Britain confirms receipt of PM Browne’s request for compensation over ‘Antigua variant’ Covid claims

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Britain has confirmed receipt of a letter from Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne demanding compensation for claims that a new variant of the Covid-19 virus has links to the twin island nation.
A spokesperson for the UK government told Observer this morning that London would respond to Browne in due course.
However, they pointed out that it was not the British government or its public health agency – Public Health England (PHE) -that had described the variant detected as “Antiguan”.
Sparks flew last week when PHE announced that a new coronavirus variant had been identified in the UK in two people who had recently travelled to Antigua.
While the body conceded that the variant was not deemed concerning, the news was enough to trigger an onslaught of headlines across the world.
It was quickly dubbed the “Antigua variant” by the British press, even in the absence of information about precisely where it had originated from.
Last weekend, Browne said the UK should stump up 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in exchange for the “damage” wreaked on the country’s already battered tourism industry.
But given the UK’s own current challenges with securing supplies of the jab that’s perhaps unlikely to materialise.
The spokesperson went on to say, “We have been clear that this pandemic is a global challenge and international collaboration on vaccine development is crucial.”
 They noted that PHE had, after discussion with the Antigua and Barbuda government, amended text on its website to clarify that, despite the travel link to Antigua, there was no conclusive evidence to indicate where the variant in question first emerged.
The spokesperson also pointed out – with regards to claims about the impact on Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism sector – that travelling abroad for a holiday was currently illegal in the UK, and has been for some time.
“This messaging relates to current Covid-19 restrictions in the UK and is unrelated to any media reports regarding an ‘Antiguan variant’, they added.
Meanwhile, a statement from Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released this morning says the ministry has written to all media agencies which referred to the ‘Antigua variant’ demanding a retraction.
 Minister Chet Greene said there was a “fine but firm line which must be drawn between vigorously defending and safeguarding our national interest and not inadvertently assisting in giving oxygen to a negative and false narrative”.

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