By Carlena Knight
The Cabinet has lifted the ban on in-house dining in restaurants with immediate effect, the post-Cabinet press briefing revealed yesterday.
However, restaurants remain restricted to a maximum of 25 people on the premises at any one time.
During the press briefing, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, sought to explain the reason behind this decision as opposed to reopening gyms, bars and other places of entertainment.
“In a bar, there is usually a little music and the chatter of voices. Those who patronise the bars normally come closer to each other and speak in each other’s faces or very closely in each other’s ears. The advice we have had from some of the medical personnel is that this is one sure way to pass on the virus from one person to another,” Hurst said.
“Gyms, on the other hand, have high intensively used machines where there is sweat, and also most people must remove their masks in order to breathe freely while they use one of the walkers or any of the other machines, and so the Cabinet has found these high intensity places are more likely to cause a spread.”
Restaurant operators have welcomed the news that they have been allowed to reopen, as many of them have lamented the impact on their income since being forced to serve takeout meals only on from February 16 this year.
Many previously said their revenues had plummeted by more than 50 percent.
In fact, some restaurants have already began taking bookings from diners.
Hurst noted that it was a calculated risk made by the government as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the country.
Antigua and Barbuda recently recorded three new cases of the virus, which took the number of active cases to 370.
They were discovered among 68 samples analyzed by the laboratory at Mount St John’s Medical according to the Ministry of Health’s latest dashboard released on Thursday night.
To date, a total of 1,011 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in Antigua and Barbuda since the start of the pandemic.
“We have recognised that there is a risk, but we are prepared to take that risk because we believe that the education has penetrated the vast majority of the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Those workers in restaurants, who know very well — just like the nurses and doctors in the hospital—that they could become infected as a result of their employment, they will be doing everything that is necessary in order to ensure that they are not infected and we believe that so many people in Antigua and Barbuda have gotten the message that this is real,” Hurst added.
“At the end of this week, we will have some additional data on which to work, but we think that given the need for people to earn an income that there is a risk to be taken and we come down on the side of the worker.”
Regarding the State of Emergency (SOE), Parliament is expected to convene next Thursday to consider whether to end or to continue it. The current SOE is scheduled to end on March 31.
The curfew hours will remain at 8 pm to 5 am; however, the Cabinet intends to review the numbers of people being infected and hospitalised daily by Covid-19 next week. If the numbers decline further, the Cabinet will determine whether to extend the current 8 pm to 5 am curfew.