By Orville Williams
Over 100 business places have so far been registered for inspection, as the Central Board of Health (CBH) commends owners and operators who have heeded the call as part of the ongoing economic reopening.
Businesses were urged last week to register with the CBH for inspection ahead of the June 1 re-opening and, during that time, the CBH had bemoaned the number of places that had reached out to schedule an appointment.
Just over a week later, the authorities are singing a different tune.
Chief Health Inspector (CHI), Sharon Martin, gave Observer an update on the status of the inspection programme and explained some of the issues that have arisen.
“To date, we have registered 11 gyms, of which we would have inspected nine. Bars, we have so far registered 84 and we have inspected about 65. Casinos, we have 17 registered and so far, we have covered 16.
“For churches, we have inspected 16 so far and we have a lot now coming forward for inspection to be done. So, between [Wednesday] and Friday, we should be covering a lot more,” Martin said.
Although the number of registered businesses has increased, things have not been smooth sailing for some of the operators. Martin said that not everyone has been meeting the necessary requirements for reopening and this has forced the authorities to take action.
“[Tuesday] night, the inspectors were out, and 10 places were visited, of which [the CBH] closed one and the police demanded three be closed, some of them [for] unhygienic conditions, [some] not sticking to the protocols for Covid-19, so it’s a combination of things,” the CHI said.
“Some of them have not yet put anything into place, but they proceeded to open their bars and we had to close them down.”
With the authorities strictly enforcing the protocols, Martin said the interest from businesses has significantly improved. “It is a lot and every day different places are calling because they realise that we are [enforcing] the protocols.”
Elaborating on businesses that choose to reopen without being inspected and certified, Martin added, “If they’re caught, they will be dealt with, they will be closed down. So, more and more of them are calling the hotline number (727-7077) to get registered.”
Martin also explained that the CBH is working alongside the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda in executing the inspections and declared that they have their full support in dealing with violators.
Some business operators have already gone through the process of registering and being inspected and have now resumed business. The Skullduggery bar in English Harbour and the West Point bar in Jolly Harbour have already received approval from the authorities and are both looking forward to recouping some of the lost business.
Others – who chose to remain anonymous – have begun the process, but said they have been advised to make certain changes before approval is given.
Meanwhile, speaking ahead of the first incoming commercial passenger flight since the Covid-19 lockdown, Martin said plans are well underway to receive the passengers.
“You can’t say you’ll get a 100 percent, but we are doing our best. We know what we’re supposed to do and we are [working to] ensure everything goes well.
“Of course, you have to leave a percentage for minor mistakes, but it’s in the minority, not the majority, so we expect this evening when the time comes that all will go well, based on what we have been practicing thus far,” she said.
She also confirmed that representatives of the CBH will be on hand to welcome the flight and perform the necessary safety checks.
“Yes, they have to be, because as soon as the door of the plane is open, health will be first to receive the declaration of health form. We examine it … if someone has been ill, the stewardess will identify that person and that person will be [carefully] removed. Not with the general passengers coming off, [but] that person would be the last to disembark and they will be taken to the health facility for further examination,” the CHI said.
The first incoming commercial passenger flight – an American Airlines aircraft – is expected to arrive at VC Bird International Airport at approximately 11pm tonight.