Closing our gates to the US and UK would be detrimental to the economy, says PM

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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Antigua and Barbuda may be faced with the possibility of more imported cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID19), following an admission by Prime Minister Gaston Browne that it would be “consequential economically”, to restrict travel from the United States and the United Kingdom.

The twin island recorded the first confirmed case of the dreaded virus on Friday, and during a radio interview on Saturday, Browne stated: “If you close those two windows then, clearly, it would have a significant amount of dislocation.

“If we stop flights from outside the UK and the US, I would believe that practically all the hotels would have to close. It would mean sending home all the hotel workers; government’s revenue would reduce significantly; we would not be able to manage our payroll and other obligations.”

There is also the concern that restricting travel would significantly affect food security in the country.

While noting that “unfortunately”, there would be more imported cases, Browne suggested that the practical thing to do, at this point, was to manage the risk.

The intention going forward, he said, is to manage the risk by strengthening capabilities at all ports of entry for these particular visitors, as well as returning nationals, and purchasing specialized equipment to ensure that local authorities could test for the virus, thereby eliminating the need to send samples to Trinidad and Tobago.

The Prime Minister also spoke of the possibility of sourcing a drug from Cuba, which is expected to boost the immune system of nationals, particularly the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions.

This will be subject to research and additional advice from experts. According to Browne, the objective is to ensure there is no fatality in the country.

He said people over 80 years and over and those with existing health complications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes, should strongly re-consider travelling or attending public gatherings.

Ordinary citizens are also being advised to follow similar recommendations.

“All Antiguans and Barbudans should stay put. None of us should be travelling at this point unless it is critical. Within the public sector, we have a ban on travel at this time and it will be extended to include all travel,” Browne said.

He emphasised that it will take personal responsibility, on the part of all nationals, to contain the spread of the virus by practicing proper hygiene and reducing exposure to people who are ill.

On March 14, 2020, the World Health Organization reported that there were 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Caribbean, and two deaths.

The countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, St Barthelemy, St Lucia, St Martin, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Bahamas became the latest country to confirm its first case on Sunday. Bahamian Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillian reported that the patient was a Bahamian woman who had not travelled outside the country within the last 20 days.

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    • That’s a no,no, why? Antigua main industry is tourism, the will surely break the economy whole system and the Government, and remember in your portfolio and manifesto that you a creating jobs for the unemployment’s, so this will go back at square one, no revenus coming to build up the country more, plus the virus it not here for ever it will fade away because iit can’t live in hot weather or hot atmosphere, it survives on the cold weather.

  1. Eventually, it took a brooding pandemic for the Prime Minister to admit that economical dependency on the United States of America and the United Kingdom are far more consequential than any in bed love affair with the republic of China. Mr. PM open confession is good for the soul, now begin to play the part and openly apologize if necessary. Those to super powers, substantially are our bread basket life blood, protect and guard the relationship.

    • Well said. The people of your country and their health and safety should come first. Heads of every country in the world have (slowly but surely) prioritised their people and their safety. As the Prime Minister he should do the same. I think every country should have done a mass shut out simultaneously as soon as it was announced by China. But no, everyone is worried about economics. Many eons ago countries survived pretty well without bowing to the money God, that’s what happens when you destroy self-sustainability in your own countries to appease others.

  2. Excuse me. I thought I read that there is no restricrion on outside visitors. Who is advising our PM? Will the country just sit and accept this? For the economy?????
    This is absolutely unacceptable and in the beat national interest, the public needs to vote on this matter. Unbelievable!!!

  3. It would be detrimental to not only the economy but to your national health system if you do not BAN all international travel from affected countries. What will you do when the number of cases increases in ANU and all your Health resources are stretched thin and your health system collapses under the burden? Do you even have the necessary resources to begin with? The only risk worth taking is to BAN ALL TRAVEL from affected countries including the US and UK. – Foreigners Abroad

  4. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t….. Though I do have questions I can accept the reasons for keeping the borders open….. We must remember that at least 65% of bookings have already been canceled….. If we close our borders and there is no money to pay salaries, pensions and the like, would we be understanding enough to bear it out without complaining or wanting the Governments head on a platter??? We have a civic and social duty to limit our exposure and follow the guide lines that would reduce our susceptibility to the virus….. We should concentrate on doing so….. And I am no government supporter…..

  5. The question the government should be asking, is what’s the bottom line? The lives and wellbeing of the its citizens, or the economy that can be rebuild and recover over time.
    The answer is clearly the lives of the peoples who live here, and not self-centered individuals who refuse to stay home in light of the severity of this rirus. It’s a paradox when one can travel in with the virus, but we should remain on island while we become susceptible to the virus. No amount of money is worth the risk of becoming infected by outsiders.

  6. It’s a pity that this academic had to take place in order for people to live healthy and to wash your hands and also to eat write exercise get the amout of sleep required. Be vigilant.

  7. Smart man – he know this will pass very quickly without much consequences. Much to do about nothing – why harm our country!

  8. There are bigger and more modernized countries that have banned travel because if the severity of the covid 19, you prefer to have multitudes of sick people walking around the island making others sick than to just shut down. America and England tried that, meaning checking people as they came in, it didn’t work, why do you think it would work here, this is a small island make better choices for your people. Don’t be money hungry in the face of crisis.

  9. I think the pm should close the airport an sea port an put politics an economy a side because without healthy ppl what good is an economy we need to wake up because this is bigger that what they say ,,,,,,,,only God can help us in this time

  10. As someone said u damned if u do n damned if u dont… there is no easy answers or solutions… everyone everywhere is fucked! rite now.. everybody ah panic n in fear n nobody kno wat 2 do… the virus is bad but IT IS NOT a death sentence, yes ppl will die n that is inevitable cus in the mist of life there is death…. yes of course every caution must be taken to keep risks low n ppl healthy but to close borders n keep everybody out the economic fall out will indeed be detrimental n end up killing more ppl than the virus itself. The majority of the ppl will recover should they get infected..yes the PM should try n get the drugs fr Cuba so ppl can recover if needed,,u have to exhaust every option.. while the rich industrialized countries can afford a bailout small islands do not have the resources to survive n will be crushed…..what agriculture? is not that easy n cheap 2 get a business started.. The reality the tourism industry all over is done n will take a very long time to recover… if it ever will… keep in mind plaques, pandemics n epidemics and flu been going on forever n ever since bibical times killing many so i doubt we all gonna be dead but this one ya BAD BAD, its everywhere. but ppl r resilient n hopefully we get thru this.. just get past the fear n panic n keep living???? for now the world is on HOLD n everybody stuck in their homes hope we can use this time to think….

  11. This will cripple the Antiguan Ecomomy. The world is heading towards a depression.The tourist numbers will not return for years. Time to reassess your dependency on the Hospitality industry.Wish i could be more positive.

  12. Any prime minister who believes that it’s better to keep borders open, and let the virus to come in is clearly not qualified to be a prime minister of a country. I know that it’s a tough decision to make. But, clearly, common sense dictates that you secure the safety of your people.
    Antigua and Barbuda is the only country in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) that is not closing its borders to the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Clearly we have the wrong group of people in power in this country. When the Covid 19 Coronavirus starts its rampage through Antigua and Barbuda, all the tourist will stop coming, so what’s the difference. It’s best to close the country’s borders early and save lives.


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