ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) — Prime Minister Gaston Browne, warning that the COVID-19 risk classification system in the Caribbean is “arbitrary and incredibly flawed”, says it also sets a “very dangerous precedent, which serves no useful purpose”.
Browne was commenting after his government again criticised the decision by Barbados to place the island on “medium risk” status that St John’s said would mean that Antiguans and Barbudans would have to be placed in quarantine for 14 days on their visit to Barbados.
“It is reprehensible for Barbados, or any other country in the Caribbean Community to apply its own arbitrary risk classification to a member state, when a regional standard has been established by CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency), unanimously agreed to by Caricom heads,” Browne said.
He warned that “this is a very dangerous precedent, which serves no useful purpose, but to undermine regional solidarity, during this period of crisis, when there should be heightened cooperation and collaboration,” he added.
Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Mnister Everly Paul ‘Chet’ Greene gave Barbados until Tuesday to explain its position or it would take the matter to the Caricom.
Cabinet this week “provided the prime minister with a mandate to write to his Barbadian counterpart regarding the articulating of its own COVID-19 standard and its disregard of the accepted CARPHA standard, when Barbados placed Antigua and Barbuda in a category that defies the agreed-to standard set regionally.
“The impact of this unilateral decision has affected the decision-making by international carriers considering flights to Antigua,” according to a statement issued after the Cabinet meeting.
In his letter to Prime Minister Mottley, the Antigua and Barbuda leader noted, “our two countries have suffered when other countries and regions have unilaterally applied classification to them.
“Most recently, the arbitrary classification of Barbados by the European Union as a “high risk’ country regarding anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing, was rightly protested by you and your government. My government, and I, personally, raised our voices in support of Barbados to decry this arbitrary action,” Browne wrote.
He told his Barbadian counterpart, she will no doubt “understand his government’s “deep concern about Barbados’ classification of Antigua and Barbuda as “high risk” or “medium risk” when the facts tell a quite different story.
“You will further appreciate our disquiet when Barbados departs from the position taken by Caricom Heads of Government to apply the CARPHA standard of 20 active cases for a population of 100,000. In Antigua and Barbuda’s case, we have only four infected persons, well below the threshold set by CARPHA”.
He said that the “unilateral” classification of the island by Barbados has received international attention and has led to further anxiety in his country given the struggling tourism sector and the impact on employment here.
He called on Mottley to personally intervene in the situation to ensure that the regional standard set by the Trinidad-based CARPHA and agreed to by regional leaders is applied to by the Barbados authorities and placing Antigua and Barbuda in the “low risk” category which it deserves.