would need to be applied to ensure that persons who are travelling to Antigua from these locations would not necessarily be subjected to all of the rigours, but the protocols are to be determined by the Ministry of Health,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government has said that the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has indicated to the Ministry of Health that a vaccine for COVID-19 “is not too far off, and will be made available to Antigua if it so desires.
“The Cabinet gave the Minister the authority to inform PAHO that Antigua and Barbuda will wish to have sufficient to inoculate its population of approximately 100,000 souls. An exact date has not yet been fixed, but states must indicate their desire to be provided with the medicine in order for the PAHO to determine how many vials of the substance it ought to order. A revolving fund within PAHO will meet part of the cost of the supplies,” the statement said.
It said that there had also been “ a lengthy discussion” about the successes of the government in addressing the number of COVID-19 infections in Antigua and Barbuda, the rate of recovery of infected persons and the preparedness of the Ministry of Health to ready the facilities, the medical personnel, and the equipment required to successfully contain the spread of the disease.
The statement said that the role of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) “in providing accurate testing was applauded by the Cabinet.
“Although a total of 73 persons were tested positive for the coronavirus after March 11, 2020, the recovery of all but 13 patients and three early deaths demonstrates the readiness of the health facilities, the doctors and nurses who played significant roles in containing the spread,” the statement noted.
It said that the population’s willingness to obey the protocols and the social distancing rules which were largely observed also ensured that there was no community spread.
“Those who are still engaged in contact tracing, who found those men and women who had contact with infected persons, were also applauded for their work. There is to be no relaxation in the battle against this disease, the Cabinet asserted, encouraging the population to abide the rules.”