By Theresa Goodwin
Local residents need not be overly concerned by the decision of officials in Barbados to drop Antigua and Barbuda, along with several other Caribbean islands, from its ‘travel bubble’.
That’s the word from Foreign and Immigration Minister EP Chet Greene who suggested that the Barbadian government is simply implementing a protocol that other regional counterparts have introduced to contain the spread of Covid-19 in their countries.
The move means travellers from the twin island nation now have to show a certificate proving they are coronavirus-free to be allowed entry into Barbados, among other protocols.
Greene pointed out that all passengers coming to Antigua and Barbuda – including those from Barbados – are required to present a negative PCR Covid-19 test upon arrival at VC Bird International Airport.
“In our case, having opened up the borders, the government has an extra obligation with respect to the safety of the country. While a bubble will allow persons, under normal circumstances and a general definition for persons to arrive without any test being done, we are just making double sure that our borders are kept safe,” the minister explained.
Having recorded an increase in Covid-19 cases this week, the Barbadian Ministry of Health issued a statement noting that only Caricom nationals from St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Grenada would be allowed to enter Barbados without first needing a virus test.
In July, Barbados’ travel bubble was larger and included Antigua and Barbuda, along with Aruba, Anguilla, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Barthelemy, St Martin, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos.
Greene said that ultimately the overarching goal for regional leaders is to be able to effectively manage the virus through measures that will not be pleasing for some travellers and returning nationals.
Over the past few months, many have complained about perceived unfairness with the entry protocols for Antigua and Barbuda, which the minister admitted are changed periodically as the government continues to monitor developments surrounding the virus.
While acknowledging the complaints, Greene encouraged potential visitors and returning nationals to the country to become familiar with the travel advisories and contact the relevant departments or overseas consulates before purchasing a ticket.
“Let us all agree that this is a moving target, one without any history so to speak and we have to deal with different aspects on a daily basis,” he explained.
“I want to encourage caution and patience and understanding that there is nothing untoward in the administration of the management of Covid-19 and there is nothing that is being done to rob people of the experience of Antigua and Barbuda – in the case of visitors or in the case of citizens,” Minister Greene added.